Blog & Insight

Is life an uphill Struggle?

The last time I walked up Glastonbury Tor I had to stop at least two or three times, and only kept going because I knew the view and energy at the top was worth it.

It's certainly one of the few places I've ever visited where my over active logical mind is quiet.

As other people reach the top, hang around for a while admiring the view and then return back down, I can sit and just be for what seems like hours.

It does seem though like many of us are seeing life like an uphill struggle at the moment - without the beautiful view at the top acting as our motivation.

In this post I share a metaphorical means of obtaining different perspectives to the uphill struggle.

If you're tried more conventional means of shifting the struggle you may want to try this more unconventional technique.

It's a little longer than my usual posts but just like the view it's worth the extra few minutes.

The power of metaphor

Many years ago I noticed that when I was struggling that my mind wasn't always my friend.

Despite being proud of my ability to solve problems and my quick analytical mind it didn't always help.

Instead of trying to support me it's was if my mind found more and more evidence to reinforce my struggle.

My mind seemed to enjoy running rings around the part of me that wanted to diminish and to find solutions to the struggle.

That's when I discovered how to bypass my mind and communicate with an older, wiser part of me through metaphor.

It is said that while our mind talks in words and logic that our inner wisdom talks in metaphor. Why else do all cultures convey great truth through fabulous stories.

Our language points to where we'll find the solution

Our language is rich in metaphor particularly when we're struggling, and often uses nature's landscapes to describe how we're struggling.

What I have discovered is that those very landscapes also have the solution contained within them, and so we can look to nature to help us find different perspectives.

Which means:

  • If you want to turn a corner in your life going out and turning a corner in nature will shift how you're feeling.
  • If you're finding it an uphill struggle a hill may provide all the insight you need (as we will discover very soon).
  • If you're stuck in a rut in your life finding a rut in nature can help shift your mindset as it did for a management team who used this technique on a vision setting day.
  • If you've got your head in the sand ..... (and yes that's me 🤣)

A little more about the Landscaping Your Life process

You need an example you're feeling like it's an uphill struggle about

Please trust me when I say that reading the following instructions are going to leave you cold and flat without a real life situation to apply them to.

Think of a situation, therefore, that you could apply the words "an uphill struggle" to.

Notice what score you'd give the situation out of 10 - where maximum ease is 10, and maximum struggle is 0.

Put the situation you're struggling with to one side

It's important when using metaphor that we don't try to make sense of every perspective immediately.

The aim is to explore the metaphor, in this case the hill, until we've fully exhausted all possible perspectives.

It's only once we have a gorgeous list of different perspectives, and potential metaphorical solutions, that we start to try them on for size to the real life situation.

If we jump in too early it's a little like poking a newly sown seed to see if it's started to grow yet - we're undermining it's ability to flourish.

Patience is key.

Play around with the words

One tangential technique involves playing around with the words just to loosen their hold, and I'm sharing it first because it can be a really quick way of helping you feel more resourceful.

Might you therefore instead find it could be a:

  • downhill struggle
  • downhill success
  • downhill toboggan
  • uphill stroll
  • uphill climb
  • uphill surrender
  • uphill reducing struggle
  • upstairs struggle

The more absurd the better - aim to keep going till you laugh (chuckling is ok too 😉) and you may find something has shifted already.

  • up mountain struggle (to which my response would be - climbing mountains is rarely without struggle. It's like you can never see the forest for the trees even if you can try to see the wood for them!)
  • over the hill and far away
  • when you're half way up you're neither up nor down (from a song from my childhood)
  • up the hill to get a pail of water (ditto)

Is there a hill nearby that you could walk up?

If you're able to find a hill to walk to the half way, top or just explore that would be GREAT.

Just notice what you notice about your thoughts of going uphill once back home.

Please don't underestimate the power of role playing your words. It's as if by proving you can do it in nature opens a door to different perspectives and solutions to the situation you're currently facing.

A hill walk may however not be something you can try today.

Let's explore that hill - what's your goal?

The first question I'd ask is 'do you need to get to the top of the hill?'

Perhaps you already have got as far as you need up the hill? Or as someone discovered perhaps you're not that far from top anyway.

Remember stick with the metaphor and imagine the hill you were struggling with. It certainly doesn't need to make sense just yet.

  • Is your goal to get to the top of the hill, to get over the hill, around the hill or something else entirely? (I've certainly discovered when we can't see the wood for the trees that it's often about our relationship with paths and destinations rather than the wood and trees!)
  • Do you have guides or fellow travelers?
  • Are you alone or walking the hill with your dog or other people?
  • Are they helping or hindering?

What would be more helpful for you as this time to help with your uphill activity?

  • Taking smaller steps?
  • Stopping and taking in the view?
  • Focusing your attention on only a few steps ahead not the distance between you and the top?
  • Following the person in front?
  • Lightening the load to make it easier (ie take the heavy bricks and stones out of your backpack)
  • Looking back down and appreciating how far you've come?

Take time to consider your answer to these questions. It's this internal exploration that may find that one insight that is the difference that makes the difference.

Develop your plan to achieve your goal

Once you're sure of your goal in relation to the hill you can write a lovely list of what you'd need to do to achieve that. For example:

  • If the hill was just in the way of you getting to some other destination would a map help you to plot a better route?
  • You might be carrying or pushing something heavy and need other people to help you, or to put it in or on something with wheels to make it easier to move?
  • Or perhaps you need to break it down into smaller more manageable parts (eg 4 uphill strolls might be better than 1 uphill struggle)?

Remember we're still talking metaphor - don't allow your logic to start critiquing the potential solutions.

The aim at the moment is to explore the hill, and what you're doing there, from every possible angle first. You want to give the seed chance to germinate.

  • You may need better preparation for your uphill activity with sturdier boots, or a flask of tea or something stronger!
  • To understand the weather forecast and set out when the conditions are right.
  • Wait until the spring, or
  • To get fitter to be able to walk the hill more easily at some point in the future

Continue writing a list of actions you could take to increase your confidence and the ease of your uphilling.

Can you make it even easier?

One of the benefits of imagining your hill, rather than when you're in nature, is you can play around with your image.

You have the power and control to draw the hill differently.

Try it for yourself:

  • Draw the hill as you imagine it
  • Add yourself to the hill
  • Add other components to depict the current situation

Remember - it may already have shifted as you've tried other of the suggestions above.

Now make changes to your drawing:

  • Make the hill shorter, or with easier gradient
  • Add steps or paths
  • Or a signpost
  • Is colour important or not?
  • Would adding a sound track help?
  • Place yourself at the top already having done what you need to do to get there
  • and so on

Here's the before and after image that one Procurement team drew about their uphill struggle.

I love that the sun came out.

Any other metaphorical insights?

Before returning to the real life situation is there anything else that comes to your mind?

No right or wrong - honour any thought and allow it to be expressed at this time.

What does it mean in practice?

Having kept the real life situation at bay it's now time to think about it.

As you've been working metaphorically with your inner wisdom you may just notice that you've moved closer to 10/10 on the ease continuum and just feel different about the situation and that is enough.

Alternatively, now you've got some different perspectives, you may want to identify an action plan in order to resolve the situation.

Which might, although don't feel constrained by these suggestions, include:

  • breaking the task down into more manageable chunks
  • asking others to help
  • waiting until you are able to achieve the task
  • stop trying so hard
  • stop trying with this hill and start another activity
  • or something else entirely

What one action can you take today?

One useful strategy for embedding new thinking is to take action - now.

What action can you therefore commit to taking within the next 24 hours?

If you're still struggling

If you're struggling to shift your own mindset and mood other options of support available include Samaritans, NHS 24 or 111, and Relate with many organisations also offering confidential employee support.

Only 40% of calls to the Samaritans are from those in crisis ie 60% are people needing some support - so please don't feel you have to wait to ask for help.

And Finally

I hope this exploration has given you a flavour about how useful your language can be in not just describing the challenge but also pointing you towards the solution too.

Do please get in touch if you're interested in coaching, webinars, or a talk about seeing the wood for the trees, our relationship to paths and destinations to getting things done in our lives, or other aspects of using nature as a metaphor for our lives.

To be kept up to date with all things Landscaping Your Life do sign up for the LYL newsletter, or follow the LYL YouTube channel or the LYL podcast.

Of interest might also be my book Can't see the wood for the trees - landscaping your life to get back on track.

Chapters provide similar explorations to the one in this post and are helpful when you:

  • can't see the wood for the trees
  • are stuck in a rut
  • are going round in circles
  • are out on a limb
  • feel like a fish out of water
  • are treading water
  • are up the creek without a paddle

and two situations you often don't identify with yourself so easily:

  • are making mountains out of molehills
  • have your head in the sand

and the solution metaphor involves:

  • being in the flow headed for the ocean

One reader described the book as 'First aid kit for the brain' after picking it up and, within 20 mins of reading the chapter that resonated with how she was feeling, feeling much better and able to make progress again.

The book is available from all online stockists including and


© Alison Smith
VAT Registration: 224 5001 58
Registered in Scotland, Registration Number: SC457105
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