Blog & Insight

Juggling too many balls?

I'm never one to pass by a metaphor in a clients language. Not least because they're a quick and easy means of exploring a situation, and finding a wide range of potential solutions.

For example, if someone were to say they felt like they were juggling balls I'd be more inclined to explore the balls, than I would all the things on their to do list, emails, priorities and behaviour of their boss currently responsible for all those balls etc.

The main reason being, we can get so lost in all the facts, data and judgements that we end up defending the current situation.

Which means if you're juggling too many balls my response is to ask more about the balls - type, colour, number, size, direction of travel and so on.

It'a not the current real life situation we're exploring, it's the representation of juggling balls we're interested in.

Once the current juggling has been described, drawn, enacted or simply considered then it's time to consider the options that exist.

  • What happens if you put the balls down?

It's important we don't go back to the real life situation just yet, but instead stick with the metaphor a little while longer.

  • Can the balls go in a bin?
  • What happens if you make the balls bigger or smaller?
  • What about changing their colour?

No right or wrong, nor judgement, just what ever answer comes to mind.

  • Can someone else look after a ball for you?
  • Can other people juggle the ball instead?
  • Can you pop the balls? or blow them up? or let them float?
  • What about making them very light?
  • Can you stop the balls coming straight to you? (we recently had a velcro board where all balls had to go first as part of the decision making process about whether to pick them up or not)
  • Can they go into a bag?
  • Can you change the balls into something easier to juggle

Alternatively it might be about making the balls more inspiring so you're enthused enough to juggle them.

  • Would imagining you're kicking footballs instead make it feel easier?
  • Or dealing with gorgeous bubbles?

The aim is to keep exploring the metaphor until you've exhausted all the potential solutions - fun, silly, logical, absurd - no right, no wrong - just an exploration of the metaphor you're using.

Once you've done that, and only then, you can explore what these suggestions mean in the real life situation - solutions that thus far you'd been resisting or had not even considered.

For example, putting all the balls on a Velcro board meant that people throwing balls in the direction of the person could see what else they already had on, and might decide someone else could take responsibility for the ball.

This solution required them to develop a log of what they were being asked to do, and when people came to them with more work to visibly be seen to be adding it to the list, and discussing it's relative important compared to other activities on the list.

Spinning plates is a metaphor that aligns very much with juggling balls and many of the solutions might be very similar.

Someone suggested they simply needed to put their plates on a plate rack - which felt much less stressful and easier to deal with than the previous model. Although we also discussed adding blu tac under some of the plates to help them stay there whilst the person took a well earned rest!!

The aim is to provide your mind, that currently feels stuck, to understand there are other options, and be open to exploring how to apply them to the current situation.

How is the language you're using to describe the current undesired situation also the solution?

Always happy to help you stop the juggling or plate spinning, or even explore your language to help explain the current lack of progress. Coaching sessions of 15, 45, 60, & 90 minutes are available. Although weekend retreats also available for a good old life overhaul! Get in touch to find out more.

It's this premise that my book Can't see the wood for the trees is based upon. Sayings you use when you're stuck are used to find solutions to getting you back on track. Which means options and opportunities can be found in the ruts, creeks, and woods you're thinking you're stuck in.


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© Alison Smith
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