Blog & Insight

The link between mindset and metaphor

There are numerous books on the subject of mindset and yet ultimately it comes down to:

  • thinking and language that supports you achieving your goals*
  • thinking and language that hinders you achieving your goals*

(* however you define those goals e.g outcomes, results, mental or physical health, success, surviving, thriving, growth, or simply living your life.)

Much of the time the challenge is your thinking and language is happening under the radar - and so you're unaware of the impact it is having on the outcome you're getting.

(Even that last sentence involved bringing my language onto the radar to enable me to make a conscious decision about whether to choose the word challenge or other words such as problem, issue, quandary and so on. As I say in another post that simple choice could make the difference between finding a solution or not.)

When your thinking or mindset is not delivering the results that you want there's a couple of distinctions I'd like to make:

  1. You are able to proactively choose your mindset to suit the situation and circumstances

If you're able to choose your mindset to suit the situation then interventions when things aren't working require that you gather more data or information to help you make a better choice of mindset.

This means of logically making a complete assessment of the situation and therefore better choice of mindset has been covered in a number of my posts such as:

  • Disrupting habitual mindsets - including two great lists - one list of those mindsets that inhibit your growth and the other list that accelerates your growth

Sometimes though, when you're not getting the outcome you want, you're also not able to choose your mindset - not able to flex your thinking enough to adapt to the situation.

The tools to help you in these situations are different to those above - you need to try something different.

2. You're not able to choose your mindset and it's a reaction to the situation and circumstances

When you're reacting to the situation with no ability to change that reaction it's often because you're in overwhelm.

It's as if you're stuck or even lost in one mindset.

In these situations you don't know what you don't know.

It's as if every piece of new information adds to the overwhelm and, in order to retain what control you do have, you defend your current world view because it feels very safe and known at this time of increased stress.

The story and justifications told and retold with every attack of your viewpoint simply reinforces your rightness, and therefore by default the wrongness of any opposing views (however unconscious we are of this).

In these situations providing more information isn't going to help - it could increase the stress and overwhelm and make things worse.

Logical thinking won't therefore be your best friend.

The solution in these situations is the need to develop a map to help you assess the lie of the land showing all possible paths and destinations. To get a 360 degree view of the situation.

This is where I think metaphor comes in - for a few reasons.

  1. Metaphor bypasses your current world view and overwhelm - helping you to build the map more easily especially when stressed
  2. Metaphor does not add any new data because all the patterns of the metaphor are already in your personal filing system and known to you.
  3. Metaphor is already hidden in your language and that specific metaphor can be used to ensure 1&2 work even better

Which means:

  • when you can't see the wood for the trees and believe yourself to be without alternative options, the answer lies in the metaphor you've just used and not in the details of the situation that your over whelmed about
  • when you're stuck in a rut and believe yourself to be well and truly stuck the answer lies in the rut
  • when you feel like life is an uphill struggle then, you've guessed it, the answer can be found in the uphill
  • when you feel like you're juggling too many balls or spinning too many plates the plates and balls have answers to share
  • when you feel like you're going round in circles then that circling will contain within it a way out

Following the links above will take you to explorations of the metaphor in each of those situations.

It's as if by using the saying your inner wisdom is already helping you and is hinting at the fact that, for example, the wood you can't see the trees for has the answers.

If might not feel like it but in nature when you can't see the wood for the trees there's numerous solutions

  • get a map
  • follow a path out - well trodden or otherwise
  • avoid the deadend
  • go to a higher vantage point
  • follow the sign posts

If you're able and it's safe to do so then other options include

  • cutting back some branches
  • climbing a tree

Or if you're willing to enter the realm of the imagination:

  • stop planting new trees
  • change the type of trees
  • shorten the tree
  • make the trees skinnier

All metaphorical solutions that will enable that map to be drawn, and for your mind to understand there are options and to get on with finding them for the real life situation.

Which might result in options emerging such as:

  • take one step at a time
  • don't take on more work until you've completed your current workload
  • say yes more
  • say no more 😉
  • get clear about your current situation
  • get clear about your end goal
  • map all possible options
  • explore your motivations
  • identify unhelpful beliefs
  • understand the resources you have and need

Options that once the metaphorical exploration has taken place will more easily translate into real life action.

Do get in touch if you'd like to explore more about shifting your team's mindsets from unresourceful to more resourceful ones.


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