What is a metaphor? Whenever we explain or communicate a concept by likening it to something else, we are using a metaphor.
We must be very careful about the metaphors we allow ourselves to use. Be careful of the metaphors that other people offer you as well.We must take charge of our metaphors, not just to avoid the problem metaphors, but so that we can adopt the empowering metaphors as well.
The scary part is that most of us have never consciously selected the metaphors with which we represent things to ourselves. Where did you get your metaphors? You probably picked them up from people around you, from your parents, teachers, co-workers and friends. Have you ever thought of the impact these metaphors has on you? Have the metaphors just became a habit?
For years, people asked me what it was I did exactly. At various times I tried different metaphors—”I’m a teacher,” “I’m a student,” “I’m a hunter of human excellence,” “I’m a speaker,” I’m a national best-selling author,” “I’m a peak performance consultant,” “I’m a therapist,” “I’m a counselor”—but none of them conveyed the right feeling. People gave me plenty of metaphors. I was known by many in the media as a “guru.” This is a metaphor I avoided because I felt that the presupposition that went with it was that people were dependent upon me to create their change—which would never empower them. Since I believe that we all must be responsible for our own change, I avoided this metaphor.
One day, though, I finally got it. “I’m a coach,” I thought. What is a coach? To me, a coach is a person who is your friend, someone who really cares about you. A coach is committed to helping you be the best that you can be. A coach will challenge you, not let you off the hook. Coaches have knowledge and experience because they’ve been there before. They aren’t any better than the people they are coaching (this took away my need to have to be perfect for the people I was “teaching”). In fact, the people they coach may have natural abilities superior to their own. But because coaches have concentrated their power in a particular area for years, they can teach you one or two distinctions that can immediately transform your performance in a matter of moments.
Sometimes coaches can teach you new information, new strategies and skills; they show you how to get measurable results. Sometimes a coach doesn’t even teach you something new, but they remind you of what you need to do at just the right moment, and they push you to do it. I thought, “What I truly am is a success coach. I help to coach people on how to achieve what they really want more quickly and more easily.” And everyone needs a coach, whether it’s a top-level executive, a graduate student, a homemaker, a homeless person, or the president of the United States! As soon as I started using this metaphor, it immediately changed the way I felt about myself. I felt less stressed, more relaxed; I felt closer to people. I didn’t have to be “perfect” or “better”. I began to have more fun, and my impact on people multiplied many-fold.