In his book Creativity Inc., Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull describes some of the metaphors that creative directors use to define their roles. One, he says, uses the metaphor of a blind mountain climber whose first job is to find the mountain (e.g. to figure out what the story is about). Another uses the metaphor of ship’s captain whose job it is to get the crew working together, navigate a course, and deal with storms along the way.
A metaphor – the picture that is worth a thousand words – is the most powerful form of human communication, including the communication that we all carry on with our inner selves. We often use metaphors without even being aware that we are doing it, but the metaphor we choose can have a profound if subconscious impact on how we see ourselves and the world around us.
If someone asks you how you’re doing and you reply “I’m hanging in there,” you are sending a subtle message to that person – and to yourself – that things aren’t going well. After all, who hangs? Criminals hang, desperate people hang. Say the words “I’m hanging in there” often enough and you will ineluctably begin thinking less of yourself and seeing yourself in a more desperate situation than if you change your metaphor to something like “I’m on top of the world.”
Pay attention to the metaphors you use and to how they shape your sense of self-identity. And whatever you do, don’t just hang in there!
One of the 21 modules in the online PledgePower course goes in much greater depth into how to constructively use metaphors to create a stronger sense of self empowerment.
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