September 25, 2023

7 Simple Yet Powerful Metaphors that Will Change the Way You Think

A metaphor isn’t an decoration. It’s a needed lens of notion that enables us to expertise and take into consideration ourselves and the world extra clearly. Metaphors have a method of regarding us in a profound method, by clarifying immense life classes and truths in pretty minimal house.

Angel and I’ve shared the next metaphors and corresponding tales with our college students, coaching clients, e-newsletter subscribers, and conference attendees dozens of occasions over the previous 15 years, and we normally get thanked for doing so. The specifics differ barely each time we share them, however the core classes carry onward.

My problem for you in the present day is to learn the primary metaphor beneath. Then come again tomorrow and skim the subsequent one. Give your self a bit further perspective day-after-day this week. See how doing so gracefully modifications your considering from each day.


Twenty years in the past, when Angel and I have been simply undergrads in school, our psychology professor taught us a lesson we’ve by no means forgotten. On the final day of sophistication earlier than commencement, she walked up on stage to show one remaining lesson, which she referred to as “an important lesson on the ability of perspective and mindset.” As she raised a glass of water over her head, everybody anticipated her to say the everyday “glass half empty or glass half full” metaphor. As a substitute, with a smile on her face, our professor requested, “How heavy is that this glass of water I’m holding?”

College students shouted out solutions starting from a few ounces to a few kilos.

After a couple of moments of fielding solutions and nodding her head, she replied, “From my perspective, absolutely the weight of this glass is irrelevant. All of it is dependent upon how lengthy I maintain it. If I maintain it for a minute or two, it’s pretty gentle. If I maintain it for an hour straight, its weight may make my arm ache. If I maintain it for a day straight, my arm will probably cramp up and really feel fully numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the ground. In every case, absolutely the weight of the glass doesn’t change, however the longer I maintain it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As most of us college students nodded our heads in settlement, she continued. “Your worries, frustrations, disappointments, and anxious ideas are very very like this glass of water. Take into consideration them for a short while and nothing drastic occurs. Take into consideration them a bit longer and you start to really feel noticeable ache. Take into consideration all of them day lengthy, and you’ll really feel fully numb and paralyzed, incapable of doing the rest till you drop them.”

Let our previous professor’s phrases be your wake-up name in the present day.

If you happen to’ve been struggling to deal with the burden of what’s in your thoughts, it’s a powerful signal that it’s time to place the glass down.


Mahouts (elephant trainers) usually strap a skinny metallic chain to a grown elephant’s leg after which connect the opposite finish to a small picket peg that’s hammered into the bottom. The ten-foot-tall, ten-thousand-pound elephant might simply snap the chain, uproot the picket peg, and escape to freedom with minimal effort. But it surely doesn’t. Actually, the elephant by no means even tries. The world’s strongest land animal, which may uproot a giant tree as simply as you can break a toothpick, stays defeated by a small picket peg and a flimsy chain.

Why? As a result of when the elephant was a child, its trainers used the identical strategies to cultivate it. On the time, the chain and peg have been robust sufficient to restrain the newborn elephant. When it tried to interrupt away, the metallic chain would pull it again. Quickly the newborn elephant realized that attempting to flee was unattainable. So it stopped attempting. And now that the elephant is absolutely grown, it sees the chain and the peg and it remembers what it discovered as a child — that the chain and peg are unattainable to flee. After all that is now not true, nevertheless it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the two-hundred-pound child is now a ten-thousand-pound powerhouse. The elephant’s self-limiting ideas and beliefs prevail.

If you concentrate on it, we’re all like elephants. All of us have unimaginable energy inside us. And we’ve our personal chains and pegs — the self-limiting ideas and beliefs that maintain us again. Typically it’s a childhood expertise or an previous failure. Typically it’s one thing we have been instructed once we have been youthful. The important thing factor to comprehend is that this: we have to be taught from the previous, but additionally to be prepared to vary our assumptions — our perspective — about the way in which issues at the moment are. Life isn’t static. You possibly can break away. (Observe: Angel and I talk about this additional within the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)


As soon as upon a time there was an aged lady who wanted to stroll right down to the river each morning to fetch water for consuming, cooking and cleansing. She carried two buckets together with her, crammed them up on the riverbank, and walked again with them to her rural cottage house.

One of many buckets was newer, completely sealed, and held its water flawlessly. However the second bucket was older and contained a couple of skinny cracks that might leak water onto the bottom because the aged lady walked. By the point she arrived house, usually about one third of the water within the second bucket had leaked by means of its cracks.

Someday, on the stroll right down to the river, the cracked bucket — who had all the time felt prefer it wasn’t pretty much as good as the opposite bucket — mentioned to the aged lady, “I need you to know that I’ve been leaking water each morning for the previous a number of years. I’m so sorry for being cracked and making your life tougher. I perceive if it is advisable to change me with a greater bucket.”

The aged lady smiled. “Do you actually assume I haven’t recognized about your cracks this entire time?” she requested. “Have a look at all the attractive flowers that develop on the trail from my cottage to the river. I planted their seeds, however each morning it’s you who does the watering.”

An Open Letter to Those Who Don’t Feel Good Enough

Bear in mind, feeling adequate in life, in work, in enterprise, and in {our relationships} has all the things to do with how we personally choose the cracks in our personal bucket. As a result of all of us have a couple of cracks!

However are they cracks that wreck us, that taint us, and that wreck our expertise and desirability?

Or do our cracks water a path of flowers we haven’t even stopped to understand?

Select to see the flowers by means of the cracks in your individual bucket — select to see the way it’s precisely these cracks that make you adequate — and your entire universe will shift!


Think about you had a ripe, juicy tangerine sitting on the desk in entrance of you. You decide it up eagerly, take a chew and start to style it.

You already understand how a ripe, juicy tangerine ought to style, and so when this one is a bit tarter than anticipated, you make a face, really feel a way of disappointment and swallow it, feeling cheated out of the expertise you anticipated.

Or maybe the tangerine tastes fully regular — nothing particular in any respect. So, you swallow it with out even pausing to understand its taste, as you progress on to the subsequent unworthy chew, and the subsequent.

Within the first state of affairs, the tangerine allow you to down as a result of it didn’t meet your expectations. Within the second, it was too plain as a result of it met your expectations to a T.

Do you see the irony right here?

It’s both not good, or not adequate.

That is how many people dwell our lives… unhappily.

It’s why so many people really feel let down, dissatisfied, and unexcited about nearly all the things.

As a result of nothing actually meets our expectations.

Now, think about you do that as an alternative: take away your expectations of how the tangerine “ought to” style. You don’t know, and also you don’t anticipate to know, since you haven’t even tried it but. As a substitute, you’re genuinely curious, neutral and open to quite a lot of doable flavors.

You style it, and also you really concentrate. You discover the juiciness, the feel of the pulp, the concurrently tangy, tart and candy flavors swirling round in your tongue, and all the opposite complicated sensations that come up in your consciousness as you chew. You didn’t understand how this tangerine would style, however now you understand it’s totally different than the remainder, and it’s exceptional in its personal method. It’s a very new expertise — a worthwhile expertise — since you’ve by no means tasted THIS tangerine earlier than.

Mindfulness consultants usually discuss with this as “newbie’s thoughts,” however actually, it’s simply the results of a mindset freed from unnecessary, stifling expectations.

The tangerine, in fact, may be substituted for nearly something in your life: any occasion, any scenario, any relationship, any particular person, any thought in any respect that enters your thoughts. If you happen to strategy any of those with expectations of “the way it needs to be” or “the way it needs to be” in an effort to be adequate for you, they’ll nearly all the time disappoint you in a roundabout way… or be too plain and unexciting to even bear in mind. And also you’ll simply transfer on to the subsequent disappointment or unworthy life expertise, and the subsequent, and the subsequent, and so forth and so forth…

Till you’ve lived the overwhelming majority of your life caught in an limitless cycle of experiences you barely like or barely even discover.


Many of the issues we desperately attempt to maintain on to, as in the event that they’re actual, strong, eternal fixtures in our lives, aren’t actually there. Or if they’re there in some kind, they’re altering, fluid, impermanent, or just half-imagined in our minds.

Life will get loads simpler to cope with once we perceive this.

Think about you’re blindfolded and treading water within the heart of a big swimming pool, and also you’re struggling desperately to seize the sting of the pool that you simply assume is close by, however actually it’s not — it’s distant. Attempting to seize that imaginary edge is stressing you out, and tiring you out, as you splash round aimlessly attempting to carry on to one thing that isn’t there.

Now think about you pause, take a deep breath, and understand that there’s nothing close by to carry on to. Simply water round you. You possibly can proceed to wrestle with grabbing at one thing that doesn’t exist… or you possibly can settle for that there’s solely water round you, and calm down, and float.

As we speak, I problem you to ask your self:

  • What are you desperately attempting to carry on to in your life?
  • How is it affecting you?

Then think about the factor you’re attempting to carry on to doesn’t actually exist. Envision your self letting go… and simply floating.

How would that change your scenario?


Virtually nobody wins a recreation of chess by solely shifting ahead.

Typically you need to transfer backward to place your self ready to win.

The identical is true of life.

As a result of generally, when it feels such as you’re operating into one useless finish after one other, it’s truly an indication that you simply’re not on the precise path. Perhaps you have been meant to hold a left again once you took a proper, and that’s completely positive. Life steadily teaches us that U-turns are allowed. So flip round when you need to! There’s a giant distinction between giving up and getting your self shifting in the precise route once more.


Take into consideration the most typical issues we cope with in our lives — from lack of presence to lack of train to unhealthy diets to procrastination, and so forth. Normally, issues like these should not brought about not by a bodily ailment, however by a weak spot of the thoughts.

Similar to each muscle within the physique, the thoughts must be exercised to achieve power. It must be labored persistently to develop and develop over time. If you happen to haven’t pushed your self in a whole lot of little methods over time, in fact you’ll crumble on the at some point that issues get barely difficult.

But it surely doesn’t must be that method. You’ve got a selection…

You possibly can select to concentrate when it will be simpler to select up your cellphone. You possibly can select to go to the gymnasium when it will be extra comfy to sleep in. You possibly can select to create one thing particular when it will be faster to eat one thing mediocre. You possibly can select to lift your hand and ask that query when it will take much less nerve to remain silent. You possibly can show to your self, in a whole lot of little methods, that you’ve the heart to get within the ring and wrestle with life.

Psychological power is constructed by means of a number of small, every day victories. It’s the person selections we make day-to-day that construct our “psychological power” muscle mass. All of us need this type of power, however we are able to’t want our strategy to it. In order for you it, you need to create constructive every day rituals in your life that reinforce what you need.

Now, it’s your flip…

Please tell us:

Which metaphor above resonates probably the most with you proper now?

Depart a remark beneath and share your ideas.

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