Our metaphors matter. They direct our focus.
One of the reasons I so often speak in terms of training and coaching is because it’s a metaphor I find useful in directing the focus of my “athletes.”
It’s my experience that many patients and clients find therapy and personal development daunting because it’s as if they’re being asked to develop a skillset that will handle EVERY PROBLEM THEY ENCOUNTER FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. Or they’re being asked to FIGURE OUT THE WHOLE “LIFE” THING. Or they’re trying to FIX THEIR LIFE.
I mean…woof. Who wouldn’t be intimidated if that’s how you’re approaching the task of therapy or personal development?
I point them in a different direction— instead of trying to tackle this big, overwhelming thing of FIGURING OUT LIFE, I encourage them to think of our work together as a coaching relationship.
They’re an athlete, I’m their coach.
Their life goals are the “score” of the “game” they’re playing.
In order for the “game” to make sense, the scoring system has to be specific and make sense. It would make no sense to send an athlete out on the field with no idea how to score points, would it?
This is why, in their work with me, my patients are asked to get very specific about their goals, and about the little goals that lead up to their goals— if we’re going to “train” properly, an “athlete” needs to know how to score and what tasks are required to get them past the goal line.
The metaphor of me and my patients as “coach” and “athletes” also extends to the idea of “training.”
Being successful at a sport involves a lot of practice. Practice requires getting clear and specific about what abilities and skills the athlete needs to develop in order to win at their sport (i.e., achieve the life goals the patient has come into therapy to work on).
The idea of “training” speaks to developing a schedule and a disciplined routine whereby the athlete practices their skills every day, with the intention of sharpening those skills enough that they’ll score more points, more goals, more takedowns, more wins.
This is exactly what needs to happen when we’re in therapy or working to improve our lives— daily work on the skills we need in order to move toward our goals.
Sports involve victories and losses, just like life.
The thing is, when we’re defeated in life, we tend to get discouraged and depressed…whereas when an athlete loses in a professional sport, yes, they may be disappointed, but they also realize that losing is as much a part of competition as winning, and they use that loss to go back and refine their training regimen.
See? Metaphors matter.
(And I’m not even a sports guy!)
What are some of your metaphors? What are the lenses through which you’ve been looking at your life?
Our metaphors shape our reactions to and interpretations of success and failure. They inform our judgment about what should come next. They feed our belief systems about whether the challenge we’re facing is conquerable or not.
As a metaphorical “coach” for my “athletes,” I’m not in a position of knowing and seeing everything, any more than a professional coach can know or see everything that might impact an athlete’s performance on the field.
Therapists, for some reason, aren’t that great at admitting they have blind spots.
But if my patients think of me as a “coach,” it becomes far less troublesome to admit that, of course I have blind spots— and just like any good coach of any good athlete, I’m in the position of adjusting and refining my own viewpoints and skills and understanding of the game, in order to better serve my “athletes.”
Take your metaphors seriously.
Ask yourself whether your metaphors serve you well, or burden you.
Ask yourself if there are metaphors that might realign how you see the world and your place in it.
And then…go out and win one for the Doc.
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