Metaphors: how your subconscious speaks to you

When Everest transformed into a tropical island

Recently I started working with a new client and on the third session we had a collapse (from the Latin collapsus “fallen in”). The mountain flattened into an island. Let me explain.

Often in coaching a big, important goal is metaphorically called the Everest. I noticed that quite often my new clients, not familiar with coaching, have difficulties to answer my question about their “life goal”/”life task”/”vision of yourself in a few years.”

I have realized that these large-scale thoughts are most likely intimidating. So, I use the Everest metaphor to make it more accessible. It was the case with this client. For two sessions we had been talking about the Everest, even planning staging points (as intermediate steps to the goal) and were heading towards a mountain chalet (my client was picturing it as a self-realization and comfort zone).

But something happened during the third session… Suddenly she said: “I see that I am cutting anchors from my boat and sailing to a tropical island.”

I drew her attention to the change in the metaphor, and she confirmed that from now on her goal was no longer a high, inaccessible mountain, the road the way to which was so draining.

Instead, it became a tropical island inviting for a pleasant journey.

This switch happened thanks to her insights and decisions taken between the sessions.

We have at least 7 sessions ahead of us, and I am looking forward to her new insights. I really want to sail with her to her idyllic, sunny island.

…Wonder island wonder island…
Living on it is easy and effortless…
Our happiness is constant…
Chew coconuts, eat bananas...

What I learned for myself as a coach:

  • metaphors are good, but from now on I will be careful with imposing my own visualizations
  • I will find other, more approachable and motivating ways of presenting such “frightening” information as a life goal
  • The client knows better whether they want to go to the mountain or swim to the island with coconuts (to the song “Chunga-Changa”. Yes, it was on these notes that our session ended).

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