The metaphors we use can have a profound effect on how we see the world and what is possible for us. We live IN our stories more than have them. I have blogged before on how one can view business as romance
not war or sport. Now I’d like to look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of other commonly used metaphors for life and business in particular. My point is not that these metaphors are right or wrong, but that they build a particular world and may be more of less desirable to different people in different circumstances. Be in choice about the lens through which you look.
Life is a Battlefield/ Sports Field
Advantages: Can help to “win” and produce energy through (perceived and real) competition. This is the dominant discourse around business in the Western world so may also help you fit in.
Disadvantages: May lead to a combative way of seeing the world with enemies where there aren’t any. May make life and business less enjoyable.
Life is a Journey
Advantages: This metaphor can honour the process of life (enjoy the journey) and its developmental nature. Business too go though a lifespan process with youth, maturity and old-age.
Disadvantages: If life is a journey where are we going? Unless you have a belief in an afterlife we are not going anywhere. The journey metaphor has a linear A-B sense to it that may not be appropriate and even with the “enjoy the journey” ethos there is still a focus on a destination or development that may be only imagined. The purpose of a life or business is not necessarily where it finishes.
Life is a Race
Advantages: Similar to life as sport. Helps you move quick and “win.”
Disadvantages: Burnout, not enjoying the roses, seeing others as hostile competition again.
Life is a Dance
Advantages: Accounts for the playful interactive, relational nature of human life. Often the next story to develop when sport and war become boring or abusive.
Disadvantages: May not appeal to macho types. Also both the beauty and weakness of dance is that it has no aim and therefore condition of “success” to ground it – ie. anything goes. In business there are condition of success, some traditional (e.g. profit, survival) and some deeper (ethics – what Fred Kofman calls “success beyond success).
Life is a Joke
Advantages: Things don’t matter when you have this philosophy, so may be less stressful.
Disadvantages: In business when you’re mortgage is on the line this can be hard to maintain. Also it is hard to take what you do seriously with this perspective which may lead to not doing things as well as you could. There are of course those people who “take what you do seriously, without taking themselves seriously.”
Life is Playground
Advantages: A personal favourite. Has the lightness of “life is a joke”, the relational aspects of “life is a dance” and (when you are aware of how children really play) the focus of more warrior perspectives.
Disadvantages: As for “life is a joke” if the nature of play is not understood. Others may not appreciate ti if taking themselves seriously.
I’d love to hear from others about some other perspectives. I’ve noticed the things people do become their metaphors – life is making love, life is a dojo, life is training…what are yours?
Life So What: The story you live in is crucial to how your life will be – choose it wisely.