I’m assuming that you’re interested in personal growth. Well, as you probably know, there are quite a few ways to achieve personal development. Apart from reading this newsletter, you can watch films, read books, take courses, attend congresses, be coached, for example. One way that works for me is watching films that inspire me. Including films with ‘gurus’. My definition of a guru is someone who is able to communicate complex theories by means of simple and clear models. Such a guru can inspire you in the things you consider important. These are individuals that are able to express universal and fundamental ideas in such a way that you will immediately say: Why didn’t I think of that? And yet they can provide you with just that little extra depth, or a new perspective, that will make you think: ‘Wow, I really need to take some time and effort to reflect on this’.

During one of my internet searches I came cross an extraordinary guru: ‘Puppetji’ is his name. What makes him so special is that he is not at all threatening, uses humour as a weapon, has a high huggable factor, and puts a smile on your face. In the meantime, he asks questions and makes statements that get you thinking. He creates what I like to call ‘relaxed profoundness’. Want to know more about this guru? Then watch this 2-minute film on the theme of ‘Why are we here?’

And whether you’re a manager, a coach, a father or a team member (or whatever role you have adopted in this life), sometimes it’s important to create a ‘relaxed profoundness’ within a relationship. For example, if you have to confront someone about their behaviour, or challenge someone to grow, or if you want to give others a new insight, or you want to create an atmosphere of openness so that tensions within a group can be talked about and resolved. One powerful and non-threatening way to achieve this relaxed profoundness is to use metaphors. In other words, to speak in terms of images (that are appropriate for the situation) and to really take the time to study the metaphor together with the person or persons concerned. What wisdom is embedded in this image and how can you expand on it?

For example, if you are talking to someone about their personal development, you could use the metaphor of a ship. As long as a ship stays in the harbour, it’s safe from any storm or other hazards; but this wasn’t the reason the ship was built in the first place (message: not making use of the qualities you possess is a sin). Or: if you go sailing but stick to the coastline, you won’t discover any new uncharted territory (message: dare to step out of your comfort zone and observe what happens when you do that). Or: what role do you have on that ship: captain, sailor, helmsman, man in the crow’s nest? (question: what role do you fulfil within the team?). And there are countless other comparisons you could make that you could talk about in more depth in a discussion. How do you respond when things are not running your way, what happens if you get caught up in a storm, what state is your ship in, what needs to happen before you give the ship’s wheel a spin and what course will you then take? And so on.

The great thing about using metaphors is that it’s in line with the way we think. Our brain works best with images (we are image thinkers) and using images accelerates the thinking process. An organisation that makes use of this principle in their marketing strategy is the Dutch insurance company Interpolis. In a TV ad you first see a car, followed by the same car but then in a state of total loss, and then a third image depicting a brand new car, followed by the payoff… Interpolis crystal clear. Everyone gets the message straight away!

The challenge I’m asking you to take on this time is to train yourself in the use of metaphors. In the next 3 weeks, I’d like you to come up with at least 10 metaphors for different situations within your professional or private life. For example: what metaphor could you use to represent the relationship you have with your partner, the relationship between you and your manager, or of with a colleague? What metaphor would you use to describe how you consider your work, how you see yourself when you’re at a party, what your goal in life is? And then go out and discuss the metaphor with the person this relates to and observe what happens when you both try to analyse the metaphor further.

Finally, I’d like to give you an example of a metaphor used by one of my clients: ‘I’m the jester that lets everyone perform optimally’. Short, powerful, playful and focussed! I’m curious to hear about your description and about your impact in the world. If you’ve completed the challenge and you’d like to share your experiences, I would enjoy hearing from you.

Be the artist of your own life!

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