Pushing “Play” to Your “Pause” Button

“Is this a thought that will slow me down? Or can I find a perspective that will speed me up?”

Deena Kastor, Let Your Mind Run

Hello again! Thank you for being here. I realize you need extra time to read these newsletter articles. I often imagine you taking a break to look at what’s here. I hope you’re receiving value when you do.  Today I’m launching as boldly as possible, looking at something we all use: metaphors.

If you’ve read my past newsletters, you probably noticed I have a “thing” about metaphors. And that’s the point: metaphors are things.
They are ways of explaining an experience we’re having at the moment. 

The trouble with metaphors is that they can become “reified.” When we reify a metaphor, we make something abstract, like our experience, more concrete or tangible. The result is that we forget they were simply metaphors: they have become a reality.

Notice the metaphor in the following sentence:

Linda: I wanted to write three pages a day on my book. But I have writer’s block! No matter what I do, I can’t come up with the right approach for this chapter on gardening during times of drought. 

It’s easy to see the metaphor: writer’s block. Now, if I were sitting at my laptop, staring at a massive cinder block on top of my keyboard, I could be justified in saying I have writer’s block.  Otherwise, the truth is that I haven’t started to write the next chapter!

Here’s another one:

Rob: I want to speak to my boss about a raise. I’m stuck. I don’t know what to say to her. Or should I email her in advance so she understands why I requested a meeting?

The metaphor is “stuck.”  If I were standing in a pool of mud that went up to my waist, I believe I’d be justified in exclaiming that I’m stuck. Otherwise, the truth is that I haven’t yet chosen the most effective approach to ask my boss for a raise! Maybe I should ask HR for advice on how best to do it.

And another:

Julia: I’m between a rock and a hard place about this decision. It’s kept me immobilized for a month now.

The truth is I haven’t picked the date by which I’ll decide about this issue, and I need a coach to support me.

The point of all this is the following:

The metaphors we choose to use will always shape the way we think and feel! Linda thinks and feels as though she has writer’s block. The same goes for Rob and his experience of being stuck. If they are like most people who use metaphors that describe why they’ve stopped or delayed doing something, they probably think this experience is outside of their span of control.

If I attribute my lack of writing to writer’s block, I must find ways to get around it. I may have to read articles or books about writer’s block to assess precisely why I’m blocked, stuck, or between a rock and a hard place or (you fill in the blank). As you can see, this takes time and energy.  It’s a condition occurring outside of me, something I must remove before I can continue. There’s no self-efficacy.

The term ‘self-efficacy” was first coined by psychologist Albert Bandura (1977), a Canadian-American psychologist and a professor at Stanford University. Bandura defined self-efficacy as people’s belief in their ability to exercise control over their own functioning and events that affect their lives. He posited that one’s sense of self-efficacy can provide the foundation for motivation, well-being, and personal accomplishment.

What does this mean for you and me? Here are some steps I’ve found helpful in my life. They may work for you:

  • Instead of offering a reason why you haven’t done something, look at how you will feel when you do it! Happy? Relieved? Powerful?
  • What metaphor could you use to represent the above feelings? Powerhouse? Early bird? Happy as a clam? Google some metaphors to help you get started.
  • Print the metaphor on a piece of paper in the following way:

I am (an early bird) because I get things done on time.

I am (happy as a clam) because I write one page daily.

From Katy Perry: “ I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar!”

Or, my favorite:

“ I am pushing play to my pause button!”

  • Train your brain to make this a reality by reading the statement out loud at least three times daily.

Remember Deena Kastor’s mantra: 

“Is this a thought that will slow me down? Or can I find a perspective that will speed me up?”

Let me know what you find! You can go to marianemeth.com and leave me a comment.

See you next time!

Wishing you all my best,