Creating Metaphors for Mental Strength

February 19 2019


The subject of developing mental strength is a fascinating one. Through the pioneering work of Seligman to the prevalence of Emotional Intelligence theories and Neuroscience today, there is strong evidence to support the view that if you can positively influence your interpretation of the events around you, you will have a far better chance at success and happiness both in and outside of work.

This would seem to be common sense but I am not convinced it is common practice. The combination of 24/7 connectivity, tighter deadlines and constant strains on work/life balance make for a serious test of an individual’s mental strength.

Given the body of work that has been done, there is no shortage of tools, tips and advice on how to become mentally stronger but too often these nuggets of enlightenment are forgotten in the heat of “the battle”.

One tool however that I have found to be particularly reliable in building mental strength is the process of creating a metaphor.

One example of a metaphor, or the likening of two distinct things through some characteristics that they share, that I have used in the past has been batting in a cricket match.

I have compared situations where I felt under pressure and dealing with difficult people to batting on a bowler friendly pitch.

Some of the aspects of this metaphor that I found useful were:

The bowler’s trap– Like being set a trap by a bowler, interactions with others can draw a false shot, identifying “traps” for your thinking such as trivial requests, resistance to change or even throw away comments can help preserve your longevity at the crease!

Appreciating the truly great deliveries– Every now and then a batsman gets a ball that is unplayable, it’s part of cricket and so too it is part of life. Acknowledging when this happens, at the time it happens – be it a major sale gone begging, a botched delivery, having to make people redundant- and shrugging your shoulders and moving on can be an important building block for mental strength.

Waiting for the right ball– If you are persistent enough, opportunities to score will come. This point emphasises playing to your strengths, waiting for your opportunity and having an unwavering belief that the results will come if you are focused on the things that matter or the shots that you are good at.

“Blocking-out” spectators– This is about remembering that while spectators are involved in the game- they aren’t playing against you. This serves as a reminder to not get caught up too much in what others are doing or thinking. This is saying spectators have chosen their team and they won’t change their team on the back of your performance.

Listening to advice from the Non-Striker’s end– The non-striker observes what you are doing, provides feedback on what to watch out for and can make batting more fun! This for me can be likened to the importance of having a mentor someone who can see obstacles, help bring clarity to your thinking in times of relentless pressure and provide experience and insights that you may otherwise miss out on.

What are the metaphors that you have created for the challenges you’ve faced? What other tools have you had success with in building mental strength?

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