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Metaphors Gone Wild

Playing with metaphors expands the range of your thoughts, and increases your brainpower.

Is a belief a "truth" or a "tool?" The metaphor you apply can totally alter your perspective. Trying out many metaphors can give you new insights. For example, a belief seen as a "truth," is something that you would want to hang onto, since you wouldn't want to base your decisions on "lies."

On the other hand, a "tool" is something that is used for a given purpose. If the job at hand calls for a different tool, you drop the one you have and pick up another that works better. That is a radically different view of beliefs, isn't it?

How many metaphors could you apply to the concept of belief? A belief could be seen as a "program," like that in a computer. That would be similar to "tool," in its disposability - you replace programs when better ones come along. Of course it might suggest other things, like the "corruptibility" of programs.

A belief could be seen as a theory, a certainty, a bridge, or a cage. You could even see a belief as a component of identity: "I am the man who believes this." Each metaphor you apply gives a different perspective, and new insights.

Testing Metaphors

You can test metaphors intellectually, to see where they might lead. Then you can test them in reality, to see which are more useful. This is how you play with metaphors to expand your thinking and improve your life.

For example, many people see being an employee as being a "slave." This isn't a very motivating metaphor, since slaves have few options, and are forced to do things. So what other metaphors could we try? How about a "partner," or an actor in a play? A partner commands or demands more respect as an integral part of the business. An actor is temporarily playing a role, and knows that it will come to an end.

Myself, I always saw being an employee as being a businessman. I was in the business of selling my labor. This left my choices wide open. I could look for a better "customer." Neither I nor my "customer" (employer) owed anything to the other except what we agreed upon, so I never felt bitter or taken advantage of. Of course, operating on this perspective also lead me to start this internet business, so I haven't had to sell any labor for years now.

Playing With Metaphors

Which is a better metaphor for the Earth? A garden that needs to be tended, or a self-sustaining organism that lives for its own sake? Is a religion or philosophy a social construct, or a personal recipe for happiness? Is the market a symbiotic relationship between customers and businesses, or a battle ground? Is a good idea a gift from above or hard-won gold to be hoarded?

Brainpower can in part be measured by how many ways you can look at things, since more ways equals more creative possibilities. New metaphors mean more ways, so look far and wide to find new metaphors for everything around you. It is not only a good brain exercise, but a way to discover better ways to live.

About the Author: Copyright Steve Gillman. For more on How To Increase Brain Power, and to get the Brain Power Newsletter and other free gifts, visit:

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