A guide to using the metaphorical language of a “stuck” situation to discover the solution
If you can’t see the wood for the trees, feel like a fish out of water, or are going around in circles, we’ve got good news for you: that saying is also a clue to where you’ll find the solution. Yes, you read right--you can use the language you’re using to describe the stuck situation to discover the solution. It’s not even the language as much as the landscape contained within your description of the situation that can give you pointers. As Alison Smith explains, “If a picture paints a thousand words, then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures. In other words, the metaphor in the saying you’re using will provide a million words that will undoubtedly have the solution contained within them.”
That’s what this book is all about--taking these sayings that you’re using to describe being stuck and using them to get unstuck again. The language you apply provides clues to how you perceive the current situation. Subconsciously, you know the solution. Exploring the metaphors contained within your language allows your subconscious to communicate to your conscious awareness more easily. The metaphor reduces resistance and the barriers we put up to change. It’s as if we enjoy exploring the metaphor and forget what it means in reality, and before we know it, we have a metaphorical solution that we cannot help but translate into real life.
Offering an effective, easy process based on the power of metaphors, Alison Smith introduces her “Landscaping Your Life” method as a means to bring clarity to a problem, highlight alternative perspectives, and allow solutions to emerge organically, from within ourselves.
This advice is for you if you resonate with one of the sayings used in the book and don’t have time to do any of the exercises outlined in the full chapters or want a different perspective on a problem you’re facing NOW.
I obtained the advice by imagining myself in the future when I was no longer setback in the way described by each of the sayings. I then asked myself what advice I would give that younger and stuck me.
• if I was stuck in a rut, I imagined what advice an older wiser me, who was no longer stuck, would give to that younger self to get back on track.
• if I couldn’t see the wood/forest for the trees, I considered what that future self would say to help me turn the corner to enable me to get a different perspective. What you’ll need to do first is to decide which of the following sayings best describes the current situation you’d benefit from a different perspective on:
• Stuck in a rut
• Can’t see the wood for the trees
• Up a creek without a paddle
• Going around in circles
From the antidotes below, simply pick the one that is needed to solve the current challenge, and read the advice given.
You may find one of the pieces of advice provides the necessary perspective, or perhaps you need to read them all to get that, or whilst reading them your mind may go off on a different tangent, and it’s that tangent that provides the solution. You may even find an antidote from a different saying also helps. The key is allowing your subconscious to help you experience a different perspective, and to therefore obtain insight about what action to take next.
Here’s the advice I gave myself …
Out of the Rut(for when you’re stuck in a rut)
The rut has become too familiar, and you’ve simply forgotten what it’s like to be on track. Being back on track can also become a familiar feeling, and one that is accompanied by health, wellbeing and laughter too. Remember something you are on track about, and allow that sense of direction and purpose to expand into the current situation.
More ease, and less tension and trying. Before taking any further action do something to release the tension - that may involve running; or having a relaxing bath; doing a crossword or puzzle; or perhaps (using my new pastime) going for a very refreshing open water swim in the sea! Anything that enables you to access a more relaxed state of mind and body.
The first step is simple. Trust you have walked this way before, and can do so again. Take the first step with confidence, and don’t look back.
Can see the wood/forest for the trees(for when you can’t see the wood/forest for the trees)
You just need to stand back, and not be so intense. Don’t try to do it all at once.
The wood is such a small part of the grand journey. Don’t make it the journey. In fact, any direction you take would be a good one because it gets you moving - any direction with conviction will get you there – you can make course corrections as you go. It’s the wavering that means you go in one direction, and then return to the start unsure that was the right way to go.
There’s 360 degrees of choice, and they’re all preferable to the static stuck choice you’re making at the moment.
Paddle in hand and no longer up a creek(for when you’re up a creek without a paddle)
You’re going nowhere, indecision is keeping you stuck. Just decide what to do, and do it.
Any movement will be in the right direction, it’s inaction that’s keeping you stuck.
Don’t allow the saying to constrain the solution - finding a paddle isn’t necessarily the only solution – the water isn’t that deep. Can you wade out, swim out, float out?
No longer going around in circles(for when you’re dizzy going around and around in circles)
If you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. Change direction; go around in squares; slow down your circling; or make it a bigger or smaller circle. Do something different, and notice how that allows a different outcome.
So much wasted time for fear of making a wrong decision. Just follow your gut, and trust that all that you fear losing will either be given to you again, or will be replaced with something even greater. Your gut doesn’t choose a direction because it thinks it will give you less of what you have now, it makes a choice for more and greater. Dishonoring your intuition stops the muscle from working, and makes it harder to hear - honor and listen so that you may be stronger in the end.
Remember these insights came from my own future self, advising me on what to do when I had been using the saying to describe a situation. The advice may have resonated for you too. The advice may also not have resonated. You may therefore want to ask your own future self for some advice; that future you who has already resolved the problem you’re trying to sort out – give it a try!
ONE SUGGESTION: I’ve found it’s best to either say the advice out loud (perhaps recording it as you do) or writing it as if your future self is writing a letter to your current self.
Good luck - you don’t really need it though, as the solution is already known to a part of you. You just need to listen to that part, that inner you that is wise beyond all logical understanding.
Alison Smith is a coach, facilitator, and trainer who has developed the “Landscaping Your Life” method to help people get unstuck and back into their flow. She works with teams as well as individuals in both business and personal contexts. Since her own personal transformation 18 years ago, Alison has increasingly found the more unconventional tools to be more effective and powerful at bypassing the blocks and resistance we have to moving forward in our lives. Alison lives in Fife, Scotland.
“Landscaping Your Life is a brilliant approach, heartily recommended. Alison has extraordinary energy and an almost spooky sense of where people are and what they need. I have learned/worked/played alongside Alison for more than a decade and found her insights always useful.”
– Ruth Wallsgrove, management consultant
“Alison and I first had the discussion about using metaphors to solve a challenge I was facing in a Warsaw restaurant a few years ago. At the time I thought, ‘What? Give me more wine…this is uncomfortable’. Then I persisted and the answer presented itself, by using the metaphor, and I was converted.”
– Sara Walsh Evans, managing director at The Respectory
“There is nothing more invigorating than taking a step back and being challenged to view life with a different perspective. Whether it is seeing the wood for the trees, stepping out of a rut or not burying your head in the sand…all techniques outlined in this book have helped me face life head on!”
– Cara Murphy, head of commercial contract and supplier management
“Alison is one of the best coaches I have ever had the pleasure of working with (and I've worked with a few!). She has a highly practical nature and combines it with strong intuition and unconventional tools to guide you to find insights and answers to specific challenges. … As with any transformational coaching, you need to be prepared to take responsibility for personal change and get out of your comfort zone to find the answers you need, but Alison makes this easy with her approach.”
– Mel Sherwood, author of The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business
“I told Alison I knew I was making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill for an issue I had, and even though I knew this, I was still stuck. She asked me questions about it, so I looked at my metaphor for the problem in a different light. She made me see that how I saw the problem was affecting my ability to do something about it.”
– Caroline Johnstone, author of An Introduction to the Magic of Journaling
“Alison always hits the nail on the head when it comes to steering me in the right direction, whether personally or for a business issue. She is great to work with and a very positive person. I would recommend her whether you just need more clarity in your life or if you are looking for a whole new direction.”
– Brian Wood, owner of the Message Collective
“It’s too easy to get caught up in the content of a challenge we’re facing. That is, ‘she said this, and I said that’, and before we know it all we’ve done is spent hours talking ourselves into justifying why we’re stuck and why we can’t do anything about it. With Alison as my guide, the use of landscapes as metaphors for issues I’m facing has allowed me to observe the situation afresh without the oughts, shoulds and can’ts getting in the way. By noticing a new path, turning a real or metaphorical corner, stepping out of a rut, or cutting down some imaginary trees, solutions have emerged. More importantly, action plans developed and steps taken in a new direction.”
– Sufiya Gillespie, coaching client
“It can be hard to unravel the problems that life has a way of throwing at us. Alison’s use of metaphors helps with that unravelling, and works. The Landscaping Your Life process took me on a journey so I could literally see the woods from the trees. This book will help you to navigate your world in a whole new way.”
– Amy McDonald, CEO of Headtorch, creating positive mental health at work
“The Landscaping Your Life process presented in the book shows us how the metaphors we use to describe our lives might be initially disempowering but then go on to stimulate creative ways out of our mental traps.”
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