There are many metaphors for life that can guide us to be our best selves. What is your metaphor? And does it help or hinder your journey?

What are metaphors for life?

There are a variety of metaphors for life that we turn to when trying to make the best of our lives. Some people see life as a struggle to a mountaintop, others liken it to an adventurous journey and still others to tending a beautiful garden.

But the thing is, the metaphors for life you use can really affect the way you see life and ultimately make your life a struggle or a pleasure.

Check out the following metaphors for life to see which ones resonate with you. And if the metaphor you are using isn’t working – then change it for one that works better for you.

1. Climbing a Mountain

The metaphor of climbing a mountain can be very useful. There is a lot of energy and hard work required to reach your goals, just like it takes energy and hard work to climb a mountain – but the results are worth it, just like the view from the top of the mountain.

A journey up a mountain can be smooth and more difficult, just like life. There may be unforeseen obstacles or dead ends and you will have to find another way to the top – just like in life.

Overall, the metaphor of climbing a mountain can be a good one when thinking about life goals. However, it does seem like it focuses a lot on the hard work and often struggles involved. For this reason, I don’t find it that useful for life in general, but I do find it a great metaphor for achieving goals in life.

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2. Taking a Journey

A journey makes a great metaphor for life. It makes us think of all the wonderful discoveries we can make along the way. In addition, a journey can at times be easy, with smooth straight roads, or hard, when the path becomes overgrown and tangled.

The metaphor of a journey also helps us to see the whole journey as worthwhile rather than just the goal. After all, there are pretty places to stop along the way and admire the view or rest for a while. I prefer the journey metaphor to the mountain one because it reminds us that life is not always a struggle – it can also be a pleasant ride.

stages of life

3. Tending a Garden

A garden makes a lovely metaphor for life. I especially like this metaphor when viewing the relationships in my life. My relationships with my family and friends will blossom if I tend to them carefully and this helps remind me to put in the time and effort required to grow strong relationships.

In addition, the garden metaphor of life can be useful in achieving goals. After all, you get out of life what you put in, just as with a garden. The more time you spend planting, feeding, watering and weeding a garden the more beautiful it will be – and this goes for your life goals, too.

The metaphor also works for self-care. You wouldn’t expect the fruit trees in your garden to provide a bountiful harvest if they were covered in vines and never saw sunlight, or if they suffered a drought and no one took the time to water them. The same goes for you. You cannot be healthy, strong and productive if you do not take the time to nurture yourself.

4. Building a House

Seeing your life as like a house or other structure has some really positive benefits. After all, a building has to be built on good foundations otherwise it will crumble and fall. So much in life is the same. Our health, goals and relationships all need good foundations if they are to be strong enough to survive.

A building is also a safe, protective space and seeing life this way can help us feel secure. Even if troubles come, we know that if we have healthy foundations, especially in our health and wellbeing, mental attitudes and relationships we will be strong enough to weather the storm.

5. A Race

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Often we can see life as a race or competition where we have to struggle to compete with others to win. I don’t find this a very helpful metaphor because ultimately everyone has a different path to follow.

Believing that life is a race can make us competitive and confrontational. It can also cause us to feel we are failing if we are not always ahead of the game. If this is the way you see life, then you might like to try a different way of looking at things where your happiness is the goal rather than beating anyone else.

6. A Battle

Some people see life as a battle and often feel like it is one that they are losing. Again, I don’t find this a particularly helpful metaphor as it implies that everything is a competition and it will always be a struggle to get what we need. I believe that a more cooperative metaphor is more helpful, especially when it comes to relationships.

Occasionally though, this can be a useful metaphor. For example, in sports, it can bring out the best in you when you face a tough opponent. Just remember to keep the metaphor to appropriate areas of life and don’t make the mistake of battling your nearest and dearest just to be right.

 7. A Prison

deep questions about life

If you see life as a prison, then you likely don’t feel like you have any freedom or control in your life. This can be a result of abuse or a result of being a people pleaser or fearing confrontation.

If you are feeling like this, it can really help to find a part of your life where you do have some control, such as your diet, spiritual life or hobbies and begin to imagine these as like a garden. You can then begin to nurture your life in small areas and gradually grow your garden until you feel like you have more freedom and control.

Choosing your metaphors for life

As you can see, some of these metaphors are more positive than others. This is why you should think carefully about the metaphors for life that you choose to help you. If you see life as a battle, it’s going to feel hard and confrontational and you are likely to feel like you are losing a lot of the time.

However, if you see life as a garden, you may feel a lot more in control. Of course, weeds can grow in a garden and plants can die, however, you have some influence over creating a garden. You can tend to the areas that you want to grow and try to eliminate the less positive aspects of life. This metaphor of life is likely to make you feel more powerful and optimistic.

Often different metaphors for life will work in different areas of life, so it’s wise to try out a new way of thinking about your life until you find a guiding metaphor or two that help you.

We’d love to hear what metaphors for life guide you on your life journey. Please share them with us in the comments below.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ron

    Be like water

  2. Hillary

    Love these metaphors… and generally agree with the advice you give in your prison metaphor but PLEASE remove ‘diet’ as its one of the most dangerous suggestions you can make as an example of things you can control.

    ‘If you are feeling like this, it can really help to find a part of your life where you do have some control, such as your diet,’

    I like your other examples but dealing with unresolved trauma and lack of control by focusing on diet control is a recipe for dangerous and potentially deadly eating disorders.

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