Now that you are familiar with visual thinking metaphors and analogies, today, I would like to provide you with a practical example of a visual thinking metaphor that is often used for life coaching purposes to help clients clarify their goals and objectives. In fact, it is one of the many visual thinking metaphors we will be discussing in the coming months.
Building a Visual Bridge
This visual thinking metaphor explores a number of key critical areas that are fundamental to the process of goal setting. It explores the following areas:
- Current reality
- Desired reality
- Obstacles standing in the way
- Available resources
- Steps required to achieve your desired reality
First of all, familiarize yourself with the blank template below and then read the brief explanation about how you can use this tool for your own purposes. Keep in mind that a visual metaphor such as this is most ideally used when sketched out on a large whiteboard — allowing you plenty of open space to work with.
Click here to download a pdf sample of this visual thinking metaphor.
Here is an overview of how you would use this visual thinking metaphor:
1. Identify Your Goal
First, within the cloud area, write down the goal that you would like to achieve. Only use keywords, and be as specific as possible.
2. Identify Current Reality
On the left cliff, write down a list of keywords that define your current reality. You’re basically outlining where you are right now in your life — your current life circumstances. Include everything that is good, bad and ugly. Alternatively, you can represent your current reality using sketches and symbols.
3. Identify Desired Reality
On the right cliff write down a list of keywords that define your desired reality. You’re essentially defining the type of life that you would like to live on the date you specified. It’s important not to go into too much detail at this stage, but simply jot down keywords that stand out in your mind.
On top of the cliff, represent these keywords (your desired reality) using a series of sketches, symbols or both. The sketches can depict feelings you want to experience, physical things you want to have, etc. Completing these sketches will help you to create more meaningful associations.
4. Identify Obstacles
Within the gap between the two cliffs, write down all the obstacles that are standing between your current reality and your desired reality. Again, write down only keywords without going into too much detail. Alternatively, you can represent these words in a visual way, as described above.
5. Identify Key Resources
On the tree branches outline five key resources that you have at your disposal that you could use to help you overcome the obstacles that are standing between you and your desired reality. Again, just jot down keywords.
6. Bridge the Gap
Now that you are clear about where you are, where you want to be, the obstacles standing in your way, and the resources you have at your disposal, it’s now time to build a bridge that will take you over the cliff towards your desired reality. This bridge is going to be built using a series of steps that you will take over a certain period of time that will get you to where you want to go.
Again, it’s important here to only use keywords, and keep your description of the steps simple and straightforward.
Visualizing Your Journey Towards a Perfect Body
Take a look at a completed practical example below, where I outline how I will achieve a weight-loss goal:
As you can see, I’ve outlined the current reality I’m experiencing at the moment (red), the desired reality I want to experience in the future (green), the obstacles standing in my way (orange), the top five resources I currently have at my disposal (blue), and the five steps I need to take to achieve my desired reality (purple).
I’ve mainly used words for this example, however if you feel comfortable you can use more pictures and symbols.
The Benefits of Visual Metaphors
Using visual thinking metaphors is much like building a story of your life and your journey towards a goal. You are effectively taking your thoughts, different scenarios, choices and options out of your head, and making them concrete and real in front of your eyes. This helps you to clarify things, to identify patterns and make better and more effective decisions.
This process might not seem revolutionary on the surface. However, don’t let that fool you. The simple act of getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down on paper in such a manner provides you with incredible clarity that you would never experience if you simply kept things in your head.
By seeing all my options, all my thoughts, all my problems, all my emotions, all my obstacles, all my desires, and all the relevant aspects of my life visualized within a powerful metaphor — helps to put EVERYTHING into perspective. This perspective shifts my model of the world, which likewise stirs my emotions, moves me to action, and catapults me over the cliff.
I will provide you with an in-depth analysis of this visual thinking metaphor (including a video walk-through), as well as many other visual thinking metaphors and many other visual thinking techniques and tools in the months ahead. For now, try this visual thinking metaphor for yourself, and begin consciously reshaping your perspective and understanding of reality.
Metaphors and Analogies are Only the Beginning
In upcoming posts, I will present you with much more information about metaphors and analogies, including more practical examples about how you can incorporate them into a visual thinking framework. But our metaphorical journey doesn’t end here. Because within the next post we’re going to examine how to incorporate similes and allegory into your visuals.