Life design begins with a metaphor

Your life design starts with a metaphor.

When I work with people to make a life design, I start with a central idea to pull it together. We begin with a metaphor for life of your choosing to build a design around.

We really do make a design on paper. That’s why we call it a design. It isn’t just an abstract idea. It’s something you make to visually represent the life you want to have. You keep it where you can see it to remind you what you are working towards. It’s a powerful reminder what your life can grow into.

In other words, the metaphor becomes a contain for your design. A good metaphor allows room for all the essential parts of creating a personal life design. And it allows you to have some creative fun building up your design.

Why use a metaphor?

Metaphors are a little trick of language we use for letting one thing symbolize or represent another in a way that powerfully expresses feelings and ideas in a few words.

A metaphor creates both emotion and an image in the mind.

The image allows you to physically experience it in your body, through your imagination. It’s in the mind, but the mind doesn’t know it’s not real, it still feels like it experiences whatever the symbol is.

And the emotion is what creates the impact in the mind.

Emotions heighten experience, and the more powerful, the more of our attentions you give them. So be sure to pick a metaphor that has enough emotional impact for you. This is going to be associated with your life and it has to be meaningful to you.

Metaphors are everywhere

If you think about it, you are using metaphors all the time without even thinking about it. One statistic put the number at 1 metaphor per 18 words. That’s an impressive number of metaphors!

We use them so much because they enrich our expression. They bring language to life and add meaning and color.

They act like a lens through which we magnify our feelings about something. To sum up, metaphors have layers of meaning that pack in more than just the object itself.

So let’s find one for you to use.

Start being aware of the metaphors you use for life

What if we started paying attention to how we use metaphors to describe life? What would you find out about how you feel about life?

They give away a lot of information about how you experience life and what you think it means. If you have a few minutes, jot down all your ideas about metaphors you like to use for life. Think about what each of them means to you.

Some typical metaphors

We’ve been using metaphors forever to describe life. Here is a list of some of the most common metaphors.

  • Life is a journey
  • Life is a battlefield
  • Life is a game
  • Life is a garden
  • Life is a bowl of cherries
  • Life is a race

As you read through them, you probably experienced different ideas and associations with each one. Each one offers its own perspective on life. Which do you react to most?

Pick an unusual metaphors

When you think about what sort of metaphor you would use for a life design, be creative and think what else you could use besides these. Find one that has high impact for you. Your life is unique and deserves it’s own metaphor.

When I made my first life design, it came out as a flower.

I had an image of what I wanted to construct and how I wanted the parts to work together. But oddly enough, I didn’t pay that much attention to that I was making a flower. When I stood back and looked at it, then it hit me what this metaphor meant.

Flowers are objects of beauty, they grow in the sunshine, they start as buds and bloom, they offer sustenance to other creatures, and spread their seeds as the fade. They are a great analogy to life on many levels, and I found the shape worked well for what I felt like expressing.

Now, as I change, I might decide to use a different metaphor, and that is fine. As you grow, so does your life, and it’s find to expand the design to take in new information.

Your life design describes what you want and allows for growth from where you are right now.

That can all change down the road. That’s part of your evolution.

I have thought of other metaphors that might be interesting to play with…

  • a solar system
  • a house
  • a tree
  • a library or a book
  • a quilt
  • a stew

These aren’t traditional metaphors, but you could play with each one and see aspects of life in them all, if you wanted. Think of this as a creative exercise to use something unique to represent your life.

A little tip, since the idea is to draw or make a design, something concrete is usually easiest to work with. Otherwise be creative. There are many ways to use this idea.


Metaphors are the beginning of creating a representation of your life design. They provide the form and the meaning, as well as the emotion.

Ask yourself what metaphors you have been operating under and what they reveal about your perspective. Could there be anything