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What Are Your Metaphors for Success?

How's that for a rich lesson? In real life, flexibility is synonymous with playfulness and open-mindedness. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing." Sounds a lot like rigidity, if you ask me.
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Earlier today I had the pleasure of connecting with Ilana Greene, who writes for a number of online publications. Ilana was very gracious and, among other questions, she asked "How did you learn to write? Your style is very engaging." I was quick to respond that I have no formal writing training and that I mostly write from the heart. To great extent I owe my gift of gab to my father, whose personality I tend to mirror with pride and nostalgia.

As the day progressed, I pondered on Ilana's question and reflected on all the people who have had an influence over me as a person, which then translates into the way I pen my thoughts. While there are many who over the years have left a "handprint on my heart," I must confess that what has made the most impact are the metaphors I associated while interacting with the people who touched me in some way. Metaphors have an energetic charge upon the body, mind and spirit. They are stored timelessly into every molecule of our being. We seldom recognize the significance of those events, nor do we directly see into how that energy either propels us or metastasizes within us. It's impressive knowing we can circumvent our programming and move forward by employing awareness and self-empowerment.

So what exactly do I mean when I speak of metaphors? Let me cut to the chase and give you the top two examples that have had a powerful significance in my life.

The first one took place when I was 2 or 3 years old and my parents took me to an Olympic-sized swimming venue in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we lived. My dad was teaching me how to swim and took me into the deeper water -- 14'-16' deep. With no warning, I surprised him as he found me walking up the stairs of the tallest diving board, some 10' to 12' above ground, to dive down into his arms without the assistance of any floating device. Just as I was doing this, my mother noticed what was about to take place and practically skipped a heartbeat, feeling guilty that she had momentarily lost sight of my whereabouts. Neither one knew what the outcome would be, they simply knew it was a risky move by all parties but felt that we were all pre-committed. I dove down into the water, where my dad awaited, and discovered that I could swim. Wow, what a delight! I am most grateful to my parents for hanging onto their pants, even if they felt fear in letting go, and allowing this experience to take place. In return, I learned not to let fear guide me. As a result, I've found that I live my life much as I did that day; I jump in and then figure out how to swim.

Recently I discovered the work of Dr. Brené Brown, whose research has made it clear: "Vulnerability is the heart of the feedback process." Life, I propose, is one continuous feedback process offering us many opportunities to playfully and synchronistical engage. In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown goes on saying: "Experience does however, give us the advantage of knowing that we can survive the exposure and uncertainty, and that it's worth the risk." Uncertainty is not only a striking word abutting our sense of courage, but also a determining factor to our success. Playing safe is simply a stage of homeostasis keeping us from growing and expanding.

The second metaphor I learned in life presented me with the opportunity to embrace uncertainty at its best. At the age of 12 I was taught to waterski by a special friend who was a year older. Two pivotal factors to remember when learning to waterski:

1.) Never, ever pull the rope toward you. Doing so will cause the skier to fall face forward or land on his/her tail following a dissipating slack in the rope.

Learning to orient my thinking with this particular motion taught me about that little synergistic thing called "resistance." As the saying goes "What you resist persist." Odd as it may sound, the act of pulling back on the rope while skiing is in essence the body's natural way of keeping the "perception of control," only it's totally counterintuitive to gravity. The trick is to relax and keep a steady, firm grip with a straight stance, two completely opposing forces. Put in other words, control is outside the realm of our reality and a little discernment goes a long way.

2.) Always, always keep your knees flexible. Rigid knees will do two things -- one, make your back work harder and two, interfere with balance. Balance being the remedy to "uncertainty" in the influx of waves.

How's that for a rich lesson? In real life, flexibility is synonymous with playfulness and open-mindedness. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing." Sounds a lot like rigidity if you ask me.

Yes in the end these metaphors where engrained in my body and to this day I revisit the space in my mind that allows me to vividly re-experience the visceral sensations I have learned to trust.

Often we are quick on our feet to find the most miniscule of faults, harshly becoming the critiques and disengaging from our innate ability to "dare greatly." I invite you to take inventory of the metaphors that have contributed to your success providing you confidence in the choices and approach to every event, decision and setbacks. It is through mentally and physically identifying these connections that we learn to access this energy with precision when we most need it. Take a moment to breathe into the part of you that informs your more authentic and gentler self. Notice the gifts waiting to shower you with grace. Remember that at any moment someone may ask you "How did you get there?" thus presenting you with an open door to "reach out and touch" something in you as well as in others. Thank you, Ilana, for the ray of sunshine you brought to me today.

For more by Denise M. Wilbanks, click here.

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