When you think of metaphors you may start picturing your high school English class and reading Animal Farm or The Great Gatsby, but metaphors can be really valuable tools while navigating your life.

How is that, you ask?

Well, let’s start by defining what a metaphor is as a refresher.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

Dictionary.com says it’s “something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.”

And lastly, the Cambridge Dictionary states that metaphor is “an expression that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to possess similar characteristics.”

Which can mean that something can be symbolic of something else. An example would be your office desk can be a metaphor for your career. Another one might be your kitchen may symbolize how you feel about your health.

We all know that when our areas are in order, we feel more in control, more clear and more confident. So if my desk is covered in papers, unopened mail, used up pens and fast food wrappers, then you might want to ask yourself, how is all of that reflective of how I feel at work?

If your car has empty water bottles, used napkins, old receipts, and tons of other rubbish, then ask how is the condition of my car reflective of how I think about my commute, my health or finances or even my life in general?

I do believe that there is energy in all things and there is power in clutter clearing your life to let new, better things come forth, but metaphors can go even deeper than that if you are confronting a specific problem or issue and you’re not sure how to handle it.

If we wanted to get really creative, you can also ask yourself “if this problem/issue was a person, place or thing, what would it be?”

Say you have a difficult boss. If you were to imagine something that would symbolize your boss, what would it be knowing that you could choose a person, place or thing?

What if I chose a gigantic ogre that was slimy and angry and belligerent to represent my boss.

If you actually encountered such an ogre in real life, what would you do? Run, hide, call for help, recruit others to help you, charge at it, try to coax it with candy or maybe sit still and try to talk to it?

You could imagine those different scenarios until you find one that starts to calm the ogre down and made you feel safe. My bet would be on the sitting still and talking scenario, but you may find another one that works for you and your ogre.

You could even imagine a conversation between yourself and the ogre. You might want to ask why he’s so slimy or why he’s so angry all of the time. It may feel kind of silly, but you can actually learn a lot by letting your imagination go here.

Once you decide on how you would handle an ogre and feel some understanding of its motivations, then think how all of that could be applied to your boss.

It may not all transfer, but try not to be too quick to discount anything. You could really get to the source of the problem by approaching it this way.

When you are confronting an issue and your logical mind just can’t seem to get a handle on it, let your brain play a little bit with metaphors to come up with a creative and insightful solution.

And you won’t even have to write a book report on it.