Friday, 27 November 2015

Over the hill

As I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday I came across the above quote by Ellen DeGeneres.

You know me - I love language and I love metaphor. Even more than that - I love exploring how the language and metaphors we use in our lives impact how we're feeling and behaving. 

Always remembering the important next step is to answer "so what?" - ie what does our exploration of our language tell us, and as a result, what changes can we make to improve the current situation.

Over the hill is an interesting phrase - mainly because it's become connected with age

Ellen is right - metaphorically it makes no sense, and usually such sayings make metaphorical, if not literal, sense. In the context of landscapes for example - we can't see the wood for the trees, we've burnt our bridges, or need to build them, have turned a corner, or are facing an uphill struggle, or are facing rough weather etc. That is, it's easy from the description to understand what is meant. 

The whole premise of the Landscaping Your Life processes is the ability to use the richness of a metaphor, that we're using to describe the current situation, to find a solution that moves us to the desired situation. 

I wonder why "over the hill" came to be synonymous with its opposite? 

The problem of course is its easy to buy into the meaning of a saying, and then make it a reality. That is we may not feel "doddering" but if we use "over the hill" too much, we might just start feeling that way!! 

For anyone buying into the conventional meaning of "being over the hill" therefore, please consider the following perspectives (you only need to find one perspective that shifts your internal way of relating to the saying). 
  • Over the hill, and ready for the mountain 
  • Over the hill, and can now see what's ahead
  • Over the hill, having seen the panorama from the top, and have now determined the direction of travel 
  • Over the hill, with the hardest bit behind you
  • Over the hill, with sight of the next hill
  • Over the hill, and now headed for the ocean
  • Over the hill, viewed from a hot air balloon
  • Over the hill, viewed by an eagle
  • Over the hill, viewed by a cloud
  • Over the hill and far away
Or what about:
  • Over the mountain: In a language some where on Earth they won't have a word for hill only a word for mountain - with a hill being described as a small mountain (apparently Brazilian Portuguese doesn't have a word for wood only forest. I'm assuming therefore that the same must be true for hill somewhere). Which means you're really just "over the mountain".
  • Being on top of the world: That is you're now on the way down from the top of the mountain having achieved something many others never will - with lessons learnt to share with others that and you take with you to your next mountain or adventure. 
Of course another suggestion would be to mix your metaphor or saying (absurdity is such a great way of shifting stuck states). So what about:
  • Making hills out of molehills
  • Making mountains out of hills
  • Under the hill
  • On top of the hill
  • Through the hill
  • Over the mountain 
  • Over the molehill 
  • Burning hills
  • Can't see the mountain for the hill
  • Stuck in a hill
  • Head in the hill
  • Up a creek without a hill
I'd love to hear your thoughts on other ways this metaphorical saying could be viewed more positively rather than negatively.

For more on Landscaping Your Life and how to use it to get back on track in your life please see the index of blogs.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring Change Inside and Out

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Negativity begets negativity

Yesterday when I wrote about reflections I realised there's another insight that can be gained from reflections.
  • Negativity begets negativity 
  • Positivity begets positivity
That is other people can't help but meet the energy with which we're entering into a conversation or relationship with them with. They may try for a while but if we're consistent with our behaviour sooner or later they'll just give in and do the same as us - or leave!

It pays therefore to consider the quality that is most supportive of the outcome you want and demonstrate that. I'd suggest very rarely does negativity help us achieve our objective, and yet so often when things start to go wrong it's our first choice!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


When water is very calm we can often see reflections of nature around it - whether that's mountains, sky,
or greenery

Have you ever noticed that other people often act as our personal reflection? That is those we admire are demonstrating traits we ourselves have. 

Consider for a moment how that statement might be true. Who do you admire, and how may you share positive traits with them?

Of course the same can be said for those who frustrate and annoy us. How might the 'annoying' trait that someone demonstrates also be a trait you yourself have? Not so easy to accept I know, and yet often very true.

Sometimes, however, our annoyance can arise from a desire to be more like the other person. For example selfishness may be something we need to embrace, and do more of rather than less of. Someone demonstrating selfishness will annoy and frustrate us therefore, because a part of us would like to be more like them.

Just something to think about next time you admire or get frustrated with another - ie what is your judgement of the other person telling you about yourself.

Friday, 20 November 2015


We can see patterns everywhere we look in nature whether in plants and trees,
weather patterns,
water and so on.
We often forget that there's also patterns in our own behaviour - some supportive and others less so.

When coaching I'm often looking for patterns. Patterns that support clients to achieve their goals, and/or patterns that set them back.
  • Patterns may be fairly clear to see: watching TV, or using the pc, until after midnight every night and then struggling to get up in a morning, and not having as much energy as you'd like throughout the day.
  • Patterns may be hidden: the tone and words used of the small voice within that repeatedly talks us out of action. 
  • Patterns may be totally unconscious: only really observable over time when we realise we ALWAYS - give up too soon, back off from conflict, eat too much when stressed, play it safe, avoid the unknown and so on. 
No pattern is inherently good or bad. The clue is in the outcome that the pattern delivers. If it's not an outcome what you want, and you can understand the pattern that triggers the response, you simply have to change the pattern. (OK perhaps not always simple but understanding the unresourceful pattern is certainly a major step towards success.)

That's what much of the work I do as a coach, facilitator, consultant and problem solver is about. Helping clients discover the patterns to release, and those to embrace, that will help them achieve their goals. 

What patterns are you running, and how might they be helping or hindering you from achieving your goals? 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


A quick Landscaping Your life post today:
  • Think of a situation you'd like more clarity on 
  • Describe the landscapes - above and below 
  • Identify how the landscapes might provide an antidote to that situation.
You'd be better off coming up with your own answers but I will provide some suggestions further down the post.

Insights from this landscape may include one of the following:
  • Movement may not be easily observed but it is never the less being made
  • Climbing the rock face will require the right equipment - be prepared
  • You need to cool down the situation 
  • The situation is currently too icy
  • Is swimming easier than climbing?
  • Or perhaps climbing is easier than swimming
  • Once the wind takes the mist away it's easier to see the situation
  • Or perhaps more mist is needed
  • Once the ice gets to the water it starts to break up 
  • Even icy water will melt the iceberg
Then consider how these might be applied to your current situation - perhaps you need to:
  • Have more patience
  • Look for the subtle signs that progress is being made
  • Prepare well
  • Look for an alternate strategy to the one you're considering
  • Remember the right time to make progress may be in-front of you not behind you
  • Concentrate on one aspect of the situation only
  • Match the icy reception with slightly warmer and yet still icy response
I would welcome your suggestions, thoughts and comments.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday, 16 November 2015

Balance can be found anywhere

As I start a very busy 3 weeks of training as The Purchasing Coach I realise I need to remember this advice I often find myself adding to tweets of rock balances.

Balance can be found in any situation.

That is no situation is without the opportunity to find balance within it.

I'll let you know how I get on!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Lava or magma?

Landscaping Your Life (LYL) can be used for many different sorts of situations:
  • Vision setting
  • Strategy development
  • Stakeholder engagement 
  • Problem solving
  • Barrier or hurdle busting 
  • Comfort zone expanding
  • Confidence building 
  • Stress reducing
  • Fitness improving 
  • and so on
That is LYL work's for any and all situations where there's a component of your mind that's contributing to the current situation. For example when you're confused, angry, unsure, fearful or negative your mind is contributing to how you're feeling, thinking and acting. As a result your mind can be used to change how you're feeling.

The underlying premise with Landscaping Your Life is using a metaphor that describes how the mind is representing the current situation, ie a landscape in nature, and then use that to solve the problem. 

The objective therefore is to: 
  1. Identify a representation (Landscape) for the current situation 
  2. Identify a representation (Landscape) for the desired outcome 
  3. Find a way of focusing your mind's attention on the desired landscape more than the current situation.
All the different LYL tools and techniques just use different ways of undertaking these 3 activities.

There are many reasons why this works -  not least that using metaphor makes it more likely we can bypass the resistance we currently have to finding a solution.  

One such occasion involved someone describing the current situation as lava that had hardened. The antidote was imagining magma. Each of us, even if we had the identical landscapes, would find different ways of moving from the first to the second landscape and might include:
  • Spending more time focussing on the desired landscape - in your mind, by watching a video, or even visiting molten lava (some landscapes are easier to visit than others). 
  • Simply imagining moving from one landscape to the other - there are a variety of ways of doing this - I've pulled a Pinterest board together to help identify the different means of moving around a landscape (although not this specific landscape) - the building bridges blog also explores this quite well.
  • Imagining you're  heating up the hardened lava - there will be a variety of ways of doing this too
  • An earthquake that takes the lava back into the earth (this is the option a client chose)
What landscape would best describe your current situation, and how can you change it to become more resourceful?  

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

When black holes collide

Why not think of 2 contradictory options you have for a situation and use this video to find a solution.

To do that:

  • Think of a challenge you'd like a different perspective on - perhaps one with a couple of options or very opposing options
  • Put the challenge to the back of your mind *
  • Watch this short video - you may want to do so a few times - with or without the sound
  • Distract yourself for a few hours
  • Think about the original situation and notice what you notice
  • Let me know how you get on 
* Putting the situation to the back of your mind means not thinking about it - not trying to decide which option is which black hole, or anything else related to the situation. It's about putting it to one side, and coming back to it later and allowing your unconscious to find the solution for you.

See yesterday's blog for an index of Landscaping Your Life posts introducing the different ways I've used nature over the last 15 year to find solutions to life's challenges. If you're wondering why metaphors are such a great way of finding solutions you may also want to read this blog too. 

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Friday, 13 November 2015

Landscaping Your life Relaunch

Welcome to this relaunch of Landscaping Your Life (LYL) - a process I've used for over 15 years with personal and business clients.

Over that time I've used nature as our teacher, and developed many different Landscaping Your Life tools and techniques. There's more here about why I use landscapes as metaphors to do this.

As I relaunch Landscaping Your Life today I wanted to provide an index of the blogs I've written on the subject - which I'm bringing together here for the first time. These blogs cover a range of topics:
  • Sayings we use that keep us stuck - and how to use them to get unstuck   
  • Observations from nature - noticing what we notice 
  • Using landscaping Your Life in business, or procurement
  • and a few others Landscaping Your Life tools and techniques 
Of all the different tools I use to help people get back on track Landscaping Your Life has been the most effective, and efficient too. It's why it's still a tool I use often with others and myself. It's as if it's stood the test of time - like much of nature itself. 

Landscaping Your Life tools are very quick, and the insight can stay with people for years. Easy for me to say I know. I'm hoping with this launch, therefore, that I can encourage past clients to share their experiences so that you may learn of its efficacy from them rather than me. 

That said the easiest way to check LYL's effectiveness is to try it for yourself. Why not have a read of some of the following blogs, pick one of the tools and have a go for yourself - and do let me know how you get on. 

Or simply join me going forward as I add new blogs with insight from nature, or share tools you can use at work or home, alone or in groups, to help provide insight on a challenge.  

Sayings we use that keep us stuck and using them to get unstuck   

Observations from nature - noticing what we notice  
Using landscaping Your Life in business, or procurement (more on The Purchasing Coach about the work I do in the procurement arena) 
And other tools not so well supported by lots of blogs :-)
I hope as you've explored some of these posts they have given you a flavour of what's possible when using nature as your teacher. 

I also hope that you will now join me here, on YouTube, pinterest and/or Facebook as I further explore the changes that can be inspired when we allow Landscaping Your Life, and perhaps more importantly nature, to do its magic! 

A new year Landscaping Your Life workshop is being considered in a venue in the north of England or Scotland. Do let me know, therefore, if you'd like to be kept updated as plans take shape. Or would like me to consider workshops in your part of the world (Hawaii and Australia would be great destinations for a holiday too :-)). Coaching and group facilitation are also available.

I look forward, over the coming weeks, months and years, to exploring with you what nature has to teach us - so we may all stay on track and find our flow.

With love and laughter *

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out
+44 (0)7770 538159

* and if you'd like to hear what the laughter sounds like turn your sound down a little (ok a lot) and play this vlog

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Why use Metaphors

I often get asked why I use metaphors when helping others get back on track - here's my response.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the more you talk about a problem the more confused you become. Additionally that the more people that are involved, the more barriers and resistance to hearing different ideas there are, and how much further away the solution becomes?

The challenge when we have any problem is we get stuck in the content - the detail - and since it's the detail that we're stuck with - it's not a surprise that sometimes it's the detail that keeps us stuck.

For example how easy to get caught up in:
  • He said this 
  • Then she said that
  • and how dare she 
  • And then you never guess what happened
  • How rude
and before you know it 
  • I'm never speaking to them again
  • Unless they apologise then xxxx!?!
  • I'm just going to do what I wanted to do in the first place - stuff them! 
  • I'm just going to ignore it
Or you ask someone to tell you about the challenge, and 3 hours later you're still there. As they fill you with every detail they think you need to hear - so you can see it the same way as they do anyway!

Other often used phrases in response to solution finding can include:
  • We've always done it like this
  • If it aint broke don't fix it
  • We tried that before, and it didn't work then
  • But what will I do then 
  • I like doing it this way 
  • It won't work
  • We're not going there 
  • I don't want to talk about it
  • I'm bored about talking about it
  • No
Or other variants in the same vein that force you to defend your position and reinforcing your own point of view. Making it harder and harder to be able to stand back, get some perspective and find a solution.

The problem with trying to solve a challenge using the current logic is, therefore, that we get caught up in that logic and detail. Perhaps more importantly we strongly hold on to our judgements, beliefs and assessments about the situation, and believe them to be correct. Which means alternatives are not so easy to identify, and consensus is hard to achieve.

If a picture paints a thousand words then I like to say that a metaphor paints a thousand pictures. This may or may not be completely nor scientifically accurate but what I hope it does convey - is the richness of metaphors - and all without having to use thousands of thousands of words to describe a situation.

Try it for a moment - what do you think supplier management in organisations involves? Or put another way - once you've placed an order with a supplier how much attention do you give the supplier?

If the many procurement horror stories are anything to go by - or conversations I have on flights - then orders are placed and suppliers just expected to deliver. Until there's a problem of course!

I use gardening as a metaphor for supplier management because by doing so we can use everything non purchasing managers know about gardening, and apply it to purchasing (that's where painting a thousand pictures comes in). Which means suddenly they start realising that suppliers need pruning, weeding, mowing, watering, dead heading, composting and sometimes some time in the greenhouse!  It opens up a whole new conversation about:
  • How many suppliers are like that tree whose roots are undermining the foundations of the house
  • What to do with weed like suppliers who pop up everywhere 
  • Who is in charge of the tool shed, and keeping the tools sharpened
  • Who's the gardener and who do they report to
  • What's the objective for the garden
  • What soil do you have
  • What type of plants thrive in this environment
  • How many plants do you want 
  • Do you want all year round colour, or just summer colour
  • Whether to have a compost heap, and if so when to spread it about
  • and so on. 
Can you get a sense that saying "purchasing is like gardening" has opened up the conversation in a way that talking about procurement theory might not have done (more here too). Especially with non procurement managers in the business - who I'm assuming don't live and breathe purchasing like I have for 30 years (see the procurement coach for more on that)!

Landscaping Your Life - is a process I've used for 15 years - and uses nature as a metaphor for our lives. That is we're using the richness that is contained within nature to provide insight into how we might want to relate differently to a situation we're struggling with.

These images may help convey it a little better. For example if we decided the solution to a problem was to be more bear or eagle like - those few words are conveying so much more....

Yes metaphors are in the eye of the beholder. Our minds are also meaning making machines, and therefore they are very good at noticing the pattern within a metaphor that does apply, and ignoring everything that doesn't. So using the bear and eagle as a metaphor could have brought to mind the viscous aspects of their nature - but it didn't. However it might have done when asked to apply it to a different situation, that perhaps did require more self preservation like behaviours.

There is no right or wrong with metaphors - all they do is open up a conversation so that the current situation, barriers to change, options, opportunities and the desired outcome are seen from a different perspective. This enables solutions to be found regarding what action to take, in order for progress to be made.

Tomorrow marks my 53rd birthday, and I decided it was a great day to relaunch Landscaping Your Life. I've started by pulling together all the blogs I've written on the subject. Imagine my surprise, with only a couple of new additions, that the number of blogs was 53!! Tomorrow I'll be posting the index of the blogs I've written. These posts show case the different ways I use landscapes as metaphors to find solutions to life's challenges for personal and business clients.

I do hope you'll join and engage with me over the coming weeks and months as I share more about this wonderfully insightful, enjoyable and non threatening process.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using Nature to Inspire change inside and out

Thursday, 5 November 2015

El Nino may be the perfect answer

When using landscapes to metaphorically represent challenging situations in their lives clients often describe deserts. It's certainly easy to understand why when desert's are generally hot, dry, empty and perhaps lonely places to be, and could also be thought of as difficult places to be inspired by and survive in.
The landscaping your life process involves imagining making changes to the original landscape so that it reflects the outcome you'd like rather than currently have. The solution landscape may be the original landscape with changes made to it, or may involve imagining going on a journey to a new landscape.
I remember one solution involved imagining the desert was at a different latitude enabling rain to sustain the desert, and allowing it to flourish once more.

Recent pictures of the Chilean desert with flowers growing due to the recent impact of El Nino made me realise I need to ask another question of clients - "would adding El NiƱo to the landscape make a difference?" smile emotic
Coaching and group facilitation using the landscaping your life process is available to provide insight into many of life's, and work's challenges - do email me or call 07770 538159 to find out more.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out