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How Metaphors Motivate Movements
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 08/31/2015

Motivation a One of the most difficult tasks for a supervisor or manager is to find the right combination to motivate an employee to perform better, to be more capable and to help them along to find better skills and improve their abilities. Motivation is and can be the instrument that invokes conviction to do better. Since motivating someone takes a mind conscious atmosphere, it must also be addressed to the subconscious in order to circumvent critical thinking and make the impulse more instantaneously available to move them along. Thus we have to focus on emotional drivers and key words that trigger such a desired response.

Metaphors or the use of metaphors as motivational tools has been done for centuries. One can recall “We are Spartans” as a battle cry that allowed 300 battle ready warrior to face an enormously outnumbered enemy and fight with the kind of spirit and courage that put the enemy at awe of their opponents.

Battle cries are often motivating metaphors. There are no photographs, no long stories, scripts or plays yet a single word can do what no book could ever imagine doing. One must only be certain these metaphors do not create false convictions and thus key on the positive provocation of such actions desired.

Provocative, motivating metaphors do not deal with statistics or facts. It has no relativity whatsoever to evidentiary or truth based notion. It is pure emotional provocation power that drives the mind to a higher level. It is called creating branded content that each and every one involved understands instantaneously and readily without more than a few words spoken.

There are no preludes, no foreplay or preparation for the mind to rise up from the unconscious into action. It must have the impact of a sudden adrenaline rush and cause the body to quiver and tense up to know they are ready to face the need and challenges given. Because of such tenacity and sudden strengths, it is important to take notice and advice that such potentially insidiously inflicted device [metaphors] it can spread the energy across a contagion of legions and become a powerful force to reckon with at that moment.

Motivational metaphors are exclusively designed to do battle, as they can be refined and be orchestrated into softer toned responses with such emotions as kindness, compassion or empathy. The learned trick is to know which words stimulate the subconscious mind into action without the critical thinking process kicking in. It has to be a direct infused trigger with momentary impulses that create the desired thought or stimulation. Eloquently spoken words can trigger softer and more symbolic uplifting of the mind and soul. One such motivator was Dr. Martin Luther King, a man who knew how to use words for his civil disobedience actions and unification of many races of people around the country.

His mere word, “I have a Dream” has changed the lives of many people and continues to do so every day. Thus we are all hard wired in the mind to use and accept metaphors as trigger impulses to change our behaviors or thinking patterns. How we create these changes depends on how creative we are. The more creative, the more effective metaphorical thinking is. Think of the brain as a grid of electricity and how it blends these impulses through the brain that has a lattice like pattern of nerve fibers.

There is less cross-wiring of the mind and this condition allows better synthesis with our sensory preceptors. You can see how creativity is instrumental in the mind when the word is pictorial or transformed into a thought, concept, idea and then, an eventual action. The more creativity, the more overlapping of the senses thus the better the stimuli to act upon it with clarity and understanding without saying a whole lot of words.

This bridging of our senses is created inside the mind because the mind itself is a metaphor. It contains all our thoughts, feelings, ideas and processes them as a direct result to the environment and comprehension of the message given. Remember some messages are or can be provocative or evocative in the form of a tangible or intangible communication.

The knowledge how to use these and not allow the translation to get lost is an art and designed to trigger an automatically generated emotion or emotions. Using metaphors to motivate is all about the meaningful innovative method of introducing the right words and phrases and make them meaningful to the mind to stimulate thoughts, ideas, feelings and actions.

Douglas Van Praet author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


  1. StephanieCasey on 08/25/2019:

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