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Ten Inspirational Metaphors for Life

For over a decade, Ms. Dora has been sharing poetry, creative writing, positive quotes, and reflections online. Her aim is life enrichment.

Life is a dance

Life is a dance

Have you ever tried to summarize your view of life? Chances are that you may choose a popular metaphor comparing life to a game, a journey, a dance, a battle. Your metaphor does not have to be original, but it helps if it is as specific as possible about your personal view of life. Taking the time to figure it out will help you decide how to respond effectively to your circumstances.

For example, if you look at life as a game you may realize that losing one inning (in relationships, business, academic pursuits etc.) does not prevent you from winning another. Instead of throwing temper tantrums when you lose one session, you will organize and prepare for the next. You will accept second chances, become more productive and more effective.

Why Choose a Personal Metaphor for Life?

"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person," states Anais Nin ([1903-1977] American writer).

  • Choosing our personal metaphor boosts our sense of individuality.
  • The Research Digest (October 21, 2015) adds that thinking in metaphors enables greater insight into our emotions.
  • It helps us explain ourselves to others.
  • Prior to explaining, it helps us understand ourselves as in the following example:

A teenage girl accepted the assignment to find her personal metaphor. She concluded that she was an apple in a small basket, where the price listed was for each apple. She was not in a large bin where apples were grouped and sold by threes or fours. "Twenty-five cents each" was more significant to her than "Any four for a dollar." She choose a metaphor that emphasized her individual worth. Consequently, her self-esteem affected her attitude and behavior.

Metaphors for life are effective in influencing both children and adults. Choose from one listed on this page, or create your own and add positive meaning to your life.

Following are ten metaphors for life. They are extracted from Leaves of Gold (1938 edition) which contains “maxims, phrases, anecdotes, passages, proverbs and essays from the best minds among men” as it states in the book’s foreword. These selected metaphors share the thoughts of wise authors, and can inspire you to decide on your own.

(1) Cafeteria

Life is a cafeteria. There are no waiters to bring success to you. Help yourself. – Public Speakers Library

(2) Chess

In life, as in chess, one’s own pawns blocks one’s way. A man’s very wealth, ease, leisure, children, books which should help him to win, more often checkmate him. – Charles Buxton ([1823-1871], English writer and member of Parliament)

(3) Dome

Life, like a dome of many-colored glass, stains the white radiance of eternity. - Percy Bysshe Shelley ([1792-1822], English Romantic poet)

(4) Employer

For Life is just an employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.

- Jessie B. Rittenhouse ([1869-1948], literary critic, poet)

(5) Hunt

Life would be a perpetual flea hunt if a man were obliged to run down all the innuendoes, inveracities, insinuations and misrepresentations which are uttered against him. - *Henry Ward Beecher ([1813-1887], clergyman and social reformer)

(6) Lane

Life is like a beautiful and winding lane: on either side bright flowers, beautiful butterflies, and tempting fruits. . . But by degrees, as we advance, the trees grow bleak, the flowers and butterflies fail, the fruits disappear, and we find that we have arrived—to reach a desert waste. – George Augustus Henry Sala ([1828-1895], author and journalist)

(7) Music

Music is Life Wallpaper

Music is Life Wallpaper

Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule. - Samuel Butler ([1835-1902], English author)

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(8) Road

Human life is much like road life. You stand on a hill, and look down . . . and another prodigious hill lifts itself upon the other side. . . You find the valley pleasant and inspiring. When you get across it, you meet only a slight ascent, and begin to wonder where the steep hill is which you saw . . . Step by step you find it to be a good traveling road. – *Henry Ward Beecher

(9) War

Life, like war, is a series of mistakes, and he is not the best who makes the fewest mistakes . . . but he is the best who wins the most splendid victories by the retrieval of mistakes. – Frederick William Robertson ([1816-1853], British clergyman)

(10) Web

Life is a web, time is a shuttle, and man is a weaver. . . Of that web, two things are true: that which enters therein will reappear, and nothing will reappear which was not put therein. – J. H. Newman ([1801-1890], poet and theologian)

Life Metaphor Poll

© 2018 Dora Weithers


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 11, 2018:

Mona, I'm proud of your for taking the challenge. Your life's metaphor will influence your attitude.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on September 11, 2018:

The idea of creating a metaphor for one's life is challenging. I don't really dwell enough on my life, and I am most grateful to you, Ms. Dora, for this article. I will be back once I figure out my own metaphor, and enter it here. Wish me luck!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 27, 2018:

Thanks, Natalie. I appreciate your encouragement.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on August 25, 2018:

This is the third time I've read this article. I really enjoy what you have to say and the metaphors are very uplifting.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 30, 2018:

Thanks, Natalie. Your explanation of that metaphor is right on. We reap only if we sow.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on July 30, 2018:

These are very powerful metaphors. I like the one about the web. We only get out of something what we put in. If we put nothing in we get nothing back. Thanks for a stimulating article.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 23, 2018:

Thanks, Margie. We do inspire each other here on HP; you've done your share. Let's both keep on writing.

Margie's Southern Kitchen from the USA on July 05, 2018:

Dora, love all the beauty you always bring into my day! I always receive a blessing from your wonderful articles, keep writing! Have a wonderful day!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 02, 2018:

Patricia, thanks as always for the angels you send; and thanks for sharing your beautiful attitude towards life.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 02, 2018:

Thought provoking Ms. Dora. Life is a precious gift...learning to embrace every minute of every day on this grand walk brings us so much fulfillment. thank you for sharing....Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 02, 2018:

Thanks, Devika. It helps to take the time and figure out what life means to us. We see ourselves better and our way clearer.

DDE on June 29, 2018:

Hi, you have shared a meaningful hub! Makes me wonder too about life as you have written.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 05, 2018:

Nell, thanks for your contribution. Both are about attitude, and our battles really are lost or won in the mind.

Nell Rose from England on June 05, 2018:

Not so much a methaphor, but I do tend to quote, 'Being English is a state of mind not a bloodline' on most of my articles elsewhere! lol! but personal ones seem to be more, 'even if you hate someone, keep smiling it keeps them off guard!' LOL!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 01, 2018:

Frank, thanks for the footprint. I do not remember learning about life as an employer until this article and it makes sense to me too. I've asked for a raise.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on June 01, 2018:

Ann, thanks for sharing. I like your metaphor. It includes our entire being, which means we are fully alive.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on June 01, 2018:

These were very good I like life is like an employer the most.. really never thought of it that way but it fits...:) just had to come back to check it out again... so excuse the foot prints

Ann Carr from SW England on June 01, 2018:

Very inspiring, Dora. I like these ideas and the idea of choosing one's own metaphor is appealing.

For me, 'Life is the world through a child's eyes; fresh, inviting knowledge and giving us the wonder to put up with any setbacks.'

I think I could improve on that but for the moment, that'll do!

Thanks for giving us plenty to think about, Dora.


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 31, 2018:

Thanks, Jackie. You are right. Your metaphor may change, or you may have more than one at a time. It's a good idea to think it through.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on May 30, 2018:

Dora, always giving so much food for thought. I will now have to find my metaphor! I think maybe it can change through life and be nothing now as it may have been in my youth. Possibly it is good to not have chosen yet without a thorough search. I think it would have to be something quiet and settled, mellowed.

Thank you friend, for all your wonderful ideas that are so pleasing to the mind and soul.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 24, 2018:

Thanks, Denise. I like your metaphor and I can relate to the change very well. So many different puzzles!

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on May 23, 2018:

I have a tough time with change so I wrote the following: Life is like a puzzle. We work very hard getting all of the pieces in the right places only to find that when we do, the picture has changed!

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on May 23, 2018:

No problem MsDora, I did enjoy them..:) bless you

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 23, 2018:

Thanks, Frank. Glad you like the metaphors. I appreciate your input.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on May 23, 2018:

Love this hub.. love the metaphors... I think Carlin's is good too.." I think I am amazing, so therefore I am..I think.." Great share MsDora

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 22, 2018:

Thanks, Shauna. Your modus operandi is very noble. It would be easy for you if you choose to find a metaphor.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 22, 2018:

This is a very interesting article, Dora. I've never thought of assigning a metaphor to my life or how I conduct myself. I try to be fair (do unto others as you'd have others do unto you), take a good look at myself and actions when I stumble, take steps to correct the diversion, and always be true to myself.

You've given me something to think about.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 22, 2018:

Audrey, no wonder the music metaphor appealed to you. Vocal music is certainly your passion.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 22, 2018:

Thanks, Linda. You will enjoy finding a metaphor for your life. It's worth the time and effort.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on May 21, 2018:

Metaphors cause me to stop and think about my own life. You've listed some good ones. I like the "Music" metaphor and will memorize this. Thanks Dora. Well done.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 21, 2018:

The quotes are very interesting, Dora. You've inspired me to think of a metaphor for my life.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Sean, thanks for sharing your metaphor. Already I can see how it directs your writing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Manatita. There are so many life metaphors in your poetry, you possible have several personal ones.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Mary. Have fun finding your personal metaphor. Both music and road are interesting, or some other concept might emerge more fitting.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on May 21, 2018:

My metaphor (Greek word by the way) is:

Life is a baby you have to help it grow up with Love and joy. As a baby, it will trouble you a lot sometimes, but no trouble compares with the magic you can find in this effort!

Always wise and helpful!

Thank you, My dear Sister.


manatita44 from london on May 21, 2018:

A rather reflective piece to invoke much thought. Some nice metaphors and wise or witty sayings.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 21, 2018:

I love the idea of having a personal metaphor. I am now trying to focus on what is mine. I love the metaphor of music and road above.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Marlene. I know that story personally. Metaphors work for me too.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on May 21, 2018:

It all makes a lot of sense. I like the story about the teenage girl. You have inspired me to start thinking of a life metaphor for myself.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Bill, thanks for reading. Don't forget to get well!

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on May 21, 2018:

There you go again, Dora - making me think. Some wonderful thoughts here I'll have to consider more closely. Thank you!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thank you, Chitrangada. I agree that we make like simple or difficult. For example, life as a game can be either or.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Bill. Life is a ride--one heck of a ride. Good one!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Flourish. Life is a dance is among my favorite life metaphors. Changing the choreography to fit the circumstances could be challenging but I like the adventure.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Jill. Your observation is acceptable, and Sala may not be alone in his view.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 21, 2018:

Thanks, Tim. I like your metaphor. Thanks for sharing. As a writer I can easily relate to it.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 21, 2018:

Great article, great quotes, and it made me think.

I think life can be simple, if we think and behave so, but can be complex and difficult, if we make it so, by our thoughts and actions.

Always a pleasure to read your articles, full of wisdom.

Thanks for sharing!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 20, 2018:

Beautiful and all applicable; however you describe it, it is one heck of a ride!

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 20, 2018:

Looking at Jill’s comment, I’d have to agree with her on Sala’s mental health. I’m reminded of the country song that compares life to a dance, “Life’s a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow....”

Jill Spencer from United States on May 20, 2018:

These were interesting to read! P.S. I think Sala might have been clinically depressed!

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on May 20, 2018:

Thank you, Ms. Dora. I love these quotes. I've always felt life is like a bunch of blank papers and I'm a pen that writes a story, poem, or some other work as I go along. Of course, God is the author of the pages that will be my book once the final chapter is done. Thanks again for a well written and fun article.



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