TED Conversations

Stuart Woods


This conversation is closed.

If you could describe yourself with an object, what would you be?

Sometimes our intuitive self will name the object before we know why.

The benefit of using objects as metaphors for personal exploration is a well regarded coaching model. It can often take us somewhere extraordinary in terms of understanding ourselves and how we relate to the world. The design of objects (natural or manufactured) have numerous factors which might influence our choice: shape, size, colour, form, texture, function. All can unlock a fascinating journey though self-discovery if we pursue some or all of these formal elements and our reasoning behind them.

Do you have an example of where this metaphor coaching has really worked to help you achieve a goal?


Closing Statement from Stuart Woods

Thanks for everyone's interesting answers. I wonder how others regarded the choices. When reading them I was drawn to asking further questions about the detail of the object and the answers equally as fascinating as the original object. Many inanimate objects were named, many small but which eluded to a certain quality of symbolism. There is something deeply satisfying when small things stand for big things. Our readiness to regard ourselves in symbolism reveals much about how we view ourselves too and with what level of seriousness or levity. Distilling what we believe we stand for into one thing is incredibly telling and I very much appreciate the openness with which people engaged in the question. I respect those who did not feel the need to explain their choice but hope that in adding to this conversation you did reflect (on some level) on what you choice might mean for you. I believe that awareness is key to efficacy and the more we challenge our assumptions and assertions about what we stand for, the more we can be useful in what we do.

  • May 27 2012: A pomegranate. The outside world sees a complete whole yet within there are many seeds that could be attributed to many aspects of life. Seeds of growth, personal development, seeds of knowledge yet that includes things you still want to know, seeds of emotion, love, like, dislike etc. so many seeds of things still left to do and so many of deeds already accomplished. The metaphors are endless....
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      May 27 2012: Thanks Steff, what made you choose a pomegranate over say a melon (for example) I'm curious...what drew you to that particular fruit?
      • May 27 2012: Melons and other fruit have far more extraneous flesh not relevant to the metaphor in question, whereas a pomegranate is mainly seeds and therefore lends itself far more to my description.
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          May 28 2012: Thanks, I really respect that you are so specific and thoughtful.
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    May 14 2012: A diamond.
    Made from carbon a common substance, under heat and pressure it's the hardest substance known. When it has been cut and shaped, it plays with light.
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      May 17 2012: I have to say this I think this is very profound. Thanks for sharing it.
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    May 11 2012: Anything that has a circular pattern. It reminds me about:

    - How far we go or be something, it will return to the origin
    - Will power can be achieved through the control of consciousness towards zero distraction
    - There are always changes to give the color of life

    It gives me the strength to (gradually) make improvements to achieve the ultimate goal of life which is the expansion of consciousness. Because through all of these, brought me to:

    - We are within boundaries (limited)
    - But we are part of an enormous power,
    - And also, we always have hope

    Therefore, I realized that although I never fully realize the grand plan behind all events, but the process of life is planned for the best.

    Less or more ...
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      May 13 2012: Hi Bernard. I know exactly what you mean by 'anything that has a circular pattern'. There is something so satisfying and fulfilling about a circle (in any form). Beyond the regular cliches, I really appreciate the level at which you consider this. Your contribution has moved me one. Thank you.
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    May 10 2012: WATER ...... :-)
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    May 29 2012: Most of us are charactreized by humble household article. Maybe i could be characterized as a toilet brush!
  • May 28 2012: SUN
  • May 27 2012: traditional
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    May 27 2012: So folks with a day to go, so far we've had some very interesting objects....:

    I'd be interested in hearing if anyone has used their metaphor since posting it. Let me know if you have.

    A compass
    A candle
    A sand timer
    A Thermometer
    A computer
    A map
    A scalpel
    A hologram
    An orrery
    A circular pattern
    A microscope
    A diamond
    A book
    An eagle
    A star
    A computer
    A graphic novel
    A pomegranate
  • May 27 2012: A graphic novel...series.
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      May 27 2012: Thanks Michael, I remember being introduced to Frank Miller long before they made them into films....They were so powerful.
  • May 27 2012: it would be a book
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      May 27 2012: Thank you......Traditional or electronic?
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    May 26 2012: Thanks to everyone so far for their comments. Any more comments please before the conversation closes in a few days? I really think that by naming your object it helps grow personal effectiveness and awareness, especially if you are REALLY specific.
  • May 11 2012: I would describe myself as a microscope.
    I am ‘ever developing’ and from the smaller structures, I am able to see the bigger picture. I harbour a desire to explore knowledge and facts and am driven to understand the how and why.
    I then use the knowledge to inform the world around me in whatever way I can.
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      May 13 2012: Interesting, yours has a very similar central element to the object I described. Seeing how structures form the whole is significant for me too. Thanks for your comment Lisa. Maybe this is why we can work so creatively together.
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    May 11 2012: i am a flying object
    i might be an eagle..
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    May 10 2012: the noosphere. A layer surrounding our planet (like the ionosphere) or a hologram. Also an "insight"
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      May 13 2012: Thanks Aneesah, interesting, what element links these three things?
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    May 3 2012: scalpel
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    May 2 2012: A map
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        May 2 2012: Because there's a whole load of directions that I can see I'd like to go in and a whole load of different places I'd like to experience being in. Just frustrated that I can't do them all at once without being a map.
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        May 3 2012: Thinking about this more, rather than giving my instinctive reponse, should perhaps add that I am a prolific mind-mapper. Started as a child on paper, but now do this on the computer. The maps cover every aspect of my life at work and home and are all connected by hyper-links. Together I guess the maps give a pretty accurate description of me, although they are not strictly speaking a physical object.
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        May 3 2012: Hi Mary,Fascinating, Nigel makes some excellent observations.The map is for me V interesting, does this somehow indicate a fomrality to the way you see yourself? A map shows the way... a candle too does light a way (it's orignal use) We now know candles in a different light (pardon the pun) to create soft mood and atmosphere, warmth.
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      May 3 2012: Thanks Nigel, does your mind mapping have a design, real or imaginary? Do you have different maps for different things or are they all connected? if so how?
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        May 3 2012: The maps started as a single map that divided my life into its' separate aspects to categorize different things, but some things exist in multiple aspects. When you reach those things, you jump via hyperlink to the same thing, but in a different area of the map in a new context. Instead of providing a formal structure it gives a very flexible structure that is always changing.
        Very quickly, the map gets very big, but then I just prune a branch of it off as a separate map, still with the abillty to jump back to the root map or any other child maps. To do this physically, you'd need to write on multi-dimensional paper, or have a book that you could open in different ways, to see the same information but with different contexts.
        At work, I use it to keep track a lots of disparate technical information that I might want to combine in different ways to achieve different goals. I can't possibly remember all of the things I need to, but I know which parts of the landscape of the map I need to pull together to make new regions when viewed from a different direction.
        It's also a good landscape to explore ideas or new projects.
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    May 2 2012: Stuart,
    Do you know what you would be? Could you guess?
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      May 3 2012: Hi Kaitlyn, I think professionally I'd be an orrery- I've been working on with my coach with excellent results on my personal effectiveness. In terms of personally (I do seperate the two) I'd need to get back to you....!
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          May 3 2012: Professionally I've discovered I have an ability to shape 'big picture' thinking then almost immediately formulate the structure or pathway by which the goal/vision or state can be achieved.When I discussed it with my excellent leadership coach Vince Leahy, he drew out a metaphor for this way of working and as I described it, I suddenly thought what I'm describing is an orrery I went to the science department at school and found one to help visual personal effectiveness further. It really helped.
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    May 2 2012: A computer, because it has things you understand at once, and things you don't find out about until you really get up close and personal!
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    May 1 2012: Thermometer (I dont know for some reason that was the first object that came to my mind?)
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      May 3 2012: A thermometer! Fantastic-what kind of thermoter would you be? What does it look like?
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    May 1 2012: sand timer!!
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      May 3 2012: Interesting, can you describe it...how much sand does it have in it, what colour is the sand, do you see it as shifting or is the sand all at the base?
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        May 3 2012: the color is light brown and it keeps on reminding me about the tasks that i have to complete within a specified time!!
  • W T 100+

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    Apr 30 2012: A candle
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      May 3 2012: ...so to follow on Mary, what kind of candle? what does it look like?
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      May 3 2012: Also Mary, what I wanted to ask is: is there anything you think LINKS a candle to a map? Exploring this might result in some interesting discoveries.
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    Apr 29 2012: A compass.