Metaphors for Work – Motivation, Engagement, and Inspiration

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    I love the work of Matthew Fox, the expelled Catholic priest. In his book, The Reinvention of Work, Fox suggests the metaphor for work as a “Sacred Sacrament”.

    He defines sacrament as “a holy revelation of the hidden mysteries of the Divine – mysteries so sacred they require metaphor and symbol if we are to talk about them.”

    How you describe your work can motivate and engage you or disempower and drain you. Images, descriptions, and symbols carry messages that have a subtle but significant impact on your motivation and work culture.Surf's Up Metaphor

    Creating New Work Metaphors

    Many people still think of work as ‘punching the clock’ or ‘working for the man’. What images come to mind for your work? Do you think of it as a garden, a jazz band, a giant machine, a gerbil wheel…..

    Here is a short excerpt from chapter 5 ‘Creating New Metaphors’ from my book, Path for Greatness: Work as Spiritual Service. It provides ideas for re-imagining how you work.


    “Fox suggests work can be seen as a sacrament and that we can move between different sacraments. For instance, leadership can be seen as an ordination. We confer upon leaders certain powers and privileges, but with that comes responsibility for taking care of the group and bringing the group to a higher level of existence. Likewise, teamwork can be seen as a marriage. Each member comes with her own individuality and offers it to the team. Yet as with a marriage, the team will take on a life of its own that needs to be nurtured and maintained. Fox writes, “Sacramental work serves the cause of the Great Work of the universe, a work of interdependence and compassion.”

    One activity for beginning to see your work differently through metaphor is to envision an activity that you enjoy doing. It may be a hobby or interest that you pursue, (e.g., hiking, weaving, quilting, cooking, rock climbing, dancing, scuba diving etc.) What you want to do is to create a spiritual metaphor for your work that reflects your work in a creative, passionate, meaningful way.

    How can your work or activities be viewed in ways that are uplifting and life-renewing?

    What other images do you have that are inspiring and energy-sustaining?

    Use these images to help structure your work or symbolize your work environment.”

    If you are looking for new ways to motivation, inspire or engage your employees, find images, symbols or words that spark their creativity, passion, and larger purpose. Ask them for images or metaphors for their team that help them focus on the best of who they are together.

    What you focus on matters.

    Choose those images that remind you of the gifts you bring and the positive impact you have on others.

    May your work serve a higher purpose and renew your spirit.


    For more ideas to energize and inspire your work week, see Linda’s website –

    If you are feeling stuck in a rut, unmotivated, bored or overwhelmed with your work, consider job coaching with Linda. She’ll inspire, encourage, and support you to shift how you work. If you want to change jobs, Linda can focus and sustain your energy to find or create new work that better suits your interests and skills. Schedule a free consult to see how you benefit from job coaching with Linda-