Mixed Metaphors | Stories of the resistance

I learned one of my favorite mixed metaphors from a fellow coach who said, “I view my job as leading a horse to water, then teaching it how to fish.”

(My son, who is completely obsessed with fishing, would likely take this on as a real challenge—and knowing him, that horse would not only learn how to fish but learn to love it.)

As a coach, I take a more metaphorical view: I can lead you to water by providing you with information and resources, and I can teach you how to fish by giving you lots of support in finding the diet and lifestyle choices that work for you … and ultimately, whether you take a small sip from the pool, just dip a toe in, “fish” there on a regular basis, or dive in headfirst is totally up to you.

Sometimes we have to work up our courage even for the first small sip—and usually, the positive results are so out of proportion with the effort involved that the next step, dipping your toe in, becomes less scary.

What causes us to balk at the first sip, though?

More often than not, it’s inertia, misinformation, a story we’ve told ourselves so often that we believe it to be true … or a combination of all of these, which makes for a particularly potent “resistance cocktail.”

  • Inertia: “I have never eaten vegetables….”
  • Misinformation: “There is no way for us to get the nutrition we need by eating the food that is available to us today, so I just take a supplement.” (Yes, this is a conversation I have ad nauseam because “nutraceutical” companies are deeply invested in this idea—they make a lot of money if they can convince you that it’s easier to pop a pill than eat vegetables on a regular basis. And then we’re back to inertia.)
  • Ingrained narratives: many conversations about resistance usually start with the words “I can’t possibly…” or “I don’t have time to….” My response is always the same: “Do you really not have time, or are you not making the time to…?”

That sounds like tough love—I guess it probably is—and what I love most about these difficult conversations is that they can lead to the most meaningful changes—the full body plunge—because we can finally address the story behind the narrative.

It’s a move from yes/no to an essay question.

Let’s talk about why we don’t eat our vegetables, why we accumulate so much stuff that our houses overflow into storage spaces, why we don’t exercise or do the myriad things we know are good for us. And where did our “why stories” come from?

And then we can start chipping away at the inertia, the misinformation, and—most importantly—those stories we tell ourselves that just aren’t true.

As a coach, the win for me doesn’t always look like the client’s win: you might come to me because you want to lose weight or because you want to learn how to meal plan, because you want to declutter your house or improve your relationships or develop a spiritual practice or start working out regularly or just feel like you can manage your crazy life, and I can help you get there.

But the real win is developing the habits that will help you sustain the changes you’ve made even after our work together is over—that’s when you know how to fish for yourself.

And developing those habits doesn’t happen until we can believe that we are worthy of the sort of care we lavish on others.

Then we can schedule uncancelable appointments with ourselves, whether that means getting 7–8 hours of sleep, eating our vegetables, working out, or decluttering our space or….

It really comes down to priorities: where are you on your list of what needs to happen today, and what stories do you need to change in order to move yourself up the priority ladder even a tiny little bit?

Drop me a comment below and let me know, what story do you want to change? Not ready to go public with it? Schedule a (free!) YOURstory session, and let’s talk about it.


  1. Marine Yanikian-Sutton

    Loved the mixed metaphor. It does what you do justice. More importantly, you tailor everything to meet people at their starting point and help them slow down the race.

    1. Liza Baker

      Thx, sistah! I knew you’d appreciate it—and now you’ve gone and added a tortoise and a hare to the mix. I was trying to figure out how I could get fish scales into the idea of “horsefeathers!” but felt it would be a bit farfetched…. 😀

  2. I loved this article…I am a marketing coach for small business, so I understand the practical applications of coaching, but I seem to fail in my own practices. Health is something I always struggle to get a balance with as I am so busy! I love the concept of scheduling uncancelable appointments with ourselves. I will look to incorporate this concept into my day….Thanks alot

    1. Liza Baker

      Thanks, Marcus! (And yes, I’m afraid the cobbler’s children usually go without shoes…?) 😀 Let me know how you get on with this!

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