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Using the power of metaphor to reframe what's limiting you and to discover what's possible.

By Christie Latona

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(Feel free to reprint our Sparkers in your newsletters or send to clients just be sure to attach the copyright info and the link at the end of each sparker)

Choose Your Rut Carefully
When the Lights Go On
Power of Clusters
New Beginnings

Fallen Leaves
New Possiblities
Reverse Scavenger Hunt

Being the Board
Creating your own allegory - Scarcity vs Abundance
Celebrate whats right

Choose Your Rut Carefully

Have you ever felt like you were banging your head against the same wall? Having the same conversation with the same person for the hundredth time? Going 150 mph and barely making progress toward your new goals?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, you may be in a rut. A good friend of mine lives in rugged, beautiful place in Canada. In this neck of the woods, not all roads are paved. One of these unpaved roads is well traveled in the wet seasons and then these tracks are well preserved in the cold seasons. The sign at the beginning of this stretch of road reads: “CHOOSE YOUR RUT CAREFULLY, YOU WILL BE IN IT FOR THE NEXT 50 MILES.”

The big ruts in my life are caused by 3 main things:

1. Overused strengths. All of us have unique strengths. My ability to generate creative ideas and strategies has been one of the foundational strengths that my clients value about me. If I overuse this strength, I end up with a pile of uncompleted projects and underexposed projects. In my mind’s eye, I don the miner’s hat -- and its beam of light helps me focus on the opportunity and task at hand.

2. Outdated coping mechanisms. What worked for us in one situation or stage of life, often block us from growth, development or progress at another. Avoiding a stressful situation may have been exactly the right thing to do when we were a teen, but may not be the best strategy for the workplace. Sometimes role playing can help us find a better way of coping with whatever it is that pushes our buttons. Think of a character that seems to thrive in the situation that triggers your coping mechanisms. If it is stress, maybe you’d imagine yourself as a firefighter or a stocktrader or an ER nurse or a Viking and respond from that character’s impulse.

3. Imbalance. When we multitask, pack our schedule with no breathing room and/or don’t make the time to care for ALL our basic needs (spiritual, physical, emotional, social, financial) ruts are established. I think this is why it is so difficult to add balance to our lives. Not from a lack of desire, but from the huge amount of energy that it takes to get OUT of the rut and reestablish a path to healthy diets, exercise, relationships, etc. Because of this, you need to find a mindset that naturally brings you lots of motivational energy. For me it is the party hat. If I can put on a party hattitude there is very little I can’t do!

Now it’s your turn. Which rut do you want to get out of most? What is the cause of that rut? What hat could you wear that would help you find your way out?

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2008 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

When the Lights Go On

ARGH…..three ominous lights went on as I was happily in the final leg my 2 hour early morning journey to Richmond, Virginia. I had just passed an awesome sight—fog peeking in and out of the mountainside and tickling the rocks over which water was happily flowing. The lights quickly snapped me out of my peaceful reverie.

Do I keep driving or pull over and risk the car not continuing? Would I be able to make the 2 hour journey home after my all day meeting or would I have to find someone in Richmond to fix my car? Did those folks who changed my oil a day ago, mess up my car?

After calling my husband (who advised that I pull over and consult the owners manual), I called my trusty auto repair guy, Ed. Ed calmly explained to me that it was safe to drive the vehicle. Then he asked, “Did you filled your gas tank this a.m. or last night?” It turns out that 90% of the time a loose gas cap is the trigger for the sudden onset of those three lights.
I realize that often lights go on (feelings of anxiety, fear, panic) for non-life-threatening reasons (gas cap is loose). I also realized the common juxtaposition of appreciation and apprehension, of calm and chaos, of beauty and brutality. The bottom line? What you pay attention to matters. The quantity and quality of psychological weight and energy you give to what you are paying attention to matters. My philosophy is to take action as quickly as possible to get beyond the reaction to warning lights and back to the beauty and serenity that surrounds us!

  • What are your warning lights?
  • What is your typical reation to them?
  • What is the most common cause for the lights going on?
  • What is your plan for gaining clarity about what those lights might mean? (a trusted friend, coach, pastor, etc.)

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2008 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

Power of Clusters

I’m addicted to a game called bubble breaker. It came packaged with my new smart phone and while I never play solitaire on my computer, I have been known to stay up extra late playing this game. So the object of the game is to score as many points as possible. The more bubbles of the same color (there are 5 to choose from) you can cluster together, the bigger the number of points.

When I first started playing, a well-intentioned friend gave me a tip: find the biggest cluster of bubbles you can and start popping there. I did that for a while and couldn’t get my score above 350 while her son was getting scores in the 900s. So then I decided to try and create as big a cluster as I could by adding onto the initially big cluster by popping smaller clusters around it.
Real strategy emerged as now I refuse to play a game where there isn’t enough of one color or the arrangement of the main color is not conducive to creating a large cluster. In the midst of my bleary eyed enthusiasm, I realized that this is a great metaphor for business and life.

Many people and organizations spend lots of money and time figuring out what doing well in the game of business or life looks like and then fall short of the discipline of refusing to play if the deck is stacked against that outcome. I have found that I earn big points if I say “no” to a client who is looking for a personal or business coach unless their situation benefits from a cluster of my services. When I say “no” to one game, another one pops up.

In my personal life, clustering errands (when I’m driving) or date nights (when someone else is driving ALL my kids) around existing carpools maximizes the impact of a trip and family time.
Where would the power of clustering or saying “no” to a particular game create big points for you?

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2008 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at


It was a dark rainy morning and I was on my way to the airport (again)! In spite of the rain, traffic had been moving nicely. Suddenly all three lanes of traffic slowed significantly. Immediately I came up with some hypotheses: someone saw a police officer, there was a deer in the road, or rubbernecking. With each hypothesis came a different emotion: a feeling of anxiety with the police (I don’t travel in the fast lane just for show), concern with the deer, and disgust with the rubbernecking. These feelings came so fast I barely noticed what hypotheses came with them. They also seemed to be occurring simultaneously, like the three lanes of traffic.

Then I noticed a big rig with its flashers on, straddling two of the three lanes. What was the trucker doing/thinking?!?!?! It wasn’t until about 30 seconds later that I understood that the trucker had done a smart and helpful act. A van had blown out its tire and the vehicle was barely under control. By the trucker stopping traffic in the other lanes he had given the driver of the van a safety buffer. In doing so, the trucker prevented a multi-car pile up AND helped traffic resume its pleasant pace.

The visual image of that truck has become a metaphor I use with myself and groups with which I work. As an entrepreneurial type, I often need to put a truck in front of streams of my internal traffic (emotions and/or ideas) that are interfering with the task at hand. When facilitating groups I often must choose which lanes to block so that a constructive flow of ideas can take place.

I invite you to put on your helicopter traffic reporter hat. Looking down at the roadway of your thoughts and feelings, how easily is traffic moving? From this vantage point, what is your recommendation for getting all your ideas and feelings unstuck and moving?

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2008 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

New Beginnings

School is back in session and with it comes a host of crisp metaphors. It is about new beginnings (a favorite new outfit, a box of new crayons, a new backpack, a new teacher, and sometimes a new school). In our school system, the kids are encouraged to set intensions about the quality of work they intend to do. In our home, the structures get modified and re-implemented in the hopes of making getting out the door in the morning and getting homework done at night less stressful and more productive.

Somehow these new beginnings and setting of intensions are much more positive than my experience of the New Year’s Resolution. Perhaps it is because we EXPECT the crayons to break, the backpack to get torn. We EXPECT to have to constantly evolve the systems we put in place to make routines more manageable.

Look at those places in your life that need a new beginning, a fresh start. Ask yourself:

• What are my crayons and my backpack? What new supplies do I need? (No guilt over your current ones being no longer useful. We understand that supplies become worn out from use.)

• What subjects am I taking? Choose things you love and/or have a strength in. No more than 4 please!

• What intensions do I have around my performance in these subjects? Straight “A”s is an outcome. The intension behind that is about effort, commitment and doing your homework.

• What systems do I need to put in place to support those intensions? For example, in our house we have a family homework center that has all the supplies for doing homework (which we all do together). Before bed we make sure backpacks are packed and clothes are laid out to make the morning go more smoothly.

Expect to have to modify the systems and to replenish the supplies. Most everything that gets used a lot needs replacing or refreshing.

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2007 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

Fallen Leaves

Fallen leaves of many colors are blanketing the ground after floating down from previously lofty positions. Some leaves let go only after completely being drained of all color while others let go at their most glorious time. Some are forced to detach by strong winds, while others seem to start the journey based on some internal sense. The transition from autumn to winter always happens regardless of how the leaves fall.

What is season of transition are you in the midst of?

How can you make the transition feel more natural?

What, if anything, is causing you to hang on?

The idea of seasons can help you look for the gift in the present situation. Make your own seasonal reminder by dividing paper into four quadrants and labeling them: WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN. Into each of these quadrants, write/collage/draw all of the gifts you associate with that season. That spring always follows winter can help remind us that death of one career can lead to life in another. Remembering that rain makes the flowers grow can help reframe a character-building hardship.

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2007 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

New Possibilities

As a rose bush grows new shoots, the growing of thorns occurs in a perfect thorn to stem ratio. The thorns beneath the beautiful flowers provide a system of defense that is always there without the rose having to do anything but grow. This caused me to wonder:

Is there something like a thorn to stem ratio built into my DNA?
Are my defense mechanisms organic and triggered by growth?
Or are they triggered by something else (e.g., fear, loss of control, etc.)

Intuitive impulses that warn us of danger or make us suspicious are an example of one kind of organic human defense mechanism. This wariness can help us mitigate threats by crafting new solutions or it can shut us off from possibility. Sometimes our intuitive sense tells us to avoid the very situations where our next lessons and breakthroughs lie.

If you are facing a decision and one choice seems to send up intuitive red flags, ask: What would it take for me to say "yes"? Collect these answers and watch some new possibilities emerge which allow you to smell the roses without getting pricked too badly by the thorns.

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2006 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

Reverse Scavenger Hunt

Remember the thrill of going on a scavenger hunt? You and your friends were given a list of random objects and you raced around trying to see who could find the most objects within a given time frame?

A reverse scavenger hunt is the process of finding a random object and then using that object to frame or reframe something that is important to you and that is weighing you down.

So, right now, go and find a random object and bring it back to your computer screen. Please don't read further until you do. I'll wait.

Now write down a role you are playing that feels a bit off or that could use some deeper understanding or reframing (e.g., Spouse, Parent, Leader, etc.)

Allow the role and random object to interact by asking questions like:
•  How is your random object like the role you've written down?
•  Where does the metaphor of the object take you? How do you want to reframe the role?

For example, let's say the role you wrote down was “small business owner” and your random object was a dried floral arrangement. When you ask yourself the questions, you might think: My business is like the vase that provides a container for all my passion and ideas. I enjoy trying to arrange these things in a pleasing way, but some of the things I'm arranging are dried out. My small business owner role would be much more satisfying to me if instead of arranging old dried ideas, I was actually planting, watering and weeding projects that were alive and didn't require my arranging to be of value.

There are no right or wrong answers, just discoveries. See what joy awaits you at the end of your reverse scavenger hunt. Are you game?

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2006 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

Being the Board by Christie Latona

In their bestselling book The Art of Possibility , Ben and Roz Zander's use the metaphor of chess to illustrate the shift from victimhood, helplessness or inadequacy to full engagement. Reframing your view of your life or a given situation to the game of chess, yields three interesting choices:

  1. to be a piece that has prescribed moves (e.g., rook, pawn, or knight, etc.),
  2. to be the player that seeks to employ a strategy for moving the individual pieces toward victory, or
  3. to be the board upon which the game is being played.

This last choice enables the most freedom, joy and engagement. Being the board is about continually making choices about whether you are adapting to maintain equilibrium and possibility or getting stuck in power struggles and/or limiting expressions of your own essence.

If you are ready to play a bigger game try this:

  1. Name the game you are in.
  2. For this game, what does success look like for you?
  3. Write down the rules as you understand them.
  4. Now ask yourself: What rules would have to change so that I can be successful (as you defined it above)?
  5. Live the re-written rules and be the board !

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2006 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

Creating your own allegory - Scarcity vs Abundance By Christie Latona

What image first comes to mind when you think of scarcity?
What image first comes to mind when you think of abundance?

Here are some images of scarcity versus abundance:
• Treading water in a flowing river worried about how long I can keep it up versus effortlessly floating on the river.
• An empty fruit basket versus one that is overflowing with the juiciest of fruits.
• A frown on the face and fear in the heart versus a warm smile and relaxed presence.

Take some time to come up with your own images for scarcity vs abundance

Once you have found your own image of abundance, describe it thoroughly. What does it smell like, feel like, taste like, etc. Then use it to create your own allegory to pull you naturally forward into a more abundant, satisfying place.

For example, if you described scarcity as treading water in fear of not making it and abundance was floating on the water, you might ask yourself what it would take to go from treading water to floating.

I would first probably need to remind myself that I could float. Then I would have to stop kicking in one place and instead kick myself onto my back. These images will help you build a multi-sensory metaphor that you can apply to those times in your life when you are fighting the water.

If you want more support in with creating your own metaphors, you can play with the Create Your Own Allegory online tool. Click here.

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2006 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.Read more creative Sparkers by Christie at

Celebrate whats right by Christie Latona

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a photographer working for National Geographic? Flipping through that magazine is like getting a glimpse into a magical world. What makes their photos unlike any other?

As National Geographic photographers are sent out into the world, this is the command: Celebrate What's Right with The World. No matter where they go, or the subject of their shoot, their mission is to celebrate what’s right in the world.

Dewitt Jones is one of America's top professional photographers and has worked for National Geographic for 20 years. Dewitt was sent to shoot one of the most beautiful rolling meadows in the world. However, when he got there, it was dominated by dandelions in seed. He took a shot of the field using a wide angle lens, then reminded himself to celebrate what was right with the world. Eventually he started experimenting with various perspectives and finally discovered the splendor and rightness of a dandelion while lying on his back. The resulting image was breathtaking.

Now it’s your turn. Feeling like grey skies are all there is to see? Put on your photojournalist's hat and look for what is waiting to be celebrated. Celebrate the play of light across the cloudy sky, or the dramatic shadows that get created or…
Experiment with perspective, timing and patience. And remember some of the best photos are taken AFTER the final decent shot. The subject doesn’t necessarily change, just the photographer. Be a great photojournalist and celebrate what is right in your world. The possibilities will literally leap off the page!

Sparkers - Reframe the View © 2005 Christie Latona for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved.

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Sparkers Creative exercises, while mostly fun and enriching may occasionally tap into unresolved issues or discomfort. This may signal some healing to attend to. If this should happen for you and you feel you need help contact a professional counselor. Coaching, while powerful it is not a substitute for therapeutic intervention.

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