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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Henderson

Landscaping Your Life: Alison Smith’s Metaphorical Magic


Alison
Alison's Metaphorical Magic

Landscaping Your Life

Alison Smith’s journey is a testament to the power of resilience and the magic of metaphor. As a creative and intuitive coach, Alison has carved a unique niche for herself, helping people navigate their life's challenges by transforming them into relatable, understandable metaphors. Her approach is not just about getting unstuck but about inspiring the human spirit and lifting it from impossibility to possibility.

 

From Crisis to Clarity

 

Alison's story began when a personal crisis became a catalyst for profound change. “I suspect it’s when my husband left the marriage, and I suddenly realized there was more to life that I hadn't appreciated,” Alison recalls. This pivotal moment led her to explore neurolinguistic programming, shamanic practices, and other personal development avenues. The transformation was not just personal but also professional. Her newfound skills in neurolinguistic programming allowed her to become a team coach in her organization, where she effectively used her learning in personal development and communication.

 

The Power of Metaphor

 

Alison’s journey into metaphor started with a realization about her own resistance to change. “I’m an awkward so-and-so myself,” she admits with a smile. She discovered that metaphors bypass the logical mind's defenses, making it easier for new ideas to take root. By using everyday experiences as metaphors, Alison found a way to communicate complex ideas simply and effectively.

 

For instance, she explains, “If you tell someone in an organization they need to look after their suppliers better, they’ll sort of glaze over. But if I said, ‘Do you have a garden? Does it need weeding, feeding, mowing, pruning, watering?’ they would relate. And I’d say, ‘Suppliers are just like those plants in your garden,’ and suddenly everyone would understand.”

 

A Coach with a Unique Approach

 

Alison’s coaching philosophy goes beyond conventional methods. She aims not just to get people unstuck but to lift their spirits and inspire them to see new possibilities. “My why is to inspire people’s spirit, to lift their spirit, to move from ‘this is impossible’ to ‘possible,’” she says passionately. This focus on the emotional and spiritual well-being of her clients sets her apart from other coaches.

 

Her intuitive approach is also evident in how she integrates poetry and spontaneous insights into her sessions. “I’ve learned to honor those moments, even if logically it seems like a tangent. Five minutes down the road, it makes sense why I asked that question or told that story.”

 

Books and Podcasts: Extending the Reach of Her Wisdom

 

Alison has authored two impactful books. Her first, “Can’t See the Wood for the Trees? Landscaping Your Life to Get Back on Track,” uses metaphor to help readers find solutions to their problems by exploring their internal landscapes. Her second book, “Your Prescription for Wellbeing Journal,” is a practical guide that encourages people to document what helps them feel better and what doesn’t, offering a personalized path to well-being.

 

Her podcast, “Landscaping Your Life,” takes her teachings into the great outdoors. In each episode, Alison explores metaphors in nature, providing live insights and exercises that listeners can follow along with. It’s a dynamic extension of her book, bringing her methods to life in a tangible and engaging way.

 

A Personal Touch

 

Beyond her professional endeavors, Alison is someone who values the small things in life, like a simple text message over a phone call. “I rarely ring someone directly. I’ll text first and ask when they’re free to chat. I don’t have long conversations on text, but I always start with a text,” she shares.

 

Alison Smith’s journey from personal turmoil to professional triumph is a powerful reminder of the strength within us all. Through her innovative use of metaphor, intuitive coaching, and engaging content, she continues to inspire and uplift those seeking to transform their lives.




 Transcript of Episode:


Michelle Henderson :

Hi, Allison. I am so excited that you are here because you know what? I love creative people that do things so differently. That is my niche. I love to see it.


Alison Smith :

Great to be with you. Thank you.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, you're welcome. Absolutely. So tell us a little bit about your inspiration of where you are today. So did I love listening to people's stories about their life journey. So how did you get to where you are today?


Alison Smith :

I suspect it's when my husband left the marriage and I suddenly realized there was more to life that I hadn't appreciated. It's like I was a bit blinkered head in the sand, reacting and not realizing that I could make things happen. And there was more to my mind, I suppose, than what I thought. And so that started me on the journey of learning about neurolinguistic programming. And then it sort of did some stuff with a Peruvian shaman and did some crystal work and did all sorts. And I suppose I haven't looked back since then. I think what then got me on where I'm at now are two things. One, when I was doing the neurolinguistic programming training, our organization merged with another one, and the boss said, oh, you can use all of what you've learned with the team. So I sort of became the team coach and was able to use all of what I was learning in terms of from a personal development point of view and communication influencing.

So that then enabled me to sort of move away from my profession, which is purchasing. And what got me really into understanding, there's two reasons that got me into metaphor. One is because an awkward, so-and-so myself, and therefore, if somebody wants to tell me what I should do differently, I'm going to tell them what I think of that idea and not listen. So my logical, I describe it as my logical brain's really good at defending the story I've created about why I'm where I am, whether it's I'm stuck, it's like I'm stuck on, that's it. And no, there isn't any, I've already thought about all the different things I could do. So no, don't you tell me that there's a different and better idea. And what I then discovered was, oh, but metaphor sort of sends that awkward, logical thinking on a coffee break. And I can, and I'm open to new ideas, but within a metaphor.

So that was me. I was like, oh my God, metaphor works for me because awkward. But what I then realized, because we were trying to explain to, I don't know if any of your listeners can relate to the fact that if they're in an organization and somebody comes along and says, right then we need you to be looking after your suppliers better, they'll sort of glaze over, really. And that's what we had, because we are in purchasing and we're trying to persuade everybody. They need to look after suppliers better. And they're going, no, we're fine. Thanks Alison. Bye. And then I said, well actually, do you have a garden? We have a garden. And does your garden need weeding, feeding, mowing, pruning, watering? And do you have weeds in that garden? And do you sometimes need to have plants that are in the wrong place and you need to move them? Oh yeah. Do you have to sometimes put some of your plants in the greenhouse?

Oh, okay. Well, suppliers are just like those plants in your garden. And suddenly everybody went, oh my God, we need to be listening. We need to be thinking about looking after our suppliers. We need to nurture them. And so for me, that was when I found the power of metaphor to actually take something that people are struggling with and use something they know a lot about. And it's the patterns. So we don't get caught up in, well, this person said this to me. So it just enables, and I just love patterns. I mean, I've loved patterns. My thesis at university was statistical analysis. So I think I've always loved patterns. So metaphor are just patterns in nature, really.


Alison Smith :

We're at now, really, because I still work in business, but I still apply metaphor a lot, yet written a book, two books. I've got the podcast. And this afternoon was out in the Sea recording a podcast episode for Groundhog Day.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh my gosh. Oh, absolutely. You have just told us so much, and I'm going to kind of go back and ask you some more questions. I absolutely love that life story, and I love that you turn into people's problems into metaphor, which turns into a story. So let's look at your story that you found your empowerment. Whenever you and your husband split, you found your empowerment. What if you didn't split? Would you be in the same place as you are today?


Alison Smith :

Oh, quite possibly not. Yeah, you're right. Very, very unlikely because I think it's sort of the blinkers would've stayed on because I was definitely in that everybody else could see I wasn't happy and I was in denial and Oh, no, I'm fine. Everything's fine. It's like really,


Michelle Henderson :

Right. So to me, I feel like we go through things so that you can help other people that are also going through the same thing. And I love that you love to see the patterns in the thing and things. Obviously you like statistics, so with your thesis and everything. And so I love how you turn that into, even though it's logic, you're also using more of a creative point of view. You know what I'm saying? You can't make it up. And so it's very artistic, which is you're still using, a lot of artists use a lot of patterns to help create their art. So it's basically the same thing that you are doing. And so I am so glad that you found your empowerment. Thank you. Do you consider yourself a coach?


Alison Smith :

Yes.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay. And what is your main purpose for being a coach? What is your why?


Alison Smith :

Well, I've said for so long, it's about helping people get unstuck. But I've realized literally this last few months that that's not really my why. My why is to inspire people's spirit, to lift people's spirit, to move from this is impossible to possible. And I've got goosebumps now, and that is a new revitalization. I'd always said, oh, I just get people, drag people out of a hole. I get them unstuck. Yes, I do do that. But the why is lifting the spirits. The why is how they feel, the why is them going, oh my God, that's better. Somebody last week described it as, my problem just feels solvable, and it's just that whole, and I just went, oh, oh, lemme write that down. Because for me, that was the, yeah, that's what I'm going for. It's that, oh, I feel better. Not that, I mean, they are unstuck. They do know what to do, but it's the feeling of relief, the feeling of, oh, alright, yeah, I now know what to do. And it's just that, which is why I'm not a great coach at holding people's hands for a long time because I literally lift the spirits, and once the spirits are lifted, I am not needed.


Michelle Henderson :

So let me ask you this. It sounds like it's getting more and more spiritual, and you mentioned that you used to use a lot of crystals and so forth. Do you use a lot of your intuitiveness also to help your clients?


Alison Smith :

Yeah. I mean, it is funny really, because A, it's really funny that you mentioned about writing, because I've just come off a call and they were talking about poetry, and they sort of said, poetry can only come from that intuitive place. And I'm using more poetry in what I do. So if I'm with a client say, oh, this poem has come to mind. But I think the thing that I've had to learn to do is if something comes to mind in the coaching session to honor that and say it, even though logically I'm going, why you just got down on the tangent? Why are you going to ask this? There is no logic as to why I'm just about to ask it. But five minutes down the road, I'll then be able to go, oh, that's why I told that anecdote. That's why I thought to tell that story. That's why I asked that question. But in that moment, it's the intuitive. It is like it's coming in and there isn't a brain bit to it. So the brain can't say, oh, yes, because here's this model, and the model says that you should ask this question next. It's like, I have no idea why I'm asking it, but get really excited when the question facilitates the shift for the person.


Michelle Henderson :

I love it. I love, like you said, that you get goosebumps


Alison Smith :

Getting all the time, getting all the time.


Michelle Henderson :

That means that you're going the right direction, you're excited about it, and you're going the right direction. What I like, where did I see that? Let me see. I saw something in your book and I wanted to talk about it. Oh, I know. Okay, so we'll talk about this. Trying to control your life is trying to control the weather.


Alison Smith :

Yeah.


Michelle Henderson :

So can you explain that statement?


Alison Smith :

Well, I think the interesting thing is the fact that we can get really annoyed about the weather, but we sort of know that all we've got to do is put better clothes on or not go out when it's stormy. We had really bad weather here recently in the uk, and people were told not to go out of the house, and we didn't go out of the house. And yet, actually in our lives, we sometimes know that we're not. Like a few weekends ago, I could have overridden my thoughts and actually gone to the meetings I wanted to go to and gone out. But every part of my being is going no. So I was listening to the weather because the weather, my own internal was saying, no, it's stormy out there. You don't want to go out. You just need some rest. So I think the thing about the weather is just realizing that we can't control the lever. We can't control our lives, but we can do things and notice the patterns, notice the behaviors and take put out. There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.


Michelle Henderson :

So yeah, I love it. I love how you explain things.


Alison Smith :

Thank you. So yes, in Scotland, that's definitely true, which is where I


Michelle Henderson :

Absolutely. Okay. Let's talk about the steps that you also have in your book about each thing. I'm going to read it and kind of describe why you decided to add this step. So the first step is pick a saying that best describes your stuckness.


Alison Smith :

I suppose we start there because I mean, if I go real back then, 20 years ago I was just saying, let's go out into nature. Pick a landscape that reflects your problem. And to be fair, you could still do that. And the book does describe how to do that. But what I realized that that's really hard in a book to sort of coach people through. And what I realized was, oh, but people are using metaphor in their language when they're stuck all the time. I mean, they'll say, I'm stuck in a rut. They, I'm going round in circles, or I'm up a creek without a paddle, or I'm treading water and the book title, I can't see the wood for the trees. Now, dependence on where you are in the world, it might be, can't see the forest for the trees, can't see the woods for the trees. But we use the metaphor to describe the situation. And actually, if somebody said to you, I can't see the woods for the trees, they wouldn't have to say loads to you about the situation. Oh, there might be an overwhelm. They don't know what to do. They're stuck. So by those, that little bit, those few words, the metaphor is giving them us more information. It's giving them more information. But what I realized was we use these metaphor, these idioms to say, I'm stuck. There are no options. There is nothing else I can do.

And what I realized was, well, hang on a minute. Let's send us, that's the story that's telling us that the story of the situation is the fact that this person said that and then this happened and that happened. And it's like, no, we're sending that on a coffee break. Let's stick with the metaphor. So if you can't see the woods for the trees, and that's where the second question comes in, explore the landscape that it conjures up is if you can't see the woods for the trees, let's just think about what we'd do if we were in a real woods and would highly recommend if you can't see the woods for the trees, to go to a wood and explore. Because I still get excited when I do the Landscaping Your Life podcast, because I do it live in nature, and there's always something new.

So I was laughing yesterday when I did a LinkedIn live because I had myself in the wood hiding behind a tree, and literally my face was against the trunk. And I just laughed because I've never embodied that before. But the situation I was thinking about that I couldn't see the wood for the trees about, I just laughed because it's like, well, there's no wonder you can't see the wood for the trees because all you can see is the barking front of you. You've got step back and then you can see the path, and then you can see more. And so I think that's what happens. If we imagine the metaphor that we're using in our language, it might be, yeah, we follow a path out. It might be we need to get to higher ground. It might be, I've done this with leaders, a group of leaders in the wood, and they were embodying, couldn't see the wood for the trees.

And we were obviously looking very puzzled because warden, like wood warden went past and we looked so confused. They said, do you want a map? And that whole, okay, who have you does need a map for your situation. And the other thing actually is one of the most common things when people can't see the woods for the trees is when I say to them, where do you want to be? It's never the wood. They're always able to go, oh, it's the other side of the water. They'll be able to tell me a destination. And it's as if they've got stuck in the woods. They're getting distracted by the woods, and it's so 75% of the time when somebody can't see the woods for the trees, I'm suggesting to them, put your blinkers on, get on that path, and just get out of the wood and all will be well.

So the third question you've got there about making changes to the landscape would work if you were doing so. I might not be able to cut trees down if I'm in a real wood, but if I'm imagining the wood, I'd be able to go. So I had somebody ring me, and this was a five minute shift in mindset. Oh my God, I've got a deadline. I've got a deadline. I dunno what to do. Help, help. And I said, which of these? I was writing the book at the time, and I said, which of these sayings best describes how are you feeling? Can't see the wood for the trees, can't see the wood for the trees, and she's as big as a forest. And I said, well, actually, the saying in the UK isn't, can't see the forest because you can't see a forest. A forest is too big.

You'd never be able to see it in one go. Oh. And literally, you could see it in her head when she went, oh, as I said, that the wood got smaller, but the type of tree changed and it became beach trees. Now you and I do not need to know why it changed the beach trees, but if somebody is imagining the wood, they can't see for the trees, then absolutely change. Change how big the trees are, change how many trees they are. And this particular person, the trees became beach trees. And that was the mindset shift. And literally she put the phone down on me because literally she went, oh, they're beach trees. Oh, that feels better. Right? I'm off because I now know what I've got to do because the deadline was still four hours away. But she'd gone in that five minutes from not knowing what to do to knowing what to do, or from overwhelmed to being calm.

And all she'd done is change the representation of the problem from, and I still don't know to this day what the trees were, but they became beach trees. And by changing the internal representation, it's as if her body relaxed, she then had access to a prefrontal cortex, and therefore then logic could come in and go, well, you just need to do this. So I think sometimes the technique gets us out of that fight or flight possibly in terms of that overwhelm opens doors in our brain to the solutions. We do have the solutions, we just need to calm down a little to be able to hear them or see them.


Michelle Henderson :

I love it. And I love that method, and I love to kind of summarize it from your book as well. It is exploring the metaphors contained within your language allows your subconscious to communicate to your conscious awareness. And that's exactly what you just described. So let's talk about your book. You have been talking about the one, but you also have your prescription for Wellbeing journal. So what is this book about?


Alison Smith :

So can't see the wood for the trees is I suppose, just gives you the process, pick a chapter, this is how you're feeling, do it. Your prescription for wellbeing came out, I suppose my own personal journey where I realize that there are things I keep doing that I know don't work for me. So I might go, you know what? I haven't slept really well. I haven't slept for weeks. And then I realized that's because I've been watching all of the Thriller crime TV program with guns on, and it triggers my energy field and I can't sleep. And so what I realized was I needed a list because I know that in the same way as when I'm out of sorts, my personal trainer will always have me doing the plank. So he'll have me there doing the plank, and that sorts me out really, really quickly.

And so I realized that I, I realized I needed somewhere to write a list. It's like a prescription. It's like, what's my prescription for sleeping Well? And some of it might be things I need to do more of. Some things it might be, oh, but if I'm eating late or if I'm watching those TV programs, then that's not going to work. That's what, so the prescription was, and I went, I did a workshop for a team, and I ended up doing the prescription template and then realized, oh, I can make that into a book so that your prescription for wellbeing journal is just empty templates with a few of my poems throughout where you can say, oh, when I want focus, these are the things that work for me. These don't, and there are suggestions in the book, or if I want motivation. So it is our ability to write multiple prescriptions for different mindsets. But we may find there are common things throughout that says, you know what? Alison needs to go and do a plank, because that actually gets me more, okay. Better than anything else I can think of. So it's like, yeah, do that. So that's where the prescription for Wellbeing Journal came in.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, that's great. And people love their list. They like to see something abstract into list, which I love it too, because you need something, especially if you're going through a difficult time and you can't come up with things, it's really nice to have that written on a list. I go, oh, I can follow that. It resonates with me.


Alison Smith :

Yeah, I think that's the thing. When we're out of source, we forget what works. So sometimes I'll be halfway through the plank, then I'll feel better, and then I'll look at the personal trainer and go, was I that bad? And he'll go, huh. And it's like he knew I needed it. I didn't know I needed it.


Alison Smith :

I can feel the difference in the moment of, oh, that's better.


Michelle Henderson :

I absolutely love it. And okay, this is showing your multi talent, your creative side. You also have a podcast Landscaping your life. So what was your motivation, your inspiration behind this?


Alison Smith :

I think it was just the hardest thing with the process is demonstrating it. And you can do it in writing, but I think hearing my excitement, because what happened was the first series was me sitting in the office sort of telling you the theory a bit, whereas the second series and third series were, oh, no, no, that doesn't work. Oh, it did work, but it didn't work for me. Oh no, I just need to go out. And so it was just bringing alive what's in the book. And so basically each episode, you'd come along to the podcast, you'd go, which of these episodes resonates most with how I'm feeling? Am I stuck between a rock and a hard pace? Am I at a crossroads? Do I need to turn a corner? So there's a 64 currently, or 65 or however many podcast episodes each with a specific current state, I suppose, or metaphor that you would resonate with.

And then I go out into nature and do it. So this afternoon, because we're recording this around Groundhog Day, then I went into the Sea Groundhog, Groundhog Day is also used as a what not this again, going round in circles, treading water. So that's what I did. So I go out into nature, explore being at a crossroads, explore turning a corner, and you hear me giving you instructions. So I'd really hope that people take me with them into nature and do what I'm doing as well at the same time. But you don't have to, because I share the insights I'm getting and because every time I go, the goosebumps come because I go, oh my God, like I did yesterday with the bark. I share my excitement about, well, I've never, in 25 years, I've never thought about it that way. And I think that's the beauty of it, that the pattern in nature are always there, but we end up seeing the pattern that resonates with whatever the situation we're struggling with. So that's what the podcast is all about. So it's just me rabbiting on falling over sometimes in nature, giggling away, sharing insight really


Michelle Henderson :

Well, and I love it because I agree with you. I think people hear your excitement, they can feel your excitement, and it gets your message across so much better than if you're sitting in the office. It is what I


Alison Smith :

Found. Yes.


Michelle Henderson :

Yeah. And I'm impressed that you're going in that cold of water in January.


Alison Smith :

Yeah. Yes. I think my thermostat is about 10 degrees down, so I am, as soon as the temperature gets to 20 degrees, so I dunno, what's that? 65, 70, then I get over warm. So I think my internal thermostat is just more towards cold than it is hot, so I can cope with the cold better. So


Michelle Henderson :

Yes. Oh my goodness. Well, okay, so we're going to kind of change things. If somebody came to you for inspiration, if they're saying, my life is horrible right now, what inspiration can you give them?


Alison Smith :

I'd hope that they would give me some idiom, and then I'd be able to give them specific inspiration around that makes sense to them, because they've used the words. But I think the one that I most frequently give, and again, it's from nature, is that we've lost our patients and we get so annoyed with, well, I rang 'em up and I've left a message and they haven't come back to me. Or, oh, well, I've done this and this hasn't happened yet. And it's like, well, in nature, some seeds take two years. You know what I mean? You plant them this year and they don't flower next year, they flower in two years time. And tides, people get, really, I've missed the tide. It's like, but there's another tide in most places within the next, there are places in the world where there aren't two tides a year. They're two tides a day. But most of the world, there's two tides. So it's like you've missed one tide, there is another tide coming. So I think that's the thing with nature, and it comes back to the weather thing, really is patience. Let's let the storm, we're not going to go out there and danger ourselves, but the storm will pass. The storm does not stay forever.

So actually, let's stay safe. Wait for the storm to pass, then we'll go out.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, I love it. All right. You ready for the last question with the, oh,


Alison Smith :

Yes.


Michelle Henderson :

Alright, let's do it.


Alison Smith :

Let's do it. I should have my glasses on. Perhaps it'll


Michelle Henderson :

Come back bigger. That way you can see it. Oh, interesting. So yeah. Do you prefer talking or texting on the phone? And why


Alison Smith :

Texting? Because texting to phone, I suppose I wouldn't, very rarely. I do observe this pattern in me very rarely would ring somebody. I'll text first and go, when are you free? Can we have a chat? So I will always start it with that, but I don't tend to have big conversations on text. But yes, I would send the text first.


Michelle Henderson :

Yeah, see, isn't that interesting? Because I didn't grow up with course the texting and we would have to.


Michelle Henderson :

So it's kind of like a luxury in itself. If you're in a hurry or you don't have time, texting is really a great thing. You know what I'm saying? To have. So no, I totally agree with you. I think some people would also prefer it because they may be busy at the time. You call and watch a chat, they can't. So I love it. Okay. So Alison, what is your favorite place that people go to on social media to reach you?


Alison Smith :

LinkedIn is where I am the most active, I would say. So Alison Smith, I mean, you'll find me by saying landscaping your life on LinkedIn because there are other Alison Smiths in the world. And I suppose the podcast, because for me, that's the place where at any moment in time when you're struggling, you are more able to access something in the moment. Absolutely. So you get that lifted spirits by going to the podcast, I suspect.


Michelle Henderson :

Well everybody, you have heard it here from Allison, if you are struggling, metaphors are a fantastic way and nature is a fantastic way to get over whatever you need to get over. Like she said, you don't have to spend 20 years back. You can do it presently and find what works for you. Alright, if you resonated with this podcast, please share with somebody because a lot of people struggle. I mean, we're human beings. We're going to struggle. So I hope that you have a blessed week, and I will see you soon if it comes on.

 

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