Academic journal article College Student Journal

Life-Metaphors among Colombian Leadership Students: Core Values and Educational Implications

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Life-Metaphors among Colombian Leadership Students: Core Values and Educational Implications

Article excerpt


The present study utilized metaphor analysis to explore the core values of Colombian college students in a leadership program. The entire class of 60 students was invited to respond to a structured questionnaire. It asked participants to state their preferred life-metaphor, whether they had always preferred this metaphor since childhood or adolescence, and if not, what had caused it to change; and how it guides their actions. Participants were also asked to indicate which 2 of 17 different life-metaphors they most and least preferred. The questionnaire was completed by 51 students (age range: 17-30 years old). The most preferred metaphor was overwhelmingly "Life is like a journey or voyage" and least preferred was overwhelmingly: "Life is like a war." Qualitatively, students' life-metaphors were mainly active, individualistic, and affectively positive. Students predominantly reported that their life-metaphor strongly impacted their motivation and decision-making.

Keywords: Metaphor Analysis, Student Leaders, Life-Metaphors

Life-Metaphors Among Colombian Leaderhip Students: Core Values and Educational Implications

Since cognitive linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson in 1980 published Metaphors We Live By, metaphor analysis has attracted researchers in fields ranging from education and life-span psychology to psychotherapy and organizational psychology. As Lakoff and Johnson declared in their influential book, "Metaphors are not mere poetical or rhetorical embellishments. They affect the ways in which we perceive, think, and act. Reality itself is defined by metaphor." (p.145) Lakoff and Johnson did not provide empirical data to support this view, but rather, marshaled evidence from popular speech like "time is money" to highlight the salience of metaphors in contemporary discourse and thought regarding work, health, emotionality, and human life. Earlier, Carl Jung (1964) and Joseph Campbell (1949) were both interested in the ways that myths represented metaphors for human existence. As articulated by White and Epston (1990), narrative therapy uses metaphors prominently to help clients find their "dominant story" and their "preferred identity stories." Therapeutic changes in these stories involve alterations in rational cognitions, but also changes in meaning facilitated by the search for healthier metaphors.

Among the first to examine life-metaphors empirically was C.S. Norton (1989). She conducted semi-structured interviews with about approximately 50 Midwestern American men and women of diverse occupations and educational levels to determine how their coping strategies related to their life-metaphors. She found that participants could be categorized into four types of coping strategy based on their particular life-metaphor: enthusiasts (optimistic and action-oriented), spectators (optimistic but passive), antagonists (pessimistic but action-oriented), and fatalists (pessimistic and passive). In Norton's view, these typologies reflect broad orientations to life and are highly resistant to change. However, she did not speculate how individuals develop their particular life-metaphor or what causes it to change.

In the only other published study concerning life-metaphors that we have been able to identity, Bochaver and Fenko (2010) compared the metaphors of 20 Russian celebrities interviewed in popular magazines about their achievements with those of 20 non-celebrity Russians seeking psychological help. Nine different types of life-metaphor emerged among the 40 interviews. For both groups, the metaphor that "life is a journey" was expressed most frequently. However, the celebrities expressed life-metaphors that were both more numerous and diverse than those expressed by psychological help-seekers. Metaphor analysis has also been found useful as a personality indicator regarding such traits as extroversion, optimism, and locus of control (McConnell et al. …

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