40+ Best Metaphors About Life, Meaning & Change

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Finding the meaning behind life’s challenges, changes, and daily happenings isn’t always easy. Metaphors are a figure of speech that compares one thing to another thing. These turns of phrase help us identify new meanings that put life into perspective. 

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Metaphors make sense of our lives. They’re a reminder that we’re not alone in our feelings. You’ve likely heard several metaphors in your daily life or in life-changing books. Below, you’ll find the best metaphors about life, meaning, and change to inspire you through any moment.

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Funny Metaphors About Life

Quote about life over an image of a person riding a bike

Not all metaphors are serious. Some of them make us laugh out loud, and it’s this humor that united us together through the human experience.

These transform themselves into the perfect celebration of life quotes, encouraging you to laugh at the little things. 

1. Money

Have you ever compared time to the money in your wallet? As Henry David Thoreau famously said, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” It’s really all about evaluating the value of your time. 

2. Onions

When you peel back the layers, what do you find? You discover something new each time, and you might shed a tear along the way. Don’t live life in one layer. 

3. Box of chocolates

Who doesn’t recognize Forrest Gump’s famous line from the film? “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” This might sound silly on the big screen, but it means you should always expect the unexpected. 

4. Theater

William Shakespeare said that the entire world is a stage and everyone else is “merely a player.” In this line of thinking, you have the ability to be anyone you want. Why not be someone great?

5. Bicycle

Riding a bike and living life are very similar. Not only does it take a while to get the hang of riding a bike, but you always need to move forward if you want to keep your balance. 

6. Song

If life is a song, we are the lyrics. Hans Christian Andersen, the famous writer of dark fairytales, once wrote that “life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up.” We’re all just trying to get the words right, even if we make mistakes. 

7. Banana

Life is also like a banana. It starts out green and firm, but it gets mushy with age. It’s also a bit slippery from time to time, but everyone wants to stick together in the right bunch. 

8. Cooking

Cooking is great fun, but sometimes you don’t have the recipe. Things might not go according to plan, or you might mess up and use the wrong ingredient. 

9. Puzzle

Putting together a puzzle is like life. Sometimes you don’t always have all the pieces. In the end, everything fits together. 

10. Elevator

Sometimes life feels like being trapped in an elevator. You’re always going up or down, and sometimes you’re not even the one pushing the buttons. 

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Deep Metaphors About Life and Meaning

Quote about life over an image of the ocean

Now that we’ve looked at some funnier metaphors, let’s talk about the deeper ones. These have rich meaning, and they’re worth holding on to for years to come. 

11. Bucket

The term bucket list comes from the saying “to kick the bucket” which means to die. Buckets also symbolize life in their own way. We have the opportunity to fill our lives with things that matter to us. 

12. Whisper

Sometimes life is like a whisper. It’s not always loud and in-your-face. It’s only when you slow down and listen that you hear what’s most important.  

13. Ocean

Life is also like the ocean. Sometimes it’s calm seas, and everything is smooth sailing. Other times you have to swim against the waves. 

14. Storms

Storms are a part of life, just as they’re a natural part of every ecosystem. Storms might bring dark clouds, thunder, and lightning, but they’re also a time for rebirth and growth. 

15. Hallway

Every hallway has an open door. However, not every door takes you where you want to go. As you age, these doors start to close. Take advantage of each opportunity when you have the chance. 

16. Novel

You’re the author of your own story. You get to wake up each day and decide how your story is written. With every new page comes an opportunity for change and growth. 

17. Maze

We all feel trapped in a maze sometimes. In Looking for Alaska, John Green tackles this metaphor by comparing life to a labyrinth of suffering. He writes, “You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day...but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” 

18. Seed

It’s possible to blossom anywhere, but we need our gardens tended to properly. You’ll never grow until you’re planted. From there, it just takes some sunshine. 

19. River

Rivers wind and bend. You follow life like you follow a river. Sometimes there are rapids, and sometimes it’s smooth sailing. If you’re trying to reach the sea, lose sight of the river’s path. 

20. Roller coaster

You don’t have to be a thrill-seeker to see the similarities between coasters and your own life. Anyone who’s experienced a hardship that every high has a matching low. Without the lows, you’ll never learn to appreciate the highs. 

Inspiring Metaphors About Life Struggles and Lessons

Quote about life over an image of buildings

Nobody’s life is perfect. Things happen that are sometimes out of our control, but we can all grow from these experiences. Share these quotes with immediate family members in their time of need, or just save them yourself for a rainy day. 

21. Poker game

Life is a giant poker game. Sometimes you’re the dealer, and you’re in control. Other times you’re dealt to. Like poker, life is about luck. Either way, keep shuffling your deck. 

22. Photograph

Like a photograph, life isn’t made in the bright moments. We develop from all the negatives. It takes darkness and challenges to reveal the beauty underneath. When the going gets tough, don’t give up. 

23. Pencil

Like people, pencils need sharpening. They’re strong, but that doesn’t mean they can’t break under the right pressure. Pencils leave a mark, and they also erase mistakes. 

24. War

Though it sounds harsh, life is sometimes like a war. Even if you lose the battle, you could still win the war. At the end of the day, life isn’t about winning and losing. 

25. Buildings

A building is only as strong as its foundation. Similarly, unless you’ve built yourself a strong foundation, you’re at risk of tumbling down. Once you have your strong foundation, it’s time to build higher. 

26. Mountain climb

A lot of life’s struggles feel like climbing. You need hard work and determination to make it far in life, and some climbs are easier than others. Sometimes you have to travel through deep valleys. This just makes the view from the top all the sweeter. 

27. Stained glass window

When you look at a stained glass window up close, it doesn’t look like much. It’s not until you step back and see the colors molding together into a cohesive shape that the real beauty shines through. 

28. Classroom

Every challenge you face is another opportunity to gain something new. As Albert Einstein once said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” 

29. Battery

When we experience new things, we also drain ourselves. This leaves us feeling like batteries. Daily things like work and school drain our energy, and it’s important to remember to recharge. 

30. Stepping stones

Life is a series of stepping stones. Stepping stones forge paths somewhere else, so don’t linger for too long on one stone when something bigger waits ahead of you. 

Metaphors About Life Changes 

Quote about life over an image of the night sky and stars

In life, change is the only certainty. Things like relationships, plans, and goals change. There isn’t always anything we can do about this, but we can learn to accept these changes into our lives with open arms. 

31. Halo

Virginia Woolf wrote, “Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo.” What Woolf means is that life isn’t meant to be a series of boxes checked on a page. It’s spontaneous, and this is a beautiful thing. 

32. Diverging road

Life doesn’t always follow the road we thought it would. In the case of poet Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” Frost knows the struggle of having to choose between different paths. 

33. Chess

Life is sometimes like a game of chess. You should always think about your next move, but understand that you can’t always anticipate the moves of other players. 

34. Journey

It’s about the journey, not about the destination. No matter what you’re working for, take a few moments to appreciate the present. You’ve traveled a long way to get here. That’s worth celebrating. 

35. Stars

Each star has its own place in the sky, and we can find that place in our own lives. Though we don’t always shine bright, we’re always there. 

36. Stone

Michelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” We each have the power to chip away at that stone, but it takes patience. 

37. Compass

A compass points north, and a moral compass points towards the right choice. We each have a compass inside us guiding us through life. It’s up to us to listen to it. 

38. Canvas

A canvas is a blank page. It’s up to us how we paint it. We are all the artists of our own lives. How do you want to be remembered?

39. Glass

You’ve likely heard the metaphor “glass empty vs. half full.” How full is your glass? If you’re looking on the brighter side of life, it’s always half full. 

40. Love

We are free to love as fully as we can during our short stay on earth. Poet E. E. Cummings knows this well. He writes, “then laugh, leaning back in my arms, for life’s not a paragraph, and death I think is no parenthesis.” Death is a natural part of life, so live in the moment. 

How Do You Find Meaning?

There’s no guidebook to finding the meaning in life. This is something that’s left for us to decide. We can all agree that metaphors help us piece together all the confusing bits, creating some balance in what it means to be alive. 

All of this talk about life might have you thinking about the future. Start end-of-life planning to decide how you want to be remembered. Let these metaphors be your guide to take action today. 

If you're looking for more ways to find meaning, read our guide on how to live a meaningful life and how to have a meaningful funeral


Sources

  1. Andersen, Hans Christian. Goodreads. Goodreads.com
  2. Buonarroti, Michelangelo. Goodreads. Goodreads.com.
  3. Cummings, E. E. “Since Feeling Is First.” Daily Poetry. Dailypoetry.com
  4. Einstein, Albert. Goodreads. Goodreads.com.
  5. Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Goodreads. Goodreads.com.  
  6. Green, John. Goodreads. Goodreads.com
  7. “Mis-Quotations.” Walden Woods Project. Walden.org
  8. Woolf, Virginia. Goodreads. Goodreads.com

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