Growth metaphors, similes and analogies can be used to explain personal growth, the development of a company, or even the growth of a tree!
In fact, many growth metaphors are linked to plant growth, such as:
- Green shoots.
- A blooming flower.
- Tending to your garden.
Others highlight that growth is not a linear process, for example:
- Growth is a winding path.
- Growth requires two steps forward and one step back.
- Growth is a marathon not a sprint.
This article will outline and explain 15 top growth metaphors for a range of situations.
A List of Growth Metaphors
The following are 15 examples of my favorite growth metaphors.
1. Growth is a Rocketship Blasting off
Example: My Stocks took off like a Rocket Ship
If something grows at an extremely fast rate, you might refer to it as a rocket ship. This metaphor gives us the sense that something grew at an extraordinary rate and will end up escaping gravity. It will be so good – so high – that it’s in space! We could also imagine that it is moving (or growing) at a meteoric pace.
2. Green Shoots
Example: There are Green Shoots in the Economy
This metaphor is often used to discuss growth following a negative event. It will be used (in a literal sense) after a fire, for example, to explain new emerging shoots of plants coming up through the landscape.
But when used as a metaphor, we’ll often find green shoots discussed for things like the economy growing after a recession or the slow emergence of positive outcomes from an intervention designed to turn things around in a business.
3. Growth is a Blooming Flower
Example: I’ve seen you Grow into a Blooming Flower
This metaphor highlights the love and care someone has for the thing that’s growing (be it a person, a business or anything else!). It’s a metaphor associated with affection because a flower is something that’s beautiful (and in fact is often invoked in beauty metaphors).
It is a metaphor that’s often used when something or someone’s growth has come to fruition. This is because blooming is the end-result of the successful growth of a flower. So we’ll use it to talk about the ‘coming of age’ of the thing that is blooming – such as your daughter.
Example: The Ballooning Real Estate Market is Concerning
When you blow up a balloon, it expands on all sides. So when we use this metaphor, we are invoking this image in the minds of our readers or listeners. This metaphor can refer to anything from someone’s increasing weight (their waist is ballooning) to the growth of the stock exchange or the growth of someone’s ego!
5. Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Example: Our Business took Two Steps forward and One Step Back this Year
The two steps forward and one step back metaphor is used to help people see that growth is not linear. You can even imagine this on a graph – such as the overall stock market value over time. There are lots of up and down dips but you can see that overall there is steady improvement over time.
You might want to use this metaphor when someone has a setback (‘never mind, growth often requires one step back to achieve two steps forward’) or in a speech to prepare people for a difficult journey ahead.
6. Growth is a Slingshot
Example: We Rebounded like a Slingshot this Quarter
Slingshot growth occurs after something has shrunk or someone has experienced a setback. However, unlike the ‘two steps forward and one step back’ metaphor, this one implies that the rebound will be spectacular. A slingshot is pulled back but the act of pulling it back causes elasticity which, when released, shoots the rock in the slingshot at force. So, to apply this process to growth, something may have been pulled back but once released it will rebound at force and grow more than ever.
Example: Growing a Business requires an Attentive Gardener
If you’re talking to someone about how to achieve growth, you may tell them that they need to be a gardener. An example might be personal growth (building positive behaviors). You could say to them that they need to be an attentive gardener: they need to give themselves sunlight and watering (metaphorically) every day in order to ensure they achieve their growth goals.
8. Fish Jumping Ponds
Example: You’ve Experienced Growth and now you’re a Big Fish in a Small Pond
This metaphor is usually invoked through one of the following two phrases:
- You’re a big fish in a small pond.
- You’re a small fish in a big pond.
A child who is in Kindergarten is a small fish in a big pond. Once they’ve grown to be in the top grade in their school, they’ve become a big fish in a small pond. Similarly, a new business is a small fish in a big pond. A business that has grown to be the dominant business in its market might be considered a big fish in a small pond.
This metaphor can also be used to discuss jumping ponds. For example, someone graduating high school and going to college is “going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.”
> Read more: Ocean Metaphors
9. An Overflowing Mug
Example: We’re Overflowing with Growth
If you have experienced amazing growth – perhaps more than you can handle – you could say you’re overflowing! It means that you’ve achieved abundance thanks to your growth. An example of when you might use this metaphor is when you are talking to shareholders after a great quarter. You might say: “we’re overflowing with growth, so we’re going to pay out a big dividend and open five new storefronts!”
10. Growth is a Virus
Example: It’s Growing like a Virus – Doubling by the Day! (Simile)
Viruses are one of the quintessential examples of things that grow. They are designed to spread and expand until they completely overwhelm their host (or the world!) with their disease. Because this is such a quintessential example of growth, it’s no wonder it can be used as a growth metaphor.
One of the times you’d use the virus metaphor is to talk about the growth of the world’s economy. You could say “economic growth has been great, but it’s also a virus on the ecosystem. It’s causing climate change and damaging our world.”
11. Growth is a Winding Path
Example: Growth is a Winding Path, not a Straight Line
This is a good metaphor to use when you’re not achieving the growth you might have hoped for right away. You can tell someone that growth is a winding path and sometimes you need to take detours before you can reach your goals. Too often we get frustrated when we have to change our minds or when we reach obstacles that get in the way of our growth. But if growth is a winding path, we can see that we’re still ‘on track’ to success even if we can’t take the most direct path.
12. A Marathon not a Sprint
Example: Don’t wear yourself out. It’s a Marathon not a Sprint.
To say that something is a marathon not a sprint is to say that you have to grind out hard work day by day and expect slow growth over time. You can’t expect to work tirelessly for a short period of time and expect to win immediately. This can be used to explain the slow, gradual growth of a mind, a business or even caring for a growing plant!
13. Growth is a Bonfire
Example: Growth is a Bonfire. It needs Constant Fuel.
Growth is like a bonfire (framed here as a simile) because it can only be sustained if you keep adding fuel to the fire. You could use this simile (or metaphor, if framed as ‘growth is a bonfire’) when training someone to gain muscle. You might say to them: “your muscle growth is like a bonfire: it will only continue if you keep feeding it.”
14. Hockey Stick Growth
Example: We Expect Hockey Stick Growth in the Fourth Quarter
The term ‘hockey stick growth’ does not mean that there is a hockey stick that’s getting bigger. It refers to the concept of rapid, sudden growth after a long plateau. The origins of this metaphor is in the graphs that show sudden growth. For example, a business may have flatlining revenue and then suddenly there will be a curve in the line and it will shoot upwards. This graph will look like a hockey stick lying on its side with the paddle pointing straight at the sky.
15. A Bubble
Example: The Housing Market is in a Real Estate Bubble
We use the metaphor of a bubble to talk about something that is growing unsustainably. It is most often used when talking about an overpriced stock market (such as the dot com bubble in the late 1990s) or an overpriced real estate market (the ‘real estate bubble’).
The expectation from this metaphor is that the bubble will burst, leaving people far worse off – and with mud on their faces! So this is a negative metaphor for growth.
Growth metaphors can be used in a wide variety of situations. And I’m sure there are many more examples of growth metaphors that you could come up with. But this list of 15 can give you some inspiration for thinking about and describing the growth you have in mind.
If these metaphors, analogies and similes are not what you were looking for, you can always create your own. Metaphors are only limited to your own imagination, and often the best ones are ones that you’ve creatively come up with yourself.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.