Guest blog by Maria Grace, Ph.D
Author of Reel Fulfillment: A 12-Step Plan for Transforming Your Life Through Movies
If you want to be happier and you also love movies, this article will teach you how to use their lessons to change your life. To achieve this, you must look for three things in every movie you watch. If the movie has all three, it can be a rich, meaningful experience that can change your life while you're also having fun. Here's what to look for:
1. Does this movie inspire you? Great mentors must be able to bring out the best in us. A good movie must have the power to inspire you through the characters it brings to life. If you love a movie, you can use it as your inspirational force by answering these questions: How did this film inspire you to go after what's important in you life:· What did the characters teach you about success and what will you do to follow their examples?· What did the characters teach you about mistakes and what harmful actions will you avoid in your life?
2. Does this movie stir in you powerful emotions? In watching a movie, it's safe to feel emotions you usually hide in real life, from sadness and pain to joy and bliss. Life is full of emotion. If a movie can not stir powerful emotions in you, it's not a story about real life but a lifeless illustration in motion. To make the most out of a good film's ability to stir powerful emotions, answer these questions:
· What powerful feelings did this movie stir in you?
· How have you been handling those feelings in real life (such as avoiding, suppressing, or letting out of control) and what results are you getting?
· Can you make any improvements in the way you are handling those feelings?
3. Does this movie show you how to handle the unknown? Like a great teacher, a good movie must have lessons that prepare you for the unknown and warn you about the dangers of the future. The characters must be honest examples of real people and their ways of dealing with life's curveballs must teach meaningful lessons for your life. To make the most out of those lessons, answer these questions:
· What did this character (or characters) do to face that unexpected challenge?
· What happened as a result?
· What am I learning from the example of this character (or characters) that I must use (or avoid) in my own life, when I face a similar challenge?
When a movie does not meet the three criteria, it can still influence you through other, equally important elements, such as special effects, cinematography, great action sequences, or the soundtrack. In such a case, ask yourself: "What do I like about this movie that I want to have more of in my life?" If it's the music, then put more music in your life. If it's the cinematography, then add in your schedule some art-related activities. If it's the action sequences, then pick an area of your life that lacks action and do something about it.
How to Apply the 3 Criteria
Get together with two or three friends who love movies. Pick a movie from the following list and watch using the three criteria above. Keep in mind the questions listed within each criterion. Then, answer the questions that follow below.
1. "The Aviator" is a biopic about Howard Hughes, who became a magnet following his passion for aviation as he fought the debilitating effects of mental illness.
2. "Ray" is a biopic about singer Ray Charles who achieved world fame as he fought blindness, poverty, racism, and heroin addiction.
3. "The Notebook" is the story of two people who grow old together letting nothing stand in the way of their love for each other.
4. "Million Dollar Baby" is the story of a determined female boxer who achieves her dream just before life throws her a punch that she's not prepared to return.
Questions to answer:
- How did the film inspire you?
- What powerful feelings did it stir in you?
- What did it teach you about handling the unknown?
Now make a list of:
1. Something you have a desire to achieve.
2. An obstacle you think is blocking you from achieving it.
3. Three strengths you gained from watching the recommended movies.
Put your learning to practice with concrete actions. Enjoy the results.