**Warning** This post contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty turn off the computer right now, go and see it, and come back later.
From the first moment I saw a trailer for the recent Ben Stiller movie Secret Life of Walter Mitty I knew that I would absolutely love it. I have never really liked Ben Stiller movies, but this one is different; Stiller has grown up, and this movie has a message—or rather, a number of valuable life lessons to share.
Make Your Life Count
Life is short, and time passes quickly. In a conversation between Walter and Cheryl, he says that he has worked at Life magazine for 16 years. While Walter has a close and loving relationship with his mother and sister, and a good partnership with his co-worker, his achievements have never been recognised, despite his work being an integral part of the magazine.
If you don’t promote your achievements, nobody else will, so if you want a salary increase, or better working conditions ask for them. If you want more respect from your partner, your friends, or your children, demand it.
Stop Dreaming, Start Living
Dreams are good, dreams are what keep us going through the hard times, but if dreams are never acted upon then they lead to disillusionment and despair. I’ve taught ‘Of Mice & Men’ enough times to believe this. Recently, a friend of mine responded to a photograph of a paradise beach with the wistful comment ‘I wish I could go there – only in my dreams’. She isn’t alone. Many people share such dreams, but never make them a reality. There is no reason why she could not book a holiday, if not to the Maldives to a beach somewhere cheaper or closer. I don’t know what the reason for her reluctance is, but I do know that one day, when it is too late, she will wonder ‘what if?’
This advice is not only travel related. If you hate your job, what are you doing to change it? If you want a relationship, are you doing everything you can to go out there and meet somebody? If you want to lose weight, have you joined a gym, or altered your diet? Of course, these things take courage and dedication, but if you truly want something then get out there and start to make it happen.
Happiness Comes From Within
At the start of the movie Walter is trying to connect with a girl he likes at work through dating site, eHarmony. Like many people in our busy society, he is approaching middle age alone. While it seems clear from the first time she speaks to him that Cheryl is interested in Walter, he still prefers to hide behind a computer screen in order to make his interest known to her. He has nothing to offer her, because he is not happy in himself. His childhood dream was to travel, but he let work get in the way—his backpack and travel journal have been sitting unused in his mother’s attic since a planned trip around Europe was cancelled when his father died. When he finally gets to travel, he finds the happiness that he has needed for so long. And then he has the confidence to speak to Cheryl. Coincidence? No.
Keep Childhood Passions Alive
One of my favourite scenes of the movie is when Walter is in Iceland and he has to get to an airport before a plane leaves. He bargains with some local teenagers for their skateboard, tears up his work tie with his teeth (an apt metaphor), and freewheels through the stunning Icelandic wilderness. He is happy. He is free. He skated as a child, before life got in the way. Walter’s whole demeanour changes—he has finally shaken off the shackles that have tied him for so long, and he is starting to live his life.
My absolute favourite scene of the movie takes place in a bar in Nuuk, Greenland. Walter, looking suitably stuffy in his work suit, briefcase in hand, goes in to ask about Sean O’Connell—a photographer he is looking for—when he is approached by a depressed, drunk, and nervous pilot who is about to fly out to the boat. Unimpressed, Walter says he will not fly in the plane with him, until a daydream presents Cheryl singing the song that Walter’s boss used earlier to taunt his cowardice. He runs after the plane and jumps into it just as it leaves the ground.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that taking a ride with a drunk driver is ever a good idea—but sometimes you have to take a risk, even when it seems completely crazy.
Walter Mitty is a great feel-good movie, and now one of my favourite movies. The scenery from Iceland and Greenland is worth watching the movie for alone!
What movies have challenged you recently? Have you seen Walter Mitty? Feel free to leave a comment.