Lessons from Onward


On Saturday, I went to the Philadelphia Film Center to see Onward. I really enjoyed the movie, although in Disney fashion, it made me tear up a bit.

While I was watching, I was analyzing. Spoiler alert, kinda. It’s Ian’s 16th birthday and in their world, that is adulthood. Ian’s dad died before he was born or at least an infant, but he has no memory of his dad. Barley, his older brother does, though limited. Ian always wanted to meet his dad. Well, his dad had a birthday gift for both boys to open when they reach adulthood. It was a wand and a spell to bring back the dad for a day, then after a day, they couldn’t bring him back again.

Well, the spell was only half successful and dad was only half created. Barley is a screwup and during the adventure to find the gem to complete the spell, Barley helps Ian with his confidence. Believing in himself and the things he can accomplish if he only believes in himself. Self-talk from the heart is how the magic works.

Unfortunately, there is a setback and time is running out. Ian is mad because he always wanted to meet his dad. He had a list planned and as he sits alone, he looks at the list and realizes that along he had Barley. He never knew his dad, but Barley was there for him always. While he can’t create the past, he realized that he needs to enjoy the present with the folks currently in his life.
In a vulnerable moment, Barley shares with Ian about why he’s so fearless. Before the dad died, he had a chance to say goodbye, but as a child he was afraid to because he saw all the machines. He didn’t get a chance to say goodbye because he was afraid to. Ian let Barley spend the last moments with his dad, so Barley would have his chance to say goodbye.

There were a few great lessons in Onward that I think relate to the Happiness Box Project and the human condition in general. We are often the harshest critics of ourselves, including with our self-talk. Our self-talk can either make or break our magic. Not only our self-talk, but our beliefs. Our beliefs can make or break us; they can either create or a failure to start.

I’m often the harshest critic of myself. I often talk to myself worse than I would a criminal. I would feel empathy for the criminal and the background would come into play. However, I fail to extend the empathy to myself. I am learn to talk to myself and empathize with myself the same way I would treat another human being. We are all guilty of this, to an extent.

Bravo, Disney!

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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

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