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5 Lessons From Disney’s Onward We Can Apply to Our Own Quests

Published on April 1, 2020 8:12 AM EST
5 Lessons From Disney’s Onward We Can Apply to Our Own Quests

My family has been waiting rather impatiently for Onward to make its way into the theaters. The previews have had us on the edge of our seats for months now. Then COVID-19 became a global pandemic, and things like movie theaters were closed nationwide. We were sad, and frankly, I was looking forward to something to take our minds of quarantines and sickness and sadness. 

But lo and behold Disney came through and released it early for digital download! $20 later, we were happily snuggled on the couch, ready to watch the latest DisneyPixar masterpiece. I didn’t realize at the time that a movie about two elf brothers would hold so many life lessons. Onward touches on so many aspects of life while being flawlessly entertaining. I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum but travel down this road of ruin at your own risk! 

5 Lessons From Disney’s Onward We Can Apply to Our Own Quests

Powerful lessons from Disney’s Onward we can apply to our own quests

Lesson 1

“Magic never dies. It merely fades away.” ― Terry Pratchett

Sometimes we allow our magic to fade away. Your wings don’t work because you stopped using them. Have you ever noticed that when you were a teenager, everything and anything seemed possible? Teenagers carry around a sense of invincibility, and as a mother of one, I can say it is terrifying! But to her, it is exhilarating, and dare I say it, magical.

Dangling her legs off the side of a cliff above Glacier National Park to get that utterly enchanting Instagram shot, happened without a single thought for her safety. I nearly died while she taunted me and giggled from the cliff, shouting, “Mom, where is your sense of adventure!” I don’t know where my sense of adventure went, but I can tell you I was well aware of where my heart was at this moment. 

She did get me thinking of all the crazy things I did when I was filled with the wild abandon of youthful exuberance. It has been a while since I flexed that particular muscle or believed that the world was a magical place. Is the lack of magic the problem, or is it merely the change in my perception? Maybe my eyes don’t see life’s charms anymore because I stopped looking for them.

Or maybe I did become a little lazy. There is an “easiness” that comes from doing what is expected. A complacency that encourages us to just stay the course and not stretch our imaginations beyond what we know to be true. However, our brains believe what we tell them, and we should think we’re capable of more.

Lesson 2

“Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.” ― Roy T. Bennett

We can all be mighty warriors; it all comes down to self-talk and trust. If you tell yourself that you are a mighty warrior, then one day, you will be a mighty warrior. Tell yourself that you are a writer, and eventually, you will believe that you can do this, and the clients and opportunities will present themselves.

An excellent way to build this belief and trust in yourself is to practice self-affirmations. “MRIs have suggested that certain neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks” (Cascio et al., 2016). Self-affirmations are short, simple sentences that you repeat to yourself, such as:

  • I am a mighty warrior
  • I am a successful writer
  • I am good enough

Affirmations and belief go hand in hand. Believe in yourself with every step. You might think that you need a rope or a safety net for your dreams, but with enough belief, you will find yourself asking, “but did I really?” We hold ourselves back with limiting beliefs like:

  • I won’t make it
  • It is too hard
  • I’m not ready

This type of thinking will convince you that you do not have what it takes to go on an adventure. Don’t listen to that and start telling yourself the truth you want to see! 

Lesson 3

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller

You have to take risks in life to have an adventure. Do you feel like you are living a lie, or asking yourself, “What have I become?” You aren’t alone. As The Manticore points out, responsibility can change the way we see the world. Payroll and investors, or the mortgage and electric bill, along with all the other pressures of adulting, can cause us to forget that we were once dangerous and wild! Or at least spontaneous and free! 

It can be challenging in this responsibility laden life to remember that we need to nurture ourselves and our inner free spirit. Here are a few tips for when life has you feeling a little weighed down:

  • Laugh and smile every day
  • Be creative, daydream and pause for reflection in your free time
  • Do something new whenever the opportunity presents itself
  • Be playful and choose happiness whenever you can
  •  Appreciate all the small things and remember to have an attitude of gratitude

Lesson 4

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” ―Arthur Ashe

On a quest, you have to use what you have got! According to Leah Fisch, “using what you have in a way that is clear, honors your decisions, makes the most of your current resources, and allows you to be human and imperfect.” Human and imperfect is how I would describe the meaning of life: to be human and flawed and enjoy all the beautiful moments that arise from those two things! 

Using what you have is akin to practicing an attitude of gratitude daily! I think life is a quest, and using what you have got is the only real way to get by. You might not have everything that you want or even all the things that you think you need, but if you look around, you will find you likely have just enough.

Gratitude also builds resiliency, which is all a byproduct of resourcefulness, or using what you have. Admond Lee says, “Resourcefulness is a mindset. Period. This is especially relevant when the goals — or the problems — you have set are difficult to achieve, or you cannot envision a clear path to get to where you desire to go.”

Lesson 5 

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ― Robert Frost

On a quest, the clear path is never the right one. Expressway or Path of Peril? The question is always up to you, but if you end up in a gelatinous cube, you are on your own! Isn’t it right, though, that you find yourself thinking the obvious way is not really the way you should have went?

Anyone who knows me will tell you that there is the easy way to do something, then there is the hard way, and then there is Danielle’s way. All of my friends can tell you a unique story to illustrate this point (leave a story in the comment section guys)! From here on in, I shall simply say that I am a professional quest goer! 

I think back to all these stories, and sure some of them were ridiculous, but they were all amusing in their own way. How boring would my life be if I took the same road as everyone else? What stories would I have to think back on and laugh or recount with friends? Also, for the record, I have never encountered the dreaded gelatinous cube…

One final lesson

I guess I lied, and there are six lessons. Although, this one is more like the moral of the story. Sometimes, in this life we live, we face some terrible misfortunes. Those important ones that we have no control over, like the death of a parent. These trials and curses will test you. With enough magic, gratitude, resiliency, and resourcefulness, you will find yourself running through the gauntlet. 

It’s hard to find good in any of that, but during the final moments of Ian and Barley’s quest, Ian does that just. It doesn’t make him miss his dad any less. It is still a sad and heartbreaking tale, but he is grateful for the presence of his older brother and the moments that make up their story. Those moments have made Ian precisely who he is. A mage. A brother. A fearless man who fights a manticore and a stone dragon. 

I do not know where our quests will take us. But I know we should live every day like we are on a journey of epic proportions! Put it in “O” for onward, my friend!

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