Grab your popcorn
I recently read a book titled Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge, and was fascinated by how psychologically informed screenwriters need to be to create engaging stories, meaningful plots and entertaining characters.
Although Hollywood often gets bad press for promoting materialistic and unrealistic goals for the audience, there are valuable life lessons to be learned from identifying the common elements of successful movies.
Here are 7 ways movies can teach you how to live your life better:
1. Be the hero of your own story.
All movies have a hero that we identify and empathize with. In life, our perspective is the only one we truly have control over, so it makes sense to ensure that we are the hero in our story, rather than being controlled by or doing everything for someone else.
2. Challenge yourself to grow.
Screenwriters are taught that a movie should start slowly and build pace as the film progresses through increasingly difficult challenges until they reach the climax. A resolution is then typically achieved, and in the end, the main character is a better person than they were in the beginning. We need the same challenges in life, so we can grow beyond our own comfort levels and be successful. Challenge forces you to become better.
3. Constant conflict isn't what you need in life.
Conflict creates emotional involvement far more than general exposition ever could, leading to a more engaged audience. In real life, though, this isn't always a good thing. Especially in relationships.
Even though we might feel more attracted to someone who opposes our own beliefs, finding someone who wants the same things in life can mean that you're happier down the road. Conflict creates chaos, so the less of it we have in our lives, the happier we are.
4. Have clearly defined goals.
All heroes will have a main goal or external motivation that they will pursue throughout the film. In life, it is important to think of the big picture, and ask yourself what you need to do to get there. Where would you like to be in 1, 5, 10 and 20 years from now? Once these time-based goals have been achieved, they can be ticked off the list and you can live your life without worrying where you're going to end up.
5. Stay strong in your morals and values.
Each character in a movie has their own strong set of values that defines who they are and their moivations behind their actions. Values, unlike goals, can never be ticked off a list, but are guiding principles that can either be followed or not from moment to moment or day to day.
Clarify which values are most important to you, and stick to them as you move through your life, one challenge at a time. Being consistent in your values gives you direction and purpose, even when things aren't going the way you intended.
6. Have a good mentor you can look to for encouragement and guidance.
Screenwriters call these characters "reflections", and they are there to help the hero to learn and grow along their journey towards their ultimate challenge. In real life, it is important to have mentors, or people that have done what you would like to do, that you can turn to for help when you get stuck, have questions, or need advice. Life is hard and complicated, so having someone there that has your back along the way will keep you on track.
7. Our actions define us.
In his book Story, Robert McKee — a famous screenwriter — says that the hero's character is truly revealed not in the scenes when everything is relaxed and calm, but in the choices that they make when the going gets tough and they are under pressure. The greater the pressure, the more revealing the scene is of the hero's essential nature.
How will you react in the biggest moments in your life? With courage and persistence in spite of fear or challenge, or with avoidance, excuses, and procrastination? The choice is yours.
This article was originally published at Damon Ashworth Psychology. Reprinted with permission from the author.