Few movie franchises have had a global reach the way Star Wars has. Relatable characters. Incredible saber duels. Fascinating ethical and political dilemmas.
Best of all, Star Wars offers incredible life lessons. Here are the best lessons from the Star Wars franchise, which can teach us about our own lives.
Lesson #1 — It’s never too late to do the right thing
In Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader (the bad guy who also happens to the father of the heroic protagonist Luke Skywalker) gets into somewhat of a pickle.
From the moment Vader decides to join the dark side decades earlier, he commits heinous acts against the rebel alliance (the good guys).
As viewers, we believe Vader represents pure evil and is incapable of any good deed.
Until a very decisive moment.
At the end of the film, Vader witnesses The Emperor (his boss) inflicting immense suffering on his son. Vader is torn between either furthering his power as a member of the dark side or saving his son from utter destruction.
Vader chooses the latter.
He grabs The Emperor and throws him down a deep hatch, inevitably leading to The Emperor’s death. Consequently, Vader suffers fatal injuries as a result of the skirmish, but not before confessing his fatherly love to his son Luke.
Galactic Lesson #1: It’s never too late to do the right thing. Vader, despite all his wrongdoings, came through for his son when it mattered most.
At a certain point, we believe with enough wrongdoing there’s no going back. We think we’re in too deep.
But it’s not about climbing all the way out of the hole. Sometimes full redemption isn’t possible. The next best thing is to take one small step back into the light.
Next time you’re in a bad place, think of Vader. We may not be able to right all our wrongs. But we can, as Al Pacino says in the film Any Given Sunday, “climb outta hell one inch at a time.”
Lesson #2 — Everyone has a good side and a bad side
Throughout the series, we see “good” characters tempted by evil. Conversely, we see “evil” characters tempted by good.
Our heroic protagonist Luke Skywalker is not immune to the allure of evil. The Emperor tempts Luke to the dark side towards the end of Return of the Jedi.
Before engaging in battle, The Emperor puts on his best sales pitch. He attempts to convince Skywalker to join the dark side and fulfill his true destiny.
We see on Skywalker’s face the temptation. He looks like he’s been offered a tasty treat he knows he shouldn’t eat.
Skywalker knows the odds of the rebel alliance (the good guys) are stacked against them. It would have been easy to join forces with The Empire, along with his father, and dominate the galaxy for the foreseeable future.
Skywalker eventually snaps out of the temptations of the dark side. The rest is history.
Galactic Lesson #2: Everyone has a good side and a bad side.
In Buddhism, there’s a belief that within all of us, there are seeds representing positive and negative attributes. For example, there are seeds for positive attributes such as courage, love, listening, and happiness. Additionally, there are also seeds for negative attributes such as greed, anger, jealousy, and fear.
It’s our responsibility to water the seeds of positive attributes and let the negative seeds sit idle. There is potential for bad in the good, and there is potential for good in the bad.
The world is not black and white. To label people as bad and good is too simplistic. All people are capable of right and wrong. It’s about leveraging the good and checking the bad.
Skywalker checked the bad. Can you do the same?
Lesson #3 — Stillness is the key
Through the use of “The Force,” Jedi knights have the ability to make objects fly through the air. For background, The Force is a power only a few individuals have the capability to harness. The use of The Force is best displayed when an individual is in a state of calmness.
This is best depicted during a scene in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back. We meet Yoda, the short and green-like creature who trains Luke Skywalker.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Luke’s spaceship sinks to the bottom of a creek. Luke attempts to utilize the force to levitate the ship out of the creek but to no avail. All seems hopeless until Yoda, a man a quarter of Luke’s size (if that), single-handedly levitates the ship out of the creek and onto safe ground.
When we watch Luke use The Force, it doesn’t look natural. He’s trying too hard. You can see the grimacing on his face.
But with Yoda, it’s a different story. Yoda is always in a state of Zen-like calmness. He remains calm and hones in on the task at hand. Cool, calm, collected.
Galactic Lesson #3: To take a page from author and modern-day philosopher Ryan Holiday — stillness is the key. Great accomplishments are best done in a state of calmness.
You can be doing almost anything. Writing a paper. Hitting a golf ball. Speaking with a friend. Almost everything we do is best executed when we slow down.
Once we start forcing the action and trying to control everything, then we run into problems. There is a natural flow to performing at a high level, but we do ourselves a disservice by going against our nature.
Slow down. Breathe. Maximize your upside by achieving stillness.
In other words, channel your inner-Yoda.
Lesson #4 — Fear is a deadly motivator
Before Darth Vader turned to the dark side, he was known as Anakin Skywalker, a promising young Jedi knight.
Anakin was a moral man. He wanted what was best for the galaxy and served as a protector of the people.
Until he didn’t.
The biggest factor in Anakin’s shift from good guy to bad guy was the motivation of fear. Anakin feared losing Padmé, the love of his life. Anakin had dreams of Padmé suffering a painful death.
Anakin allowed fear to run his life. He could no longer make rational decisions. Paranoia became his new normal.
With fear, Anakin became susceptible to the influence of others. Anakin would listen to anyone who could alleviate his fear.
This is where Senator Palpatine enters the picture, a corrupt political senator and eventual mastermind of the evil Empire.
Palpatine promised Anakin if they joined forces, they could save Padmé (spoiler alert: they don’t save Padmé).
Anakin’s fear turns to anger and bitterness, which leads to his shift to the dark side.
Galactic Lesson #4: Fear is a deadly motivator.
We cannot run our lives living in fear. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of losing everything we have.
Those who live in fear protect what they have. There is no motivation to take risks, explore, and try new things. Fear drives us into our shells, insolated from the opportunities that exist beyond us.
Worst of all, fear leads to awful decisions. The world becomes a zero-sum game and everyone is out to get us.
We must move past fear. All we can do is focus on what we can control and make the most out of every opportunity. Is that too much to ask?
Do not lead with fear. Instead, lead with curiosity and hopefulness.
There you have it—four life lessons from the Star Wars franchise. Now go forth and do great things.
And may the force be with you.
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