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7 things Pixar’s “Inside Out” can teach us about personal change
*Spoiler alert….sorry ūüôā
School holidays is upon us and like many working parents with school aged kids I’m¬†doing the juggling act. A bit of vacation care, a friend’s house…off to Nanna’s. ¬†Anything to stop from hearing the dreaded words that we all know will¬†hit at any moment….. ¬†‘I’m booooorrrred!’
So to stave off the terrible boredom that only pre-teens seem to be afflicted with, my kids and I headed to the movies.
The great movie debate this school holidays was over ‘Minions’ or ‘Inside Out’. As a well rounded and generous mum, I let them choose…after pleading for Inside Out, the latest and greatest from Pixar… of course.

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So Inside Out it was. Luckily for me they had seen the Minions at Vacation Care the week before and I am a skilful negotiator and got my way.
The movie is a unique look into the mind of an 11 year old girl called Riley. Its a Pixar movie so I was expecting a hilarious romp, with a moral story thrown in.  What I was faced with was an insightful, confronting, and often very emotional coming of age movie.
I work to help people change behaviours to improve relationships and leadership. I was amazed at the insights and teachings that this movie had. ¬†After I wiped away the tears and put away the tissues I looked deeper and discovered 7 gorgeous lessons¬†that ‘Inside Out’ can teach us about personal change.

1. Its exhausting always trying to be happy

In the movie Joy tries desperately to keep Riley happy all the time, even to point of finding ‘important’ jobs for the other emotions. ¬†She is clearly the boss and takes her job very seriously… She runs from pillar to post stopping bad things from becoming really bad, changes the emotions and memories to good ones and although doing a fab job I was exhausted watching her. ¬†To be ‘happy’ and up beat all the time takes a lot of effort. ¬†It’s important to be positive but if that’s all you do then you are going to burn out trying. So for those people that promote ‘always think happy thoughts’ and you’ll change…I say…sit down and have a rest will ya! ¬†You need to be strong for change and burning yourself out ‘doing happy’ won’t help. ¬†If you want a doona day today…do it and recharge…just don’t stay there!

2. Facts and opinions are often mixed up

A big LOL at this part of the movie. ¬†Two boxes get knocked over and the character dismays ‘oh no they are mixed up!’ ¬†The two boxes are labeled ‘opinions’ and ‘facts’. ¬†The other character shrugs and says ‘ah, don’t worry. ¬†That always happens.’ ¬†I definitely laughed the laugh of recognition at this statement. ¬†He is so right but its often ignored which leads to internal and external conflict. ¬†Facts and opinions get mixed up inside your head. ¬†Just because you believe something doesn’t make it so. ¬†To create space for positive change in your life you need to acknowledge that what you ‘believe’ to be true is only your opinion and you may need to let it go to move to the next level of change.

3. Need sadness to experience joy

This was one of the biggest learnings of the film and a pretty obvious one. ¬†My kids gave me the ‘uh duh’ look when I said it out loud to them. ¬†Unfortunately in real life we don’t acknowledge the powerful change and growth that comes out of¬†sadness. ¬†Without the downs in life how will you know when you are experiencing an up? Without bad how can you experience good. ¬†Without death how can we cherish life…. Just like happiness and joy are essential for life so is a bit of sadness. ¬†No one wants to be sad of course, but we all know the feeling of release after having a good cry. ¬†And fellas I know you do it too…just go watch ‘Marley and Me’ and I challenge you not to cry!

4. Happiness is not enough

Even though Joy is running around madly getting her job done and making Riley happy it becomes pretty clear that to grow up Riley has to experience all of the other emotions too. ¬†Studies have told¬†us that are 7 key emotions and only one of them is a ‘positive’ emotion…ie: happiness. ¬†The other emotions are ones we have labeled ‘negative’ but what if we saw them as protection and growth emotions instead of ‘negative’? ¬†We might have a higher tolerance for other people…and ourselves…as we experience the ups and downs of change. ¬†Why is sadness and anger seen so negatively? ¬†Why are we uncomfortable with people feeling uncomfortable? ¬†Let’s acknowledge these other emotions for what they are and accept them as part of change.

5. Change will happen with you or without you

In the story Joy gets lost and can’t help Riley cope with the new environment that she finds herself in. ¬†Riley has various upsetting experiences¬†in the short time Joy is¬†lost. ¬†In Joy’s¬†determined to get back to HQ to ‘fix’ the emotions that Riley was experiencing¬†she¬†didn’t recognise¬†that Riley was growing up¬†and that change was going to happen with her or without her. ¬†Change happens. ¬†Even when you don’t want it to. ¬†You can’t live and not change. The key is to focus your energy on change that benefits you, not holds you back.

6. There are key moments in life make us who we are

I read a Dr Phil (yeah I know…) book a number of years ago and one of the principles of his teaching is that you have 7 critical experiences in your life that create who you are. ¬†In the movie ‘Inside Out’ they are called ‘core memories’. ¬†These core memories are what creates the essence of Riley and throughout the movie the core memorise are compromised causing a significant shift in Riley’s personality. ¬†I loved this metaphor as it helps us define those key ‘Dr Phil’ moments as the things that create who we are. ¬†I don’t believe its as simple or linear to describe our personalities in a few core memories, but it does tell us that we need to be careful about what memories we replay over and over because they may become the play list of our lives.

7. Embrace your emotions, don’t judge them…use them to help you change.

Through the movie the emotions learn to accept their own role, and the necessary roles that the other emotions play. ¬†They end up having to work together to get a good result for Riley. ¬†This is often the case when we are going through personal change. ¬†We want to be happy and we want to accept the change and be brave etc…and yet what we should be doing is accepting the fear, the anger, the sadness, the joy and the disgust that we might be experiencing as we change. ¬†If we accept that we need all of those emotions to truly change, we may accept the change more readily and move through to the next stage of our lives with grace.

Personal change is a painful journey and its supposed to be or it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Embrace all of your emotions and learn to love them.¬†Especially sadness. ¬†She’s adorable and needs a cuddle.

Through discomfort comes growth.” – Michelle T Holland

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