The Hero’s Journey ‘Star Wars’ Lessons On Perseverance And Mindset

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“Star Wars” is more than a science fiction-adventure film series — it’s a cultural  phenomenon. In addition to the compelling characters, exciting action, and groundbreaking special effects, the movies also offer some classic wisdom. In honor of Star Wars Day on May 4 (“May the fourth be with you”), I want to share some of the lessons the series has taught me.

Unlike most people my age, I didn’t see the first “Star Wars” film in theaters. I wasn’t interested, I was too busy studying. But cultural osmosis finally got to me, and after about 10 years, I finally saw the “retroactively” titled 1977 movie “A New Hope.” It was love at first watch!

I was hooked when Luke Skywalker found the video of Princess Leia pleading, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Along with the death of the aunt and uncle who raised him, that moment sets him on the path for mentorship with Obi-Wan, learning about “the Force,” and becoming the hero he was meant to be. While none of us have ever saved the galaxy from an evil empire, most have faced difficult situations where we were forced to choose a path, step outside our comfort zone, and grow into stronger and wiser people.

Luke’s quest is an example of “the hero’s journey,” and creators have used it for centuries. In fact, Joseph Campbell’s book about the hero’s journey, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” inspired “Star Wars.” The idea of a hero facing a challenge, learning new skills, ultimately winning a decisive victory, and returning home with exceptional powers that can help his community has resonated with us for millennia.

The concept of the Force also evokes something significant. Luke must learn to harness this powerful energy to win his battle. The Force may be fictional, but the idea is similar to the one outlined in a book I recently re-read called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. Dweck introduced the world to a “growth mindset,” which has helped many people break out of a rut and improve their lives.

Many of us think of our personality as set in stone; we are who we are. Dweck challenges that thinking and argues that just as you can improve your intelligence with study or physical fitness with exercise, you can develop new traits through perseverance and drive. She argues that our accomplishments are as much about the journey as the ultimate result.

That same message is at the heart of “A New Hope.” Luke doesn’t learn the way of the Jedi through natural ability but through hard work. With belief in yourself, hope for the future, and a determination to keep going, we can all grab hold of the growth mindset and be more successful.

Though it took me some time to get hooked, “Star Wars” is now a family obsession. My kids are fans and even dressed up as movie characters for Halloween one year. Meanwhile, my cousin, Luke, once met Mark Hamill and got his autograph. Hamill signed it, “From one Luke to another.”

“Star Wars” remains so popular for a reason, and I believe its message of hope is a primary factor. We really can do anything if we set our minds to it. May the Force be with you!


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