5 Things Walter Mitty Has Taught Me

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life” – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

This quote of course is the motto from LIFE magazine, where Walter worked in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Have you seen the movie?

I have to say, I absolutely loved it, and have re-watched it a couple of times.

In my eyes, Walter Mitty is an epic travel movie that also highlights some important messages about the human condition. Here are the five key ideas that I took from this beautiful movie:

1. Stop Dreaming, Start LIVING

Walter spends much of his time in another world — the world inside his head.

A world where he is brave, confident, heroic; the guy who gets what he wants.

In real life Walter is shy, quiet, a little spacey, and pretty boring; a guy who does what he’s told.

He doesn’t seem to have a real purpose, and spends his days as a negative asset manager, working for the man.

So, he lives through his daydreams. A place where he can be who he wants to be — which is always vastly different from who he is on the outside.

And to quote Dumbledore:

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”

Once Walter finds a purpose, we see him slowly change – he becomes more confident and carefree, and he stops daydreaming.

Finally his life measures up to his fantasies — even if it’s not always comfortable!

2. Explore the world around you

When asked about why his online dating profile is so blank, Water replies:

“I haven’t really been anywhere noteworthy or mentionable”

If he’s not at home, or spending time with his mother and sister, he’s at work — a dark office full of film negatives. Although he shares this space with a colleague, he pretty well keeps to himself.

We get the impression that although he’s bored with his life, and knows that he hasn’t done anything noteworthy or mentionable, that he’s also not that motivated to do anything about it.

This story takes him about as far from his home comforts as he could possibly get. We see Walter travel to Greenland, take a helicopter ride with a drunk pilot, jump into shark invested waters, skateboard in Iceland, narrowly avoid a volcanic eruption, and trek in the Himalayas.

He doesn’t seem to notice that he is changing into the person he is meant to be, but exploring the world was definitely a contributing factor. His purpose — finding a negative to be used on the final cover of LIFE magazine — made him determined not to let anything get in his way.

He got to partake in some pretty extraordinary experiences, meet some interesting characters, and see some breathtaking landscapes in the process. Changing his life forever.

3. Find Courage

“life is about courage and going into the unknown”

It takes courage to get out of your comfort zone, see the world, and stand up to the man.

At the beginning of the film, Walter did not have any courage. But by the films end he was strong, sure of himself, and brave enough to do what needed to be done; not only to ensure the magazine went out with a bang, but also to get the girl and stand up to his bully.

4. Be in the moment

Walter rarely experiences any given moment. He spends so much time in his head, that life is just passing him by.

While sitting in the Himalayas with Sean O’Connell — the photographer who took the photo for the final edition of LIFE magazine — Walter asks him why he’s not taking a photograph of the snow leopard he has been searching for for so long. Sean replies:

“Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it”

This quote is so powerful! As an avid photographer, I’m always looking for a photo opportunity, and sometimes the camera takes you away from that moment, as you’re too busy fiddling with settings, working out where to stand or what angle to take, and waiting for people to get out of your shot. It happens.

But to really be in the moment, we need to step away from that urge and just be. Just allow the moment to happen, and enjoy it.

5. You are enough, and you have everything you need

Throughout the movie, Walter is trying to be everything to everyone: super employee, brother, son, boyfriend, role model…

But he isn’t being who he wants to be, who he is destined to be. He thinks he’s not good enough to date Cheryl, his office crush; and he’s used to sitting in the background of life.

“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention”

After all his adventures, his world travels, and chasing after Sean and that elusive negative; Walter realises that he had what he needed all along.

He already was brave, strong, and worthy; but now he was able to show it, own it, and honour it.

All it took was a crazy adventure to the unknown to figure that out!

Have you seen Walter Mitty?

What did you take away from this movie?
Did it give you an urge to visit Iceland, too?!

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5 Things Walter Mitty Has Taught Me

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Author: Michelle

Michelle Harvey is a kiwi traveller, writer, photographer, list-maker, coffee drinker, and wanderer. Winter holidays are her favourite kind.

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