7 Life Lessons from Yoda
When you go looking for advice or guidance to solve life’s challenges, do you turn to your movie collection or Netflix account? Perhaps you should. We often look to spiritual books or motivation gurus to get answers to life’s questions. What if your answer was only a click away and your spiritual guru was YODA. That’s right, Master Yoda. If you are between the ages of five and fifty, you have likely heard this backwards speaking sage. You probably thought he was wise, but did you ever think that the lessons he taught Luke in “The Empire Strikes Back,” would be applicable to your life? In just one scene in the movie, when Luke is learning to use the force in the swamps of Dagobah, Yoda drops seven life lessons that are applicable to you right now. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Maintain your focus - Luke is practicing his one-handed rock floating, Yoda balancing handstand, when the trouble starts. His little buddy R2 is beeping away a sign of warning about his X-wing sinking into the swamp. Luke quickly loses his focus and drops everything and falls. The first underlying message is that when things are going well, life is easy and flowing; get ready, a problem or test is coming. Now, R2 might not be your classic critic or hater. However, they do come in all shapes, sizes and are often our closest friends and family. He might not be meaning to rain on Luke’s parade of success, but he does distract him, causing him to drop the ball on his goal, or in this case the Yoda. Ignore the haters and critics, no matter what form they take and maintain your focus. As Yoda came crashing down, he exclaimed, “Concentratttteeee.” Yoda was not worried about the ship, but Luke was. His negative thinking will be revealed in the next lesson.
2. Don’t focus on the problem - Wasn’t the last lesson to maintain your focus? So do I focus or not? You need to keep your focus on your most important goal or task at hand. When you focus on any problem that arises, as soon as it does, without evaluating its importance, you will be pulled off course. If you become overly focused on the problem, then you are not able to see the solution. When Luke sees his ship sink into the misty swamp water, he proclaims, “We will never get it out now!” Luke is focused on how big the problem is. Yoda’s reply to this is perfect, “So certain are you?” With a sigh he continues, “Always with you, what cannot be done.” Doesn’t that reflect something in all of us? If we believe something is too big for us to handle, we go right to despair thinking. “Poor me, wah wah, life is so hard.” We can train our mind not to do jump to this type of thinking, but we must be mindful of our thoughts that we allow to circulate in our head. Yoda shines some truth on this thinking in the next lesson.
3. It’s all in your mindset - “But Master, moving stones (AKA little problems), is one thing, this is totally different.” Yoda rebukes this idea, “No, no different, only different in your mind.” What an amazing way to bring this problem into perspective. He is saying that if he can solve these small problems (stones), he can solve this bigger one. They are inherently the same problem. What Luke considers to be a big problem is not a problem at all for Yoda. Single digit multiplication can be a big problem for a 7-year-old, but few adults would view it as a challenge. As adults we consider some tasks, some goals, and some dreams too far outside our abilities. Yet, someone has likely already achieved it. So it is not impossible; it is only impossible in our mind. A great entrepreneur from a galaxy far away, said it in this way, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” Luke doesn’t believe he can tackle a problem this big, but Yoda will continue to teach him more lessons.
4. You must unlearn your limiting thoughts - Yoda put it best, “You must unlearn, what you have learned.” Luke has learned he can handle small problems, but that no one can handle a problem as big as this. Another huge point that is holding back so many capable people: they could do it, but they lack confidence. Most of us grow up with well-meaning parents, role models and teachers that do their best to pass along the knowledge we need to survive. However, no one can teach you something that they do not know. Any limiting beliefs they have about what is possible, or what you are capable of, will get passed along to you. We cannot unlearn a limiting thought that we don’t know we have. We must first identify them and overwrite them with what we know to be true. We must look for examples in our life that prove we can do it. These limits may have been true before, but they no longer have to be. Luke reluctantly agree to “give it a try,” which prompts, another mind blowing lesson.
5. Do or do not, there is no try - Luke agrees to try, but he is quickly interrupted and corrected in his thinking, and word choice, by Yoda. Yoda tells him, “No, try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” This is the quote that resonates most deeply and is likely the one you remember most from Yoda. He can succeed or he can fail, but he quite literally cannot “try.” Try is a word we put in our language when we don’t want to commit to the outcome of a task or goal. It is a disclaimer that says, “Alight, I will go ahead and do it, but it might not work and I make no promises.” What can that type of mindset and language yield? Would you agree with average to poor results at best? This is exactly what Luke ends up getting. He actually starts to lift his ship up; Yoda is impressed. The success does not last long as the ship descends back into the swamp. He either let his own internal doubts distract him or perhaps the beeps of his critic caused him to doubt and abandon his goal.
6. Believe in something bigger than you - After Luke fails to lift his X-wing from the swamp, he is exhausted for the effort. He explains why it cannot be done, “It is too big.” Yoda replies, “Size matters not, judge me by my size do you?” He continues, “Where you should not, for my ally is the force and a powerful ally it is.” Yoda’s belief in the force is unwavering. They never go into why he has such a strong belief, but if we are to compare this to our own beliefs we may come to an answer. I believe Yoda has a “knowing” about the force. He has already seen what it can do and has used it to do great things. Like Luke, we may be told what something can do or how it works, but until we experience it, there is doubt attached to the understanding. Like Yoda, when you know that there is something greater than you out there, aiding your efforts, guiding you, and you make it your ally, you become a force to be reckoned with. Even simpler than that, when you have already achieved something, you have no doubt that it can be done, so you can repeat it easily. Luke will have little doubt, once Yoda lifts the X-wing from the swamp. Do you think that after Luke experiences Yoda’s use of the force, that it would reaffirm his own knowing, belief, and ability? Of course it would, just like it would for you.
7. You fail because you don’t believe - After Yoda lifts the X-wing and sets it on the shore, Luke is amazed. He is dumbfounded and in awe as he confesses, “I don’t believe it!” Yoda retorts, “That is why you fail.” This just puts the final slap upside Luke’s head. Luke was doomed to fail before he started because he did not believe it was possible. If you have no previous experience to draw on, then it is easy to be filled with doubt. Luke needed to connect that he was already doing a similar task and having success. This problem was bigger, but if he could have suspended his doubt long enough to break through and achieve, he would no longer have any more doubt as to what he was capable of. This is just like us when we fail to believe in ourselves and our own abilities.
You probably didn’t realize all those practical life lessons could come from a fictitious little green force-wielding alien. There is a consistent theme that runs through all of the lessons. Your mindset and what you believe is everything when it comes to your success. If you are doing groundbreaking research that has never been done in the history of mankind, then you have a greater challenge than most of us. You have to overcome the world’s collective limiting belief of what is possible. Yet, many have. We call them pioneers, explorers, and scientists. For most of us, hundreds and thousands of people have already solved our problem for us and have written exact steps on how to do it. Many people think they are somehow different than these others who have achieved, but this is the greatest limiting thought that prevents you from even getting started. Find a Yoda and unlearn what you have learned.
Become a "force" to be reckoned with. Suspend doubt long enough to give yourself the chance to succeed. If you enjoyed this article subscribe to my newsletter and blog.
If you would like to have your mind BLOWN, check out this shortened video version of this article with clips from the movie.