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15 Important Lessons the Harry Potter Series Has Taught Me

15 Important Lessons the Harry Potter Series Has Taught Me

Although the books about Harry Potter are technically a series for children, they explorer many different grown-up themes. From dealing with loss, to standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, the Harry Potter series is a thoughtful and poignant one. Whether you fancy yourself a Gryffindor or a Slytherin, a human or a house elf, these 15 lessons from Harry Potter will have you pondering your approach to life.

We are only human.

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    “Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.” –Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

    Much of the conflict in the Harry Potter series centers around greed and ego. The only way to overcome these problems is to see ourselves as fallible, and accept that sometimes we are wrong. The Harry Potter series consistently reminds us to look at our own faults before tearing down others.  

    You can move on from loss.

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      “The things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end—if not always in the way we expect.” – Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

      Another theme in the Harry Potter series is unexpected loss. Growing from tragedy and moving on is something we all have to learn to do. Ultimately, we recover from loss by growing in unexpected ways, which happens a number of times across the series.

      Love is irreplaceable.

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        “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

        Love is the closest thing to magic that we have, so in the Harry Potter universe, it’s only fitting that love has special powers too. A recurring theme we could all emulate more, Harry Potter teaches us that love is the best solution.

        You can overcome fear.

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          “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

          The Harry Potter series attacks head-on our desire as humans to insulate ourselves from the world. While pretending something doesn’t exist is comforting, ignorance of what challenges us only causes more problems. The Harry Potter series periodically reminds readers that fear of a problem is much worse than the actual problem.

          Death is inevitable.

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            “To the well-organized mind, death is merely the next great adventure.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

            Another theme explored in the Harry Potter series is death. While Harry Potter starts the series ridden with tragedy, he grows to understand that fearing death only takes away our ability to enjoy life.

            Courage is complex.

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              “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

              Where most adventure tales involve standing up to powerful villains, the Harry Potter series doesn’t shy away from the challenges of standing up to your friends. At the end of the first book, when nerdy Neville challenges the cool kids to try and save their lives, he requires just as much courage as those of us standing up to evil. It is important to remember that all kinds of courage are required to be a good person in life.

              We can make our choices.

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                “It is our choices that tell us who we really are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

                Harry Potter is a character whose life is marred by attention and speculation. However, Harry learns that regardless of the abilities he’s born with, the decisions he makes are far more critical for the future. This is a recurring theme that shows all of us we can become what we choose.

                Respect makes a difference.

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                  “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

                  The Harry potter series is full of inequality between those of different species and backgrounds. Despite the attention that surrounds Harry, however, he refuses to treat anyone like less than a friend. The lesson that everyone deserves respect is a powerful and poignant one.

                  Question authority.

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                    “I have no reason to believe that your views are anything other than bilge, Dumbledore. The dementors remain in place in Azkaban and are doing everything we ask them to.” – Cornelius Fudge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

                    Throughout the series, powerful institutions are sabotaged to benefit those doing evil. Because the leader of the Ministry of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, won’t admit he’s lost control, many characters end up suffering. A powerful lesson for everyone, learning to question authority is a crucial lesson for muggle and wizard alike.

                    Understanding others is valuable.

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                      “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

                      With such a complex society, the Harry Potter series parallels many struggles we face in the real world. When Harry is forced to increase his understanding to reach his goals, it’s a reminder that knowledge is power, and empathy is critical.

                      Apathy is toxic.

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                        “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

                        Never shying away from caring for others, master wizard Albus Dumbledore is quick to prompt Harry, and each of us, that indifference is the real enemy of good. Spurring Harry to act on behalf of others reminds all of us to care more about the people in our lives.

                        Loss does not define us.

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                          “You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

                          Another way the Harry Potter series tackles loss is by emphasizing Harry’s memories of those around him who have passed. By learning to treasure our memories of deceased loved ones, we can feel less like we’ve lost someone dear, and more appreciative of the time we had with them.

                          Hope can never be extinguished.

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                            “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” –  Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Alkaban

                            Throughout the course of the series, Harry Potter faces some truly troubling challenges. Despite the evil and darkness he fights, Harry is never willing to give up or grow jaded. This is a powerful reminder that each of us has the power to make the world a little brighter, regardless of our circumstances.

                            Life wasted is worse than death

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                              “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

                              In chastising Voldemort, Dumbledore reminds all of us that worse than death is a life wasted. Though Voldemort seeks immortality throughout the books, what ultimately defeats him is the rest of the characters’ refusal to waste their lives in fear and suffering.

                              Age is just a number.

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                                “Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

                                Another incredible lesson from the Harry Potter series is that age is no barrier to what you can accomplish. Despite their youth, Harry, Ron, and Hermione conquer some of the most dangerous forces in their world. On the other hand, however, aging wizards like Dumbledore still remain powerful and capable. Emphasizing once again that choices define who you are, the Harry Potter series shows people of all ages limited only by their motivation and imagination.

                                Featured photo credit: Harry Potter/Halle Stoutzenberger via flickr.com

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                                Alicia Prince

                                A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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                                Last Updated on December 2, 2019

                                How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

                                How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

                                Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

                                I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

                                Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

                                How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

                                Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

                                Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

                                At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

                                Want to know the good news?

                                No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

                                All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

                                1. Develop a Positive Mindset

                                If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

                                According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

                                That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

                                Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

                                Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

                                Absolutely!

                                But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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                                Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

                                Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

                                It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

                                “I’m not smart enough to…”

                                “I don’t have enough experience to…”

                                “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

                                When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

                                If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

                                When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

                                • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
                                • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
                                • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

                                Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

                                Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

                                All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

                                But this isn’t true!

                                If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

                                If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

                                When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

                                Ditch the Dwelling

                                Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

                                Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

                                When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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                                But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

                                The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

                                Easier said than done, right? Try these:

                                1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
                                2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
                                3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
                                4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

                                The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

                                Be Patient about the Process

                                No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

                                Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

                                If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

                                To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

                                2. Connect with Your Purpose

                                One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

                                If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

                                Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

                                Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

                                Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

                                “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

                                One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

                                Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

                                Find Intrinsic Motivation

                                Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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                                Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

                                But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

                                If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

                                3. Find Strength in Unity

                                The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

                                Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

                                Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

                                If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

                                If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

                                Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

                                The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

                                A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

                                If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

                                Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

                                Recruit Some Cheerleaders

                                If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

                                Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

                                As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

                                Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

                                Form an Accountability Group

                                Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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                                Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

                                Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

                                Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

                                Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

                                4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

                                Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

                                As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

                                We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

                                When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

                                • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
                                • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
                                • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
                                • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
                                • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
                                • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

                                Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

                                Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

                                Tying it All Together

                                Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

                                But here’s the bottom line:

                                A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

                                No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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                                Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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