Note: This post is written by Kamal Gill
Have you ever re-watched a children’s movie and got more out of it as an adult than you previously did as a child?
In honor of Rudyard Kipling’s story The Jungle Book recently hitting movie theatres across the globe; I thought I’d take a look back at the 1967 Walt Disney classic that warmed the hearts of many of us growing up. I remember watching this as a child a couple of times (okay maybe a couple of hundred times!) and absolutely loving it, so I thought I’d watch it again as an adult just for fun.
I was surprised to notice many valuable lessons embedded into the story that I wish I knew earlier. Here are 7 life lessons we can all learn from The Jungle Book.
1. Always Be Teachable
Bagheera the panther tried to teach Mowgli about the dangers of the jungle. Mowgli being young and naive was unwilling to listen. He wanted to continue to live in the jungle and he ignored Bagheera’s advice. This attitude got Mowgli into a heap of trouble; luckily Bagheera was there to bail him out.
There’s a Zen story that comes to mind.
A professor went to learn from a wise Zen master, but it quickly became obvious to the Zen master that the professor was more interested in showing off his own knowledge than in learning. He interrupted the Zen master continually. He followed each story that the Zen master told him with a story of his own, instead of really listening.
Whilst noticing this, the Zen master started to serve tea. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself and blurted out, “It’s full! No more will go in!”.
“This is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup”.
We should all try to remember this advice. Living to our potential requires us to keep learning and expanding. Life is a continuous learning experience and we will always have new things to learn. Keeping a teachable mindset leads us to the ability to change, grow and move forward in life. There may be people out there that are wrong, which is fine. In that case,
‘Absorb what is useful, disregard what is not and add what is uniquely your own’. – Bruce Lee
2. Embrace Your Surroundings
Mowgli doesn’t focus on the fact that he has no family and is an orphan. He’s more interested in what he does have, which is a huge jungle before his eyes. This leads Mowgli on a big adventure where he meets a lot of new friends. In the jungle, Mowgli learns to improvise and embrace his surroundings.
There are many ways we can improvise and embrace our surroundings in life. For example, if you want to get into shape but you do not have a gym membership, don’t let that stop you. Instead, learn to be creative. You can do dips, inverted rows, one legged lunges, decline push ups and more with just a normal house chair. You can use the monkey bars in a park playground to do pull-ups. Don’t have any weights? You can fill a backpack with books and use this to do curls, push-ups, squats and much more.
People need to focus on the things they have and not get caught up obsessing over the things they don’t have. When we focus on what we do have we become more appreciative and happy. This leads us to go on and get more good things.
Mowgli used his surroundings to have fun. You can do this too. If you want to get into shape you can use your surroundings to get started.
‘Be happy with what you have whilst working for what you want’. – Helen Keller
3. Enjoy Your Life, Laugh with Your Friends and Learn to Relax
Baloo the bear and Mowgli had an awesome time together. Baloo taught Mowgli that some of life’s great pleasures come for free. During Baloo’s song, Baloo tells Mowgli not to let worries get to him and to learn to relax.
“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife”.
(I hope I’m not the only one that knows every word to this song and all the other songs in The Jungle Book?).
This is some great advice that we all should remind ourselves about. Sometimes we can make small problems turn into huge worries; you know the phrase, ‘making a mountain out of a molehill?’ We need to be aware of our thoughts.
If you have a stressful day at the office you may end up taking the stress and worries home with you. This is not only unhealthy for the mind but it doesn’t help with the problem either.
Sometimes we can spend so much time and energy worrying that we can neglect the people we love who are around us. Love, friendship and laughter, are all free. They don’t cost any money. They are natural pleasures that are there for us to use at our own will. They can enhance our mood leading us to enjoy our lives more. If we worry about the past or future, we miss the present.
‘Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strengths’. – Corrie Ten Boom
4. Take Time to Appreciate People
Mowgli is constantly looking for love and friendship but does not see the love that his friend Bagheera has for him right before his eyes. Many times Bagheera nearly gives up on Mowgli but, he always ends up returning and helping Mowgli out of bad situations.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in our lives that it’s easy to forget the people that are always there for us. We need to remember to appreciate the people that have always had our backs through the good and bad times.
Whether it’s giving a phone call to a parent just to say thank you, buying some flowers for a loved one, taking a friend out for dinner whatever it is, we should remember to show appreciation.
This shows our friends and family that what they have done for us is important and we remember every detail. This will not only enhance our own life but it enriches theirs too. It boosts the person’s self-esteem and makes them feel appreciated and valuable.
‘Don’t forget a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated’. – H. Jackson Brown
5. Approve of Yourself
When Mowgli sees the elephant herd lead by Connell Hathi, he tries to join in and he imitates the elephants. Mowgli is constantly looking to fit in and get approved by other animals.
Many people are like this too. I don’t mean they hop the fence at the zoo and start to eat with the elephants but, they are constantly looking for the approval from others. Searching for approval from others can leave you with an uncomfortable feeling and even make you feel slightly anxious.
When you approve of yourself, you tend to become more relaxed and gain an inner freedom to follow your own path and do what you really want to do.
Not approving of yourself can lead to putting barriers in your mind to what you may or may not deserve, or what you are truly capable of. We need to give self-approval and allow ourselves to have the inner freedom of expressing ourselves and being happy.
‘A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval’. – Mark Twain
6. Face Your Fears
Mowgli faced his fear of the tiger Shere Khan. He plucked up the courage to save his friend Baloo by tying a burning tree branch to Sheer Khan’s tail. This caused Shere Khan to run away in fear.
Sometimes we avoid our fears. This can make us lead a mediocre life. When we face our fears we empower ourselves and we gain confidence with each fear we conquer. I was once approached by a teenage boy who wanted tips for home training to build muscle.
He was afraid of being ridiculed at a gym for being skinny, so he never attended one. I could have easily given him tips for training at home but, I could see that this would not have helped him with his fear.
I explained to him the benefits he would get from working out at the gym and that everyone at the gym was once a beginner too. I managed to persuade him to give it a try. He faced his fear of being ridiculed and now works out 4 days a week at a gym and loves every minute of it. He has also made a bunch of new friends.
Face your fears and assert mastery over them (I’m talking about an intangible fear by the way; I wouldn’t recommend trying to tie a burning stick to a tiger’s tail!).
‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
7. Try New Things
Mowgli was adamant that he didn’t want to go to the man village. He had never even seen the man village or experienced what it was like, but it was somewhere he was determined not to go. However, Mowgli saw a young girl from the man village and was totally besotted by her. He ended up going with her into the man village at the end of the story.
Sometimes it’s easy to be scared of the unknown. This leads us to keep doing the same things and not changing or trying new things. If we are too fearful of trying something new, we won’t have a full understanding of ourselves.
Through trial and error of experiencing new things, we discover our strengths, weaknesses and what we can improve upon. Trying something new takes confidence and the more we try new things, the more our confidence grows. We also get to meet new people and make new friends.
‘You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new’. – Brian Tracy
I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching The Jungle Book. It has reminded me to keep learning, embrace my surroundings, enjoy myself, appreciate my friends and family, have confidence in myself, face my fears and to try new things. Not bad for a children’s animation! I hope the new movie embraces the stories lessons.
Kamal Gill is the creator of modestdragon.com. Modest Dragon is a mixed martial arts and fitness blog dedicated to helping everyday people burn fat, build muscle and learn effective mixed martial arts techniques. You can connect with him on Twitter.