The Challenge: We may struggle to find fulfillment in our lives, but…
The Science: James Bond shows us that mindfulness and self-respect are just a few things that help create meaningfulness.
The Solution: Here are 007 things we can learn from James Bond to live fulfilled!
So you think James Bond movies are a kind of boisterous, testosterone-laden teenage phantasy? You may be right. At the same, the most famous of all agents in Her Majesty’s Secret Service can teach us a lot about a live well-lived. And I am not (necessarily) talking about the best way to serve a Martini. Here are 007 bits and pieces of wisdom that can be distilled from almost 50 years of cinematic history:
Don’t get irritated
James Bond is always “cool” – at least that’s the impression he makes on others. He focuses on the situation at hand and the overarching goal of his mission and never gets sidetracked, except for the occasional tête-à-tête – but even those often serve a purpose, e.g., annoying one of the evil guys. At the end of the day, this is a lesson about mindfulness – which has shown to be associated with positive outcomes in several important life domains, including mental health, physical health, behavioral regulation, and interpersonal relationships.
Take immediate Action
007 is not much of a planner. He makes up his mind and improvises a lot of his moves on the spot, relying on his wits and physical abilities. He knows that the life as a super-agent is full of surprises and events that one cannot really prepare for. Therefore, he sticks to a few big goals and decides on the next-best move “then and there”. The ability to cope with uncertainty and unforeseen events is a critical element of resilience.
Show Self Respect
James Bond never questions his abilities, he never falters or hesitates. While a real-life person cannot (and maybe shouldn’t…) be equipped with an equally high level of self-confidence, this is probably a lesson about self-efficacy, the “power of believing you can”. Self-efficacy is the scientific version of Henry Ford’s aphorism: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” By believing that we can reach a certain goal, we are increasing the likelihood of actually getting there. This has been extensively demonstrated in the area of work, education, and sports.
Always carry a Secret Weapon
When in desperate straits, 007 always has one more trick up his sleeve, usually a tiny gadget given to him by the armorer “Q”. Seen through the lens of Positive Psychology, this part refers to the very unique set of signature strengths that we all possess – and that we should rely on when to going gets tough, since using our personal strengths is associated with a higher likelihood of reaching our goals. Additionally, this point shows that other people matter. Even a lone wolf like Bond needs other people´s support at times.
Act with Style
James Bond portrays a unique style. And he understands that style is mostly about simplicity. He´s always dressed and groomed extremely well – which means he sticks to time-tested essentials. The suits, the hairdo, the watches, the cars, and the handgun: they all seem to say: Don´t get carried away by fashion, don´t get lost in unnecessary details – no frills. This is also a lesson on efficiency: Bond knows that sticking to certain defaults is one of the most intelligent ways to avoid unnecessary decision-making – thereby saving up mental capacity for more precarious moments in life than choosing what to wear for dinner.
The true significance of the current mission will become clear later in the Bahamas
This point has a lot to do with the “connecting the dots”-part of Steve Job´s Stanford Commencement speech. Life can only be lived forward, but the sense-making happens looking backward. Hence, we have to embark on the journey without necessarily knowing where it will end – or what it all means. We have to get moving – anyway. Otherwise, we won´t even make it to the Bahamas. This resembles the process of how entrepreneurs are finding ideas for their next start-up: they acquire knowledge in different areas of life and only later on start to recognize relationships or patterns in those seemingly unrelated events or trends in the external world.
You are in Her Majesty’s Secret Service
This is the most important principle though it may not seem straightforward: Even though James Bond seems like a cynical, ruthless, and at times even nihilistic person – he´s definitely not. He is an agent in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, fighting for the safety of his country and “the free world” in general. He is not in it for himself. James Bond clearly has a higher purpose and acts according to certain unshakable values. Research has shown that people who perceive their life as having a strong purpose are more focused, resilient, and inventive in pursuing their goals. As such, having a strong purpose is the foundation for all the above-mentioned principles.
Although I wish I would have done so, I didn´t come up with this stuff myself. I first heard about the “James Bond Philosophy of Life” at the University of Pennsylvania shortly before Christmas 2013 from the magnificent Esa Saarinen, a “star” philosopher from Finland. In his lectures, Esa refers to No. 7 as “finding the Queen”: We all have to find a queen we can and want to serve. We are not on this world only for ourselves. Until we’ve understood this crucial point, we are only living half a life.
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