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November 2017

Life Lessons from the Movie Elf


Elf-Positively-Present

  

It was a cold and cloud-covered Saturday morning in November 2003, and my boyfriend had just tearfully confessed his betrayal while lying next to me in bed. He was regretful and apologetic, swearing it would never happen again, professing his love in such a desperate way that I immediately demanded he leave. After his departure, I paced and wrote pathetically dark poetry (most have faded from memory now, but I recall one that revolved around the concept of using my blood as ink to write out a list of his flaws — ah, how morbid and dramatic I was!).

Somewhere in between bouts of crying and typing, my best friend showed up with a six pack and an idea. "You need to get out," she said. "Let's go see Elf." I was despondent and angry, and the thought of a joy-filled holiday movie wasn't what I'd envisioned for my Saturday afternoon — more goth-themed poetry and perhaps some angry splattering of paint on canvas seemed more appropriate — but I begrudgingly let her drive me to to the theater. 

Looking back on it now, all these years later, I'm not sure if it was the tone of the film (such a stark and silly contrast to what I'd been feeling alone in my room), the few beers I'd drunk beforehand, or the comedic brilliance of Will Ferrell, but I'd never laughed as hard, nor felt as uplifted, during a film as I did when watching Elf that afternoon. That period of my life was challenging —  it's now a muddled memory of the betrayal and break-up, the reconciliation and the months of angst and mistrust and the love that grew weirdly stronger than it had been before — but I'll never forget how I felt in the theater that day, laughing so hard and giving into the silliness of that make-believe world when my heart was so heavy. 

Anyway, long story short: Elf holds a special place in my heart, as far as films go. Years ago (in 2010!) I wrote about the life lessons I'd picked up from watching the film (which I've probably done at least a few dozen times since 2003), and I thought I'd revisit them again this year. Whether or not you're into the film, you're bound to gain some good insights from Buddy below:  


Lesson #1: Spread cheer (Christmas and otherwise).  
"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

Spreading cheer sounds like an easy enough thing to do — but not when the people around you aren't into it. That's one of the great things about Buddy the Elf. He doesn't care if other people are cheerful or not. He continues to look for the positive in the things around him and point them out to others. And, in addition, he tries to encourage others to be cheerful as well (as he was doing when he said the above quote to love interest, Jovie). It's not always easy to be cheerful, but Buddy serves as an motivating inspiration for the benefits of having a cheerful attitude.


Lesson #2: Make smiling your favorite.

"I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite."

Smiling's a small thing that's actually a big thing. The small act of smiling can change not only someone else's day, but your own as well. Try it. Next time you see someone you know — or even someone you don't — remember Buddy's quote above and make smiling your favorite thing to do. Greeting someone with a smile can transform an interaction and set a pleasant tone for that person — and for you as well. Don't think you'll be running into anyone today? Try looking in the mirror and smiling at yourself. Sounds crazy but it's actually a mood-booster!


Lesson #3: Be yourself, even when it's hard to know who you are
.
"Actually, I'm a human, but I was raised by elves."

From the beginning of the film, Buddy struggles with his identity. Having been raised by elves, rather than humans, he struggles to figure out where he fits in in the world. He might look like a human but he certainly acts like an elf. Nevertheless, throughout the film, Buddy strives to be himself — even when that self makes him stick out dramatically in the human world. It would be much easier for him to learn and conform to the standards around him, but Buddy chooses to stay true to himself — a trait I admire in anyone (human or elf!).


Lesson #4: Give out compliments freely.
"Deb, you have such a pretty face. You should be on a Christmas card!"

One thing Buddy does incredibly well is dole out compliments. As the movie progresses, the number of positive things Buddy says about other people is actually pretty amazing. The quote above references only one of the times he compliments his father's assistant and, from her reaction, you know his words made her day. I find that I often have complimentary thoughts, but I don't always say them aloud. Making the effort not only to see the positive in others, but to tell them about it as well, can have a very powerful impact on your social interactions.


Lesson #5: Take risks.
"Papa says my real father lives in a magical place far away... but the thing is, I've never left the North Pole."

Want good things to happen to you? Like Buddy, you have to take risks. At the beginning of the film, Buddy finds out that he's not actually an elf and, though he's never before left the North Pole, he decides to bravely venture to NYC to meet his human father. This is the kind of risk a lot of people would be hesitant to take, but it's just the kind of risk that can have great rewards. Doing something different — breaking out of your comfort zone — is a great way to find new and exciting outlets for positivity in your life.


Lesson #6: Don't give up.
"I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel."

The quote above is just one example of Buddy's perseverance demonstrated in the film. On more than one occasion, Buddy is faced with challenges, but instead of complaining or stressing about them as many of us do, Buddy takes his challenges head-on and does what he needs to do to achieve whatever goal he's working towards. With the amount of times Buddy is put down in the film, it would have been much easier for him to give up and return the life he'd been living. But, as the positively inspiring elf that he is, Buddy doesn't give up but instead keeps working harder and harder — all while maintaining a positive attitude!


Lesson #7: Speak your mind.
"If you can sing alone, you can sing in front of other people. There's no difference."

In a conversation with his love interest, Jovie, Buddy explains to her that there's no difference between singing in front of others and singing alone (a fact he then goes on to demonstrate). Though she strongly disagrees with his point, Buddy doesn't seem to mind and continues to do what he can to convince her. This is only one example of how, in the film, Buddy is never afraid to say what's on his mind. He'll tell someone he loves him. He'll tell a fake Santa he's a fraud. He'll speak the truth — and his mind — without hesitation, something most are afraid to do. We could all learn a thing or two from Buddy's ability to be open and honest with those around him.


Lesson #8: Let life excite you.
"Good news! I saw a dog today!"

One of the things I love most about Buddy the Elf is his ability to be truly excited by life. In the scene from which the quote above was taken, Buddy greets his half-brother after school and exclaims with utter joy how he's spent his day. The most mundane things excite Buddy and there's not a bit of him that holds back his excitement for life. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone was as happy to be alive as Buddy is? If everyone looked at the world around him/her with utter excitement? Buddy's inspired me to take another look around and see the wonder that really is all around me. Too often I get caught up on what I have to get done and I forget to stop and really be present and enjoy the moment — something Buddy seems to do very well.


Lesson #9: Show affection.

"Does somebody need a hug?"

How often do you show affection to the ones you love? I do what I can to be affectionate, but I can honestly say I'm no match for the ever-affectionate Buddy, who is always giving hugs and spouting words of love. Now, I wouldn't recommend hugging everyone (as Buddy demonstrates in the quote above, said right before he attempts to hug an angry-looking raccoon), but I do think there's a lesson to be learned from Buddy's ability to openly and consistently show affection. Showing affection is a great way to connect with others and make their lives — and yours! — more positive.


Lesson #10: Do what you love.
"First we'll make snow angels for a two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle."

If there's one lesson to be taken away from the film, it's this: do what you love. Buddy, being the positive elf that he is, loves doing a lot of things and they aren't the "normal" things most adult men love to do, but you know what? He does them anyway. He doesn't let the human culture constrain him, forcing him to do what he "should" do. No, Buddy makes his own path and finds ways to spend time doing the things he loves to do. We should all follow Buddy's lead and be honest with ourselves about what we truly love to do. Once we've identified our favorite things, it's time to put that love into action because doing what you love to do is one of the best ways to be positive and present.

 

Did I miss any of the life lessons from Elf? I bet if I watched it again right now (which, let's be honest, I might actually do), I could find even more wisdom from Buddy. Let me know if you have any additional lessons in the comments below — or let me know what your favorite holiday (or anytime) film and what you've learned from it!  

 

PPGTL-Footer Love-Self-Footer Find-Self-Footer


 

 


The Ultimate Book Gift Guide : 2017 Edition


Books-Positively-Present

 

 

As a writer and a reader, books are one of the best aspects of life in my opinion — and they're always at the top of my gift lists every holiday season. Last year I rounded up a list of some of my favorite recommendations in the Ultimate Book Gift Guide, and this year I decided to add to the list. If you already perused last year's list, start from the top, as that's where I'll be adding the newer recommendations. 

No matter who is on your shopping list (or maybe you're just looking for some good reads yourself!), you're bound to find some good options below. As with last year, I've tried to offer suggestions for who might enjoy the books, but definitely click the links to check out the titles that appeal to you, since you never know who might enjoy certain titles! 

And if you have any recommendations for books that make good gifts, feel free to leave the titles in the comments section below!  

  

FOR ADULT FAMILY MEMBERS

For the one who could use a little more magic in her life...
The Rules of Magic / Alice Hoffman

For the aunt who really needs a life overall...
Reinvent Me / Camilla Dollerup

For anyone (or related to someone) battling addiction...
Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions / Russell Brand

For the cousin who is really into his dog (and science)...
Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell / Alexandra Horowitz

For the aunt who is obsessed with animals...
How to Find Your Spirit Animal / David Carson

For your dad who loves Charles Dickens...
The Man Who Invented Christmas / Les Standiford

For everyone in your family who doesn't understand introverts... 
Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life / Aaron Caycedo-Kimura

For your mom, who's always trying to make things cozy...
The Little Book of Hygge / Meik Wiking

For literally anyone related to you or who has a family... 
It Didn't Start with You / Mark Wolynn

For your uber-opinionated and vocal grandfather...
The Joy of Argument / Albert Navarra

For your too tough-and-cool for self-help uncle...
10% Happier / Dan Harris

For your memory-hoarding mother... 
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo

For your self-involved (but secretly sweet) teenager... 
Tiny Buddha's 365 Love Challenges / Lori Deschene

For your not-quite-on-the-same-page spouse...
The Five Love Languages / Gary Chapman

For your romance-novel-reading mother-in-law...
Other People's Love Letters / Bill Shapiro

For your hilarious (and a bit odd) aunt...
Furiously Happy / Jenny Lawson

For your sibling with a kid who's struggling in school...
Thinking Organized / Rhonna Gordon

For the dad who thinks feminism is for women only...
Feminism Is for Everybody / bell hooks

For your aunt and uncle who're constantly bickering...
Blamestorming / Rob Kendall

For your health-conscious, foodie brother-in-law...
In Defense of Food / Michael Pollan 

For the mother who puts everyone else first... 
Too Nice for Your Own Good / Duke Robinson

For your brother who needs a bit of inspiration...
This is How / Augusten Burroughs

For your father-in-law who loves a good mystery...
Knights in White Satin / Philip DiPirro

For your sister who's against ever marrying...
Spinster / Kate Bolick

For your aunt who's self-identifies as a dog mom...
Inside of a Dog / Alexandra Horowitz

For the cousin still working on that novel...
On Writing / Stephen King

For the niece struggling through her 20s...
It's a Wonderful Lie / Emily Franklin

For the aunt who loves daily bits of insight... 
Stay Positive / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your spouse (read it together!)...
Love 2.0 / Barbara L. Frederickson

For the sibling you've not-so-subtly resented for years... 
Forgiveness / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your parent who's curious about self-improvement...
The Positively Present Guide to Life / Dani DiPirro (me!)

 

FOR KIDS AND TEENAGERS

For your teenage niece / nephew / neighbor / anyone...
Turtles All the Way Down / John Green

For all the kids who adore funny and smart books...
Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt / Ben Clanton

For the teen who needs to get out of her comfort zone...
Surprise Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into the World / Lisa Currie

For the kids and teens who'd rather stay in then go out...
Introvert Doodles / Maureen "Marzi" Wilson

For every child or teen or adult on your list...
Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too / Jomny Sun

For your slightly neurotic niece or nephew...
Owl at Home / Arnold Lobel

For a teenager at odds with her mother...
The Runaway Bunny / Margaret Wise Brown

For the child who's not like his/her siblings...
The Trumpet of the Swan / E.B. White

For the teen who doesn't like standing out... 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky

For the little toddler who's always a bit grumpy...
Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? / Carol McCloud

For the little one who's always daydreaming...
Once Upon a Cloud / Claire Keane

For the middle-schooler adjusting to a new place... 
I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith

For the teen with a potentially self-destructive friend...
Looking for Alaska / John Green

For the teenage girl who love the broody boys...
The Wind Blows Backward / Mary Downing Hahn

For the girl who needs some modern advice...
Girl Talk / Christie Young

For the little girl who wants a place of her own...
Mandy / Julie Andrews Edwards

For the creative teenager who needs a pick-me-up...
Pick Me Up / Adam J. Kurtz 

For the deep-thinking, graphic-book-loving teen...
Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi

For the teenager always snapping Insta pics...
A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book / Elsie Larson

For the super creative (and a little spooky) kid...
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick / Chris Van Allsburg

For the kid who loves animals more than people...
Guardians of Being / Eckhart Tolle

 

FOR YOUR FRIENDS

For the pal who needs a spiritual boost...
White Hot Truth / Danielle LaPorte

For the antisocial buddy you rarely see...
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World / Michael Harris

For the super busy boss babe who needs to chill...
Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path / Erin Loechner

For anyone who struggles with anxiety or OCD...
Turtles All the Way Down / John Green

For your friend who loves The Little Prince...
Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too / Jomny Sun

For the friend who's a (not so) secret badass...
Bad Girls Throughout History / Ann Shen

For the friend going through a really tough time...
Loving What Is / Byron Katie

For the always-judging-others friend...
Compassion / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the friend sighing, "I should try meditating..."
You Can Master Meditation / David Fontana

For the friend who needs to dump him/her ASAP...
The No-Contact Rule / Natalie Lue

For the friend who cancels plans to read instead...
Quiet: The Power of Introverts / Susan Cain

For the friend struggling to get pregnant...
The Fairy Rebel / Lynn Reid Banks

For the friend who's scared of (but needs to) change...
Start Where You Are / Meera Lee Patel

For your super creative, artistic, cool friend...
In Progress / Jessica Hische

For the friend who constantly seeks external approval...
I Need Your Love: Is That True? / Byron Katie

For the friend who recently said goodbye to a pup...
Dog Heaven / Cynthia Rylant

For the buddy who's constantly worrying...
The Power of Now / Eckhart Tolle 

For the friend with a rocky mother/daughter relationship... 
Boundaries / Anne Katherine

For your sassy friend who needs a happiness boost...
How to Be Happy, Dammit! / Karen Salmansohn

For your whimsical friend who loves a bit of magic...
The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern

For a friend who seems like she's really lost...
Wild / Cheryl Strayed

For the friend that still keeps a diary...
The Folded Clock / Heidi Julavits

For the pal that needs to figure out what she wants...
The Desire Map / Danielle LaPorte

For the guy who's always crying over his ex...
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald

For your feminist friend who feels all the feels...
I Am an Emotional Creature / Eve Ensler

For your buddy who's always searching the next rush...
Hector and the Search for Happiness / François Lelord

 

FOR YOUR COLLEAGUES

For the creative stuck in his comfort zone...
Surprise Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into the World / Lisa Currie

For anyone who doesn't anything remotely creative...
Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives / Adam J. Kurtz

For the coworker filled with ideas (and restless energy!)...
Tinker Dabble Doodle Try / Srini Pillay

For the creative-but-frazzled coworker...
Calm / Michael Acton Smith

For the coworker who needs to follow her passion...
The Crossroads of Should and Must / Elle Luna

For the too-creative-for-this place coworker...
Big Magic / Elizabeth Gilbert

For the coworker who's always super stressed...
Living in the Moment / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the colleague always around adults...
The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For someone who needs a bit of motivation...
It's Not How Good You Are... / Paul Arden

For the coworker who's always complaining...
Gratitude / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the a stylish guy/gal who loves soul-searching...
Style Statement / Danielle LaPorte

For the coworker getting his kids a puppy...
The Puppy Primer / Patricia B. McConnell

For the guy always yelling in his office...
Emotional Agility / Susan David, PhD

For that colleague always looking for gossip...
PostSecret / Frank Warren

For that guy always looking for a project...
The Happiness of Pursuit / Chris Guillebeau

For the colleague always finding the bad stuff...
You Can Be an Optimist / Lucy MacDonald

For the coworker who should run her own business...
#GirlBoss / Sophia Amoruso

For the HR guy who loves analyzing people... 
The Social Animal / David Brooks 

For your colleague who can't choose a lunch spot...
The Paradox of Choice / Barry Schwartz

For the boss who's perpetually stressed out...
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work / Richard Carlson

For the trivia-loving data dude in IT...
The Visual Miscellaneum / David McCandless

For the admin who needs to pursue her dreams...
Now Is The Time To Do What You Love / Nancy Whitney-Reiter

 

I hope this updated list helps you find the perfect book for everyone on your list! (Or, let's be honest, for yourself, 'cause I know you're looking for something for you too!). If you purchase any of the books and enjoy them, don't forget to leave a review on Amazon. It helps authors (like me!) so much. And if you're curious about my books (many of which are sprinkled throughout this list), check out my Amazon Author Page here


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