Earlier this week I saw “Up” for the first time. It’s a wonderful film about an older gentleman who pursues his life goal of seeing Paradise Falls in South America. The movie starts by showing Carl, a young man in search of adventure, meeting the even more adventuresome Ellie whom he would later marry. Together, they decide that they want to go to Paradise Falls together. They set out a jar and start collecting change for the trip. But the little things in life keeps getting in the way, like needing to repair their car or pay medical bills. In the end, they manage to save up enough to buy plane tickets but by then Ellie is too ill to travel.Up Movie Photo

The movie offered up several lessons about how to pursue life goals.

1. Carl and Ellie had a clear, tangible goal.
They didn’t want to just “travel more” or “see the world”. They had a very specific plan and destination in mind. Because they knew exactly what they wanted to do, they knew how much they needed to save for the trip and what was needed to get there. If they had a vague goal like “travel more” it would be much harder to figure out what it would take to make that happen or even if they achieve that goal at all.
2. They kept reminding themselves of their goals. Throughout their house they put up all kinds of reminders of what they were working towards. They painted a mural of the falls in their living room. They kept a change jar labeled “Paradise Falls” near the door. These daily reminders made sure they wouldn’t forget what their goals were. I’m working on this myself by doing things like putting a model plane on my desk (since I want to learn how to fly a plane). It also helps that my workplace has lots of world maps where I can see them all the time.

3. They worked together towards the goal. If Ellie kept wanting to buy shiny new shoes all the time or if Carl wanted to spend all their money on rounds of golf every weekend, they would have gotten nowhere. But the movie shows that they are both doing little things together and supporting each other to make the trip happen. Having support from others, whether it’s a spouse, a best friend or a stranger on your doorstep is critical to achieving a goal. That support can help you get past obstacles and provide encouragement when you’re down. Working together is even more critical if two or more people are pursuing the same goal. It’s important that everyone is on the same page about the goal and are willing to make sacrifices to make it happen and not sabotage each other’s effort. This is also why having a specific, detailed goal is important- it helps everyone to have the same unified vision.
4. Carl never gave up. Even after his wife was unable to come with him to the falls, Carl found a way to get to South America. He had to make some changes to his original plans and he didn’t travel in a way that he envisioned at first, but he made the plan work. He had to overcome a lot of obstacles along the way but nothing got him down for long.
5. Carl didn’t let his age stop him. Despite the glasses and needing a cane and being 78 years old, Carl never thought “I’m just too old for this”. Granted, this is a cartoon but there’s plenty of examples of older people getting out and having fun, such as former US president George H.W. Bush going skydiving for his 85th birthday. The reverse is true too in that being young shouldn’t stop anyone from chasing their dream.

Up also served as a cautionary tale in some respects by showing things that can get in the way of a life goal.
1. Carl and Ellie didn’t have an emergency fund. Most people’s life goals generally involve some financial aspect to it. The couple was doing the right thing in saving for the trip, but they didn’t have an emergency fund to deal with life’s little hiccups. As a result, they were forced to clean out their trip fund every time an unexpected bill came up. Lucia over at Money Strands wrote a great post that goes into much more detail about how to start and maintain an emergency fund. And while it was outside of the scope of the movie, developing a solid savings plan beyond just dropping change in a jar is critical if you want to achieve your goal before you turn 78.
2. The couple didn’t start pursuing their life goal until later in life. Carl and Ellie had decided when they were kids that they wanted to go to Paradise Falls. Had they decided that they wanted to pursue that goal earlier in life, they could have done it before they got tied down with a house or a car. Starting earlier also would have meant Ellie could have gone before she became ill.

It’s a challenge to not get caught up in the everyday affairs of life, especially if there’s the expectation that you’re suppose to go get a job, get married, have kids, work for 40 years, and then enjoy traveling in retirement. It’s much more fun to ignore what society expects of people and go do your own thing instead. Besides, waiting 40 years to achieve your travel dreams is really a bummer.

Overall, Up is a wonderful movie about travel, adventure and enjoying both the journey and the destination.

Photo by Pixar