What Disney can teach you about wishes

Holiday season is upon us. It’s a time when we’re encouraged to wish. We get “wish books” of holiday catalogs in the mail. Children tell their wishes to Santa about what presents they want to receive. We wish everyone the best for the holidays. And we wish we didn’t have to hear “Jingle Bells” for the 98th time.

But the expert at making wishes come true is Disney. Their movies are all about wishes coming true, whether it’s finding true love or defeating supervillains. But as their movies show us, wishing isn’t just about waving a magic wand.

Here are several lessons I’ve learned from watching Disney movies over the years. (You probably have seen these movies, especially if you have kids. If you haven’t seen these movies, spoilers are ahead.)

“A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”

The key to making a wish come true is passion. You must believe in it wholeheartedly to sustain yourself through the challenges you’ll face in realizing it. You will confront setbacks, disappointments, and your own limitations. You need to have the passion and belief to keep pursuing your goal. As the song says, “No matter how your heart is grieving/If you keep on believing/The dream that you wish will come true.”

Find your fairy godparents

To fulfill your wish, you also need help. Don’t expect someone to wave a magic wand and turn a pumpkin into a coach. Instead, look for mentors, advisors, and experts. Join organizations, both online and in-person, where you can share ideas and get support. Your “fairy godparent” may be a book or website that provides the information you need. Seek out people who can help you and repay it by giving help to them or others.

Expect villains

The moment you pursue a wish, someone will emerge to challenge you. They may see you as a threat to their ambitions (like Lady Tremaine in Cinderella), they may want to exploit you (like Stromboli in Pinocchio), they may be jealous of you (like the Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), or they may be completely malicious (like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland). If you have a villain, congratulations! A good enemy can help you focus your efforts, challenge your assumptions, and strengthen your weaknesses. Villains are often an important part of pursuing your wishes because they force you to be your best—and be the better person.

Earn your “happily ever after”

In Disney movies, no one’s wish gets granted until they earn it. The Blue Fairy didn’t make Pinocchio a real boy right away. He had to prove his honesty and courage before the wish can come true. Long before her fairy godmother arrived, Cinderella showed her compassion, grace, patience, and work ethic. Those qualities enabled her to win over the Prince. Sometimes, the wish comes true when you let go of what you think you want. When Aladdin set the Genie free, he gave up his final wish but gained a loyal friend who will help him at any time. In Frozen, Anna learns that the “act of true love” to break the curse wasn’t marrying the handsome prince (who turned out to be a jerk) but by being willing to sacrifice herself for her sister.

Magic happens

Although magic appears in Disney movies, it really isn’t what makes wishes come true. The wishes came true through the hard work of their heroes. They believed in their wishes wholeheartedly and didn’t give up when things got hard. They found support and guidance. They faced their villains and used those challenges to grow. By growing, learning, and working, they deserved their wish coming true. This is the real magic of wishes—how they transform us to be better people and create something wonderful.

What is your wish? How will you make it come true?