On my 7th birthday, I remember we went over to a family friends’ house so that the parents could watch the NHL Stanley Cup Finals while the kids hung out. We watched Back to the Future, which I had never seen before and was a little over my head as a young kid, and then we watched Shrek. Although I had seen Shrek before, this time watching it always stuck out in my head. To be honest, I think it was because I spent my birthday watching it at a friend’s house instead of running around in my backyard with my friends burning off some ice cream cake like my other birthdays. Nonetheless, I remember thinking (yes, at the age of 7) that wow Donkey sure was a lot to handle. Ironically, I know that people have felt the same about me before, which got me thinking more about Donkey and his character traits. Yes, he loves to sing outrageously, is a little oblivious, and is definitely there for the comedic relief, but he is also unwaveringly optimistic, enjoys the little things in life, and is fiercely loyal to his friends. These are all traits that we could stand to integrate into our daily lives to begin molding ourselves into our best versions and loving the life we live. So today, we are going to dive deeper into Shrek, a classic movie from many of our childhoods, and explore three reasons why you should be more like Donkey in your everyday life.
1. Unwaveringly Optimistic
One of Donkey’s traits that always really stood out to me was his unwaveringly optimistic attitude. Regardless of whether he is running away from the men trying to imprison fairytale creatures, charging the princess’ castle to save her, or just dealing with Shrek’s attitude in general, he is always positive and upbeat. For example, when Donkey first meets Shrek, Shrek doesn’t understand why Donkey isn’t scared of him. So Shrek tells him: “I’m an ogre! You know, grab your torch and pitchforks. Doesn’t that bother you?” To which Donkey smiles, shakes his head, and says NOPE! Now, if this isn’t a lesson in accepting others, then I don’t know what is. Regardless of how Shrek looks on the outside, Donkey sees past his ‘onion layers’ and can recognize who he is on the inside. Not to be dramatic, but Donkey’s unwavering optimism completely changes his life from being owned by an old lady trying to sell him for a reward to being a free Donkey with new relationships and a brand new life. In other words, his positive attitude allowed him to fire his old self to make way for his new, best self to emerge so that he can live his best life.
In the next scene, when Shrek consents to him staying the night, Donkey is thrilled and says the infamous line: “We can stay up late, swapping manly stories, and then in the morning – I’m making waffles!” Even though he just narrowly escaped being sold to a fairytale creature’s imprisonment camp, Donkey’s just happy to be with his new friend Shrek and excited to get to know him better. This is another lesson to take from Donkey; never let things from your past drag you down, take a moment to reset, and then focus your attention forward on more positive things on the horizon. This can be an extremely hard thing to do. As someone who deals with anxiety, I often find myself dwelling on bad things that have happened to me in the past. But what is that really accomplishing for me? As the analysis of Donkey’s character traits reveals – nothing, it accomplishes absolutely nothing for me. Therefore, working to shift my mindset to be more positive will not only allow me to focus on the good moving forward but also present me with new opportunities as I work towards becoming my best self.
2. Enjoys the Little Things
Another thing that Donkey consistently does throughout Shrek is take time to enjoy the little things. There are several examples of this throughout the movie, with one of the infamous lines coming right near the beginning of the film. When Shrek and Donkey first see the swamp, Donkey unknowingly asks Shrek who would want to live here, and Shrek tells him it’s his home. Donkey then begins to recant his statement, tries to point out positive things, and then says, “Look at that boulder, that’s a nice boulder!” Although he was trying to backtrack on what he just said about Shrek’s home, the sentiment reminds us that we need to slow down and enjoy the little things we may come across in our journeys – like a nice rock or a fragrant flower. By taking a moment to slow down and notice things around us, we can begin to shift our mindset to a more positive one while truly beginning to enjoy the little things and live our best life.
Later, when Shrek and Donkey are trying to get to Lord Farquaad’s castle to complain about the magical animals that got dumped at his swamp, they come across a Welcome to Duloc singing introduction booth, and of course, Donkey pulls the lever immediately. After the song plays out and their picture gets taken along the caption “Welcome to Duloc,” Donkey goes, “WOW, let’s do that again!!” Shrek obviously says no, and they move along, which always made me wonder – how many times would Donkey have pulled the lever and watched the little wooden figures dance before he got bored? It is impossible to say, but his enthusiasm to watch it again makes me think he would be there for a while. This instance reminds us that when we find something random that entertains or intrigues us, to try and let ourselves enjoy it to the fullest. Giving yourself the time to acknowledge and enjoy the little things, like maybe parking to have your first few sips of coffee or watching that cat video you find hilarious, can really allow you to live in the moment and begin to mold your best self and life.
The movie Shrek has even helped me enjoy the little things throughout my life. One of the most popular lines (to me) from Shrek has to be when they’re crossing the bridge to get to the castle, and Shrek tells Donkey to not look down. Donkey is scared and repeating to himself, “Don’t look down.” Then a piece of wood breaks from the bridge and falls into the lava, making Donkey look down, and he yells, “Shrek! I’m looking down!!!” So, when I was younger, my dad would take my little sister and me to McDonald’s to grab some food and play in the Playhouse. When we crossed things like tubes or bridges that were high up, we would ALWAYS, and I mean always, say, “Shrek! I’m looking down!!!” This is now a memory I look back on fondly, because if I’m being honest, I did not always have the best relationship with either of them growing up. But, the comedic line from Shrek was always something we could come together and laugh about – in other words, stop to enjoy the little things. Even though I am grown up now, these are values I would teach my (hypothetical, currently imaginary) children in the future so that they could become their best selves and love the life they live.
3. Fiercely Loyal to Friends
A final trait that Donkey holds, which we could all stand to integrate more into our lives, is how fiercely loyal to his friends he is. For starters, Donkey goes along with the entire quest to help Shrek out even though they just recently met (I mean, Shrek did save Donkey from those men, but still). Donkey’s positivity and optimistic mindset are invaluable in balancing Shrek’s thoughts and demeanor, especially in the beginning. Then, to jump to the end for a moment, Donkey is the only reason that Shrek can even interrupt the wedding between Lord Farquaad and Fiona; he was able to get Dragon to fly them there. This just reminds me of that friend with the car who is always down to help you out when you need a ride somewhere, like to school or the mall (or, in Shrek’s case, the altar). Donkey’s fierce loyalty to his friends throughout the film ultimately drives the story in many instances and is a key takeaway from Shrek that we can integrate into our lives to fire our old selves and create our new, best selves.
Overall, Donkey is willing to drop everything he’s doing to help out someone like Shrek when he’s in need. For example, after Shrek and Donkey save the princess and are delivering her to Lord Farquaad, Shrek mistakenly hears that Fiona thinks he’s a hideous monster. After they drop her off, Donkey comes to the swamp to claim his half of the reward for saving the princess (LOL), and they get into a bit of a fight. At one point, Shrek asks him: “Oh yeah, well if I treated you SO bad, then how come you came back?” Donkey replies: “Because that’s what friends do, they forgive each other!” Now THIS, this is a lesson that needs to be taught to all people, young and old. Shrek hasn’t even technically apologized yet, but Donkey is prepared to forgive him and move their friendship forward. After Donkey and Shrek correct the misunderstanding, Shrek asks if he can forgive him. Donkey warms back up and says: “Hey, that’s what friends are for, right?” Some might say the fact that they make up so easily is over-simplistic (I mean, it is a kid’s movie after all), or it might rather exemplify how strong their friendship is and how fiercely loyal Donkey is to his friends like Shrek. Although forgiveness can be challenging to give to those you believe have wronged you, it is a critical step in achieving growth, surrounding yourself with a positive circle of friends, and becoming your best self.
Finals Thoughts Produced in 2001, Shrek was definitely one of the great movies of my childhood as I was five years old at the time of release. Honestly, I’ve watched Shrek several times throughout my life because it’s genuinely such a good movie. However, many of our favorite childhood movies have lessons such as the ones we have explored here. Each of us will have some film that we watched as a child (maybe lots of times, perhaps only a few) and now have fond memories of as an adult. As a content writer about mindset, I’m always trying to find inspiration in my surroundings for new topics. You would think I watched Shrek and then was inspired to write this article. However, the topic actually came to me in the middle of the night (literally, it was like you should write an article on Shrek!!!), and I was like, what? But, as I thought about it more, I realized it’s the experiences we’ve had in our lives that mold us into the person we are today. Furthermore, if we can harness this knowledge and integrate the lessons we already know to be true (like the ones we’ve watched in our favorite childhood movies), we can begin to mold our future selves by the actions we do today. For example, Donkey taught us to be unwaveringly optimistic, fiercely loyal to your friends, and to stop and enjoy the little things, and even though I didn’t understand that on my 7th birthday, I understand those things now. Ultimately, being able to integrate these three takeaways that Donkey teaches us will help us to “Fire” our “Old Self” to create “Our NEW SELF” while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!