Whether you’re a huge fan of Divergent or have never heard of it, here are 10 big life lessons you can learn from this bestselling young adult novel.
1. Follow Your Heart
At the Choosing Ceremony, Tris decides to go for Dauntless, even though she knows her parents will be disappointed. In life, when you have to make a choice between disappointing others and following your heart, go with your heart. You may feel ashamed when you follow your heart because it may disappoint others, but it’s better to face shame for a short period of time than to face regret for the rest of your life.
If the people you disappoint really love you, they will forgive you eventually. If they don’t forgive you, they weren’t worth sacrificing your dreams for anyway.
Okay Good to Be Different
Everyone was so concerned with fitting in and being seen as a good member of their faction that they forgot who they really were. Just like office politics, when you spend all your time trying to fit in and be seen as a good person, you stop focusing on what’s really important in life: doing good work and contributing to your family, community, company, country and world.
The people who are ultimately most loved and adored by others are those who avoid politics and “trying to fit in” and instead get straight to work trying to help people and make the world a better place. It’s good to be different and embrace your true needs, desires and interests. Don’t give it all up trying to fit in.
3. Everyone is Afraid. Successful People Act In Spite of Fear
Every Dauntless initiate had to go through their fear landscape and learn to face their fears. In real life, if you’re feeling scared or unsure about yourself, simply realize that everyone else is afraid, too.
Look around next time you’re in public, and you’ll see a whole lot of people who are scared out of their minds. Afraid to fail. Afraid to succeed. Afraid to start a business. Afraid to write that book…
Everyone has fears.
Courage isn’t living a life without fear, or living with less fears than anyone else like Four.
Courage is the ability to face your fears and take action anyway. Most often, our fear is a sign we ought to learn to use as a tool to drive us forward and break through to a whole new level instead of using it as an excuse to give up or quit.
4. The Fastest Way to Lose is to Quit. If You Really Want Something, Never Give Up
Al commits suicide by jumping into the chasm after attacking Tris and feeling sorry for himself. He was behind in the rankings and instead of using that feedback as fuel to get better and work harder, he gave in to his fears and decided to quit. He failed not because he could not succeed, but because he was unwilling to keep going when things got tough.
The fastest way to lose in life is to simply give up and quit. Instead, when you feel like giving up, when life knocks you down, when you’re battered and bruised and feeling weak, make a commitment to keep going until you succeed. The only way to permanently fail in life is to give up.
Those who ultimately achieve success in life are the ones who give more when things get tough instead of giving up.
5. Labels We Give People Aren’t True. They Are Just Made Up
Labels we give to others are all just made up. Dauntless are supposed to be brave and fight well. Erudite are supposed to be smart and study hard. Abnegation are supposed to be selfless servants. Amity are supposed to be peaceful and foster harmony. Candor are supposed to be honest no matter what.
In the real world, these values are not black and white. Instead, how we act and how we are perceived by others is often situation-dependent. If you walk up to a lady and compliment her on her well-behaved child, she will probably smile and be friendly. If you walk up to hear and start screaming, she will probably withdraw and turn away.
Same woman, different situation, different behavior. You can’t say based on her reaction that she is kind or rude. She is both. It just depends on the situation.
If you want to be more courageous, put yourself in situations where you must practice courage.
If you want to be more kind and loving, practice being kind and loving and put yourself in situations where you can do that.
If you’re trying to be a positive, happy person but you’re surrounded by complainers and negative people all day, it’s going to be tough.
It’s not that you were “born a negative person.” It’s that you’re in a situation that makes it harder or you to be positive.
Put yourself in the right kind of situations where you can succeed and be the kind of person you really want to be.
6. People Who Win Big See The World Differently. Take the Time to See Things From a Different Perspective
During the game of capture the flag, Tris climbs up the ferris wheel to get a better view of the field of play. Was it scary climbing up a hundred feet? Of course! But sometimes you have to do something new, different and scary if you want to achieve your goals in life.
No one said life had to be easy. But there’s no excuse to just sit around and argue instead of getting to work and working on what’s most important right now in your life.
If you want to win big, you have to start by looking at the world differently. Seek out new information. Try something different. Ask questions others are afraid to ask.
If you find yourself thinking exactly like everyone else around you, it’s time to start thinking and seeing the world differently.
7. Test Results Don’t Mean Anything in the Real World
Just like the test results Tris got in the Aptitude Test, tests in school and college should all be labeled “inconclusive.” Not because everyone is the same – we’re not. We all have different strengths and skills. Rather, tests should be labeled inconclusive in school because they don’t measure anything that matters for the vast majority of people.
Tests simply measure a particular kind of knowledge at a particular point in time (and the ability to communicate it according to the rules of the test). Test results measure nothing about the future, your potential or your worth as a human being.
Many famous billionaires, entrepreneurs and successful artists dropped out of school or failed out of school.
In the real world, what counts is what you do and how you do it. A test you took yesterday, last year, or 20 years ago has absolutely no bearing on what you choose to do right now. And what you choose to do is what will determine how successful you are in the real world.
8. There’s Always Another Choice. The World is Not Black and White
During the aptitude test, Tris simply made different choices than anyone else did. That’s why she was Divergent. Not because she was blessed with some special DNA or because she studied harder than anyone else. What made her special was simply the choices she made.
If you ever feel like you only have one or two choices in life about what to do in a tough situation, learn to take a step back and realize that there is always another way to get what you want and need. Life is not black and white. There’s a huge gray area. Yes, it can be scary to wander around that gray area, but that’s usually where all the really cool things in life happen.
If you feel trapped and can’t imagine any other options, lock the door to your room, turn off your phone, Destroy Your Distractions, and grab a pen and piece of paper. Start brainstorming and writing down new ideas. You’ll be amazed what you can come up with in a few minutes of concentrated thought without distractions.
9. Most People’s Programming Sucks. It You Want to Be Happy, Create Your Own Rules
In Divergent, almost every Dauntless soldier is turned into a robot thanks to the serum. They’re programmed to kill and destroy and lose all conscious awareness and decision-making skills. Sure, it’s literally straight out of a science fiction novel, but the truth is most people in the real world just follow their programming, too.
“Go to school. Get a good job. Keep your head down. Don’t think too much. Work hard. Everything will turn out okay…”
This is the kind of societal and cultural programming that keeps most people in line, always following the herd.
If you want to achieve something wonderful with your life and truly follow your dreams, you have to be willing to say “no” to the everyday programming most people take for granted. Find your own path.
People may laugh at you for being different, but you’ll be laughing your whole way through life doing things most people are too afraid to do and enjoying experiences most people won’t allow themselves to experience.
10. Sometimes Sacrifice is Worth It
The most disappointing part of Divergent is the end. If you haven’t read it yet or seen the movie, I’ll try not to spoil it for you. But Tris makes a huge sacrifice, and in doing so makes the world a better place for everyone. Sometimes putting the needs of those you love and care about most in front of your own is the best thing to do, even if it means you have to make some big sacrifices.
In the end, life is better if you can share it with those you love. If you can look back on your life at the end and say, “I did everything I could to help those around me live a better, happier life,” that will truly be a life well lived.
How does Divergent relate to the real world?
We’re all unique in our own ways.
Not everyone can live a happy life by fitting into a box or doing what everyone else thinks is best.
Embrace those weird parts of yourself, the parts that make you different and unique.
The world doesn’t need more people trying to be just like everyone else.
We need more people like you: just be yourself!
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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.