Life Lessons from Mary Poppins

In addition to many fond memories of the magical nanny played by Julie Andrews and her side-kick Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a Cockney jack-of-all-trades, I have a great appreciation for the life lessons imparted by Mary Poppins.


Well begun is half-done.

When Mary arrives at the Banks household, she finds the nursery in total disarray. The children are apologetic, but they make no effort to tidy up. With the help of a few magical tricks, Mary sets in motion a whirlwind of events that motivate the children to complete the tasks at hand.

Never judge things by their appearance…even carpetbags.

The children were fascinated by the bottomless carpetbag that yields an assortment of decorative items, among them a hat stand and a lamp. While there was magic in the air, Mary models a valuable lesson to her young charges: Dig deep and you will find your treasures.

As I expected. Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.

There are several lessons here. First of all, Mary is not 100 percent perfect. “Practically” could imply 80 or 90 percent, an achievable percentage and reminiscent of the 80/20 rule. Second, Mary displays a healthy dose of self esteem by setting the bar very high for herself. And most important of all, the magical measuring tape does not display any numbers. Wouldn’t it wonderful if all measuring devices outputted only practical advice and empowering messages?

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Not every task will be pleasant. The trick, according to Mary Poppins, is to find or create elements of fun. It could be singing and sharing jokes while you work or making a game out of a tedious task.

A little spontaneity keeps conversation keen.

Mary sprinkles her conversations and songs with interesting expressions, among them one of the most famous made-up words of all time—Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Even the ultra-conservative Mr. Banks finds himself using the word when involved in a challenging work scenario.

I never explain anything.

Brimming with confidence, Mary is not upset or frazzled when dealing with a reprimand from Mr. Banks. She is not apologetic at any point in the film, moving gracefully from one situation to the next.

I shall stay until the wind changes.

It was not Mary’s intention to become a permanent fixture in the Banks’ household. Once she succeeds in helping Mr. Banks prioritize his life and spend more time with the children, she takes her leave. Had she stayed, it would have been comfortable, but not challenging enough for the effervescent Mary Poppins.

4 responses to “Life Lessons from Mary Poppins

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