Thing 3: Play the Movie (b213)

This is the third in a post series on Dr. Henry Cloud’s excellent book: “9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life.” Read previous posts:


“Play the Movie” is a principle that I use on my kids all the time. If I confront one of my children in some infraction of attitude or behavior and he doesn’t back down, I say, “Play this movie forward. Where does it go if you keep acting like this? Does it end well? Does the child ever end up getting his way?” Kids understand plot arcs as much as anyone. They can “read the scene” and predict where it’s headed. Often this helps her choose a new direction.

This is exactly Dr. Cloud’s point with his third thing that you must do to succeed in love and life. You must think of the future consequences of your current actions and attitudes. You must “read the scene” of what you are doing now and play it out to see where it goes.

The future will come. Your decision is about where you will be and what you will be doing. Click To Tweet

If you are facing a situation or decision…

If you are facing a situation or a decision and you find yourself scared or indecisive, Dr. Cloud suggests you go to the movies. Play the movie of your life from this moment forward. Where does it go? What are you doing? Are you excited? Happy? Peaceful? Purposeful? Frustrated? Disengaged?

Here’s the thing: the future will come regardless of what you decide to do.

Move Toward the Positive

For example: Say you are stuck in a job that you hate. You’re fascinated by medicine and chemistry, so you think a biomedical lab tech might be a good career switch. But it will take so long getting your education taking night classes. “That’s three years!” you think. Who cares? Those three years are going to pass no matter what. At the end of those three years, you will be somewhere. Will you be starting your first job as a biomedical lab tech? Or will you be working in the unfulfilling job that inspires you to daydream about other jobs? The three years will pass. Play the movie forward. Where will you be? Then do the things that get you where you want to be.

Move Away from the Negative

This principle can help you get rid of negative stuff just as well as draw you toward positive things. Let’s say you are in a romantic relationship with someone and there are serious issues. You have tried to work through them, possibly including professional help. (If you need a concrete issue, think of financial habits and priorities) Nothing has changed in four years. Play the movie forward. What does it look like two years from now when you are still voicing the same concerns and your partner is still displaying a lack of concern for what’s important to you? How do you feel? Empowered or defeated?

Play the Movie in the Short-term as well as the Long-term

The principle of playing the movie forward is just for large decisions and long time-frames. There might be a movie on at 10 pm that you want to watch (or you’re binge-watching your favorite Netflix series). You have an appointment at 8:30 am, or just important work to do. As you consider staying up past midnight, play the movie forward. Think about what it’s like to drag yourself out of bed when the alarm goes off. Picture yourself having difficulty concentrating during your meeting. Envision yourself trying to write coherent sentences while you are groggy. Imagine when the evening comes. Your spouse would like to sit and talk for a while but you are too tired. Your child wants to play a game but you can’t bring yourself to do it because you are exhausted.

The scriptures encourage us to think about where our attitudes and actions are taking us:

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. — Proverbs 4:26 (ESV)

It is this considering the long-term outcome of our current way of living that leads to abundance — not just material abundance, but “abundant life”.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. — Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

Play the movie forward in every area of your life. What does the future look like if you continue your current financial practices? Relationship patterns? Health and exercise habits? Parenting practices? Think about possible negative futures based on your current attitudes and actions. Think about possible wonderful futures based on your current attitudes and actions.

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. — Proverbs 4:26 (ESV) Click To TweetPlaying the movie forward is a habit of mind that successful people integrate. It becomes natural. You may have to start being very intentional to adopt this habit. You might even have to write down where the plot of your life goes based on different decisions. But with awareness and practice, playing the movie forward will become second nature.

If these blog posts resonate with you, I encourage you to read the book or listen to the audiobook… even if you don’t use my affiliate link. I have found this book very helpful. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m finding it helpful again as I review it for these blog posts.

Peace to you,


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