By the time you read this, you've either seen Toy Story 4 or haven't planned to see it. If you are in the latter group, I'm going to effectively convince you to check out the fifth highest-grossing film of 2019 and the most thought-provoking offering of the entire Toy Story series. And if you keep reading, I promise this movie has content suitable for adults too.

In the fourth installment of the Toy Story franchise, Pixar seeks to address the very existential mystery, "what even is a toy, anyway?" through the introduction of the character of Forky, the Frankenstein creation born from a spork, and the most bizarre member of the Toy Story crew. The story continues from its predecessor film, where the now 5-year-old Bonnie has inherited all of Andy's toys. Worried that Bonnie will feel overwhelmed at her kindergarten orientation, Woody sneaks into her backpack to save the day. As expected, her new classmates aren't inviting, and she finds herself sitting all alone after a bully has discarded all of her arts and craft supplies. Watching all of this unfold from her knapsack, Woody covertly steps in and recovers the materials from the trash onto her table, including a spork. In response to this traumatic first day of kinder, Bonnie turns to creativity as an outlet and assembles a figurine made out of a spork, a popsicle stick, clay, a pipe cleaner, and some googly eyes. She's instantly comforted by her new friend (who later becomes her favorite toy) and gives it the endearing name of "Forky."

Little did Bonnie know the immense burden of life she has placed on this inanimate object. On the way home, Woody is shocked when Forky becomes sentient, awakening and coming to life. Upon awakening, Forky experiences an identity crisis. Having been made, well literally, from trash, he enters the world believing that he is trash. He's not a child's plaything. He's a disposable utensil. On top of that, he's extremely confused about the rules of the universe.

Throughout the movie, Forky's sole drive is to escape the real world and return to the garbage bin where he feels he belongs, his home, so much so that he throws himself out the back window of the RV on the family's road trip in search of a trash can.

Meanwhile, Woody focuses on self-worth and importance, convincing Forky that he does belong, explaining the value in a toy and the undeniable love for a child. He convinces him that although he may have come from trash, he is worthy of being a toy and that he has a greater purpose. As much as Bonnie loves him (cuddling with him nightly), Forky struggles because he cannot accept her affection - the only affection he knows is with trash. Forky finally broke barriers when he understood his true purpose in the world - to love Bonnie and to be loved in return. He realized that he was comforting to Bonnie in the same way that trash had been so long comforting to him.

After ruminating on this movie, I couldn't help but be inspired by some important life lessons this film brings (maybe not intended by the creators of this film, but inspired nonetheless):

  • Your past agreements with yourself don't define the future you. You have a bigger purpose. Find out what it is! Based on where he came from, Forky the spork felt his ultimate purpose in life was to help people eat chili and hit the trash. Then Woody comes along and says "No, you have a greater purpose. You have more value than that." How many of us think that our purpose in life is nothing but to make some money, buy some stuff with minimal debt, love some peeps, maybe have some kids, provide a good future for those kids, in short, to enjoy this life, then hit the ground? Our world is made up of labels, concepts, and beliefs, programmed into us from the day we were born. These rules, or agreements, are what tell us how things are, should be, or must be. We hold onto these constructs because they make us feel safe. However, we can reshape our reality just like Forky did through his enlightenment. By giving his life meaning, he was able to change the lens through which he saw not only himself but the world; successfully eliminating the old agreement he held (that he was trash) and programming in a new agreement that made him better off in the long run (he was worthy of being loved as a toy and loving others in return).
  • Stepping outside your comfort zone can be terrifying, but is the first step toward learning and growth. "It's warm. It's cozy. And safe. Like somebody's whispering in your ear, 'Everything's gonna be okay.'" That's Forky's description of how lovely he views the inside of a trashcan, which was his previous paradigm and world view. We all have a hard time accepting change. Juxtapose being the lord of your comfort zone, perhaps in the corporate setting, a big fish in a small pond, to being suddenly thrown into a new, larger, well-established group, where you not only have an unfamiliar identity but have no clue what's going on or how things work. We've all experienced this, whether it was being thrown into a new job, or given a new assignment that stretches us into new territories or being faced with a challenge where we had no choice but to figure out how to be successful. Initially, fear and terror ensue, but is it possible that temporary fear and awkwardness can result in positive, long term outcomes?
  • Be an original by tapping into your authenticity. At one point, Bonnie realizes she lost Forky and her mum says "Oh, you can just make another one." To which she replies, "There is only one Forky." There is only one each of us. You were born an original. Ask yourself: Have you been being your authentic self? (We all face impostor syndrome sometimes, I'm guilty of it). If not, simply try being yourself, regardless of what others think. Chances are people will like the real you. Don't be a phony copy of someone else!
  • Your inner purpose is what really matters and transcends outward appearances. A big question this movie asks is: "What constitutes being a toy?" Turns out, in the toy world, it doesn't matter what an object looks like or if it comes from a store. What matters is its purpose: if it is meant to provide comfort to a child, then it's a toy (adding validity to the toy-worthiness of Forky, the figurine constructed from a spork, who his maker soon endears as her favorite toy). Similarly, I can't help but ponder: How often do we prioritize what we think matters to the outside world, rather than simply, wholeheartedly, and un-apologetically, pursuing the purpose, that true north that guides our life?
  • My Challenge To You:

    Seriously reflect, and take action, on the following:

    • What self-limiting beliefs do you, those around you, or your organizations have?
    • What can you do to effect positive change in this area?

    #success #motivation #transformation #mindfulness

    About the author

    Monica Hayes

    Monica C. Hayes is an entrepreneur, engineer, and coach. She enjoys writing about leadership, process improvement and personal development. When not helping companies fix their processes, Monica can be found running, reading, or cooking. Monica can be reached at

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