When the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off debuted in 1986, it delighted an entire generation of youngsters keen to escape the watchful eyes of parents and teachers and taste their first real sip of freedom. The film tells the story of a teenage boy—Ferris Bueller—who decides to fake sick one sunny day, convincing a few of his friends to come along for the ride. Ferris dodges numerous close calls, including nearly being caught by his family and being stalked by his suspicious principle, all to wind up hopping pools, taking part in a parade, and generally having the time of his life.
While the movie’s enduring comedic value has contributed significantly to it being labelled a classic, underneath the laughs there’s a valuable lesson to be learned about defying social conventions and seizing the day. With many of the same people who watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when it first aired now facing a climate of increasing workaholism and and sharply decreasing vacation time, taking a look back at what Ferris can teach us about successfully taking time off—and loving it—might not be such a bad idea.
3 Lessons To Be Learned From Ferris Bueller
1. To make time for yourself, you need to plan ahead. Ferris knew that for his scheme to be a success, he had to cover all his bases. He learned how to fake an illness effectively—striking the ideal balance between being convincing and not raising enough alarm to merit a trip to the doctor—recorded an intercom message to answer the doorbell, placed a mannequin in his bed, etc. Some of his strategies are surprisingly effective for use in the real world: If you desperately need time off of work or school to recover your mental health, learning how to fake an illness effectively, purchasing a fake doctor’s note at www.phoneyexcuses.com, and delegating tasks to your coworkers effectively (or, if you’re a student, asking your friends to take down details on the day’s assignments for you) are all vital to ensuring that your plan for some well-deserved respite goes off without a hitch.
2. Confidence is essential to getting what you want—and need—in this world. Ferris’s master plan worked because he committed to it entirely and went for it with complete certainty and faith in himself. Even when, for example, he’s caught out in a lie while attempting to impersonate someone else to get a seat at a fancy restaurant, he refuses to give up and back down. Instead, he asks his friends to join in the ruse and talk to the restaurant host via the phone, vouching for Ferris’s false identity… And it works.
Ferris Bueller teaches us that if we don’t confidently assert our rights and boundaries, others probably won’t respect them. In order to avoid being taken advantage of, you need to believe in yourself and your inherent worthiness.
3. To find happiness, you occasionally need to take back control over your life. Most of us can relate to the teens in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off because we have a multitude of demands being placed on us: On a daily basis, we juggle the requests of employers, teachers, family members, coworkers, clients, etc. Like Ferris’s friend Cameron, who’s suffocated by the pressure placed on him by his controlling parents, too many of us feel invisible, drained, and depressed as a direct result of over-extending ourselves. The only solution to this debacle is to occasionally refuse to follow the “rules,” just as Cameron did when he decided to join Ferris on his Day Off. When he realizes he’s going to get caught after being unable to reset the odometer on his father’s car, rather than succumb to fear and contrition, he takes charge of his fate and decides to go the distance, saying: “I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”
At the heart of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off lies the message that “playing hooky” from time to time is about so much more than simply “being irresponsible.” Taking time to nurture ourselves, strengthen our relationships, and embrace the present moment is what life is really about. As Ferris himself puts it, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”