16 Personal Development Lessons From Harry Potter

Over the past 10-years or so, The Harry Potter Series has developed from a cute young-adult adventure into a well-written tale with some serious lessons for both young and old adults.Here are just a few of the lessons that I came up with after finishing the latest, and last, installment in this series.

[Spoiler’s Note: While I have attempted to avoid giving away too much, there is some information in this list that might spoil the ending for you if you have not already finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7).]

16 Personal Development Lessons From Harry Potter

1. You Can’t Do It Alone.
When faced with a personal challenge, whether internal or external, it is much easier to move through it with support and assistance. The Beatles knew this when they sang “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Tolkien knew that Frodo could not accomplish his task alone. So he had Samwise risk his life to make sure Frodo would not be alone on his journey into Mordor. J.K. Rowling knew this when she put Hermione and Ron on the job with Harry. We all need support, especially when the challenge we face is one that tests us, stretches us and pushes us to the very edge of our comfort zone and beyond.

2. Ultimately You Must Do It Alone.
No, this isn’t a contradiction. We absolutely need support. However, ultimately, we are the only ones who can take the step to growth. The phrase “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink,” is so true. Having strong support can lead us to the lake, but we have to reach down and get the water ourselves. Again, Tolkien and Rowling had it right when they recognized that at some point (or several points) on the journey their heroes would have to be on their own, forced to choose for themselves and take those difficult steps on their own. So it is for us in our personal growth. We can be supported, encouraged, guided and mentored, but ultimately we are the only ones who can choose and take the actions.

3. Acknowledging Your Weaknesses Can Be More Important Than Increasing Your Strengths.
Voldemort’s downfall was his unwillingness to acknowledge his weaknesses. He was convinced that by increasing his power he would be able to overcome anything and everyone. Ultimately it was his inability to see his weakness that led to his end. While focusing exclusively on our weaknesses is not healthy or helpful, ignoring them is equally foolish. Know your strengths. Empower them and make them stronger. But also acknowledge and accept your weaknesses. Strengthen those that can be strengthened and ask for help and support with those that cannot be. Ignore your weaknesses at your own peril.

4. Learn To Trust Your Intuition.
Intuition, that inner knowing that speaks in moments of quiet as well as in moments of great need, can lead us to safety…if we listen and act on it. In the final book we see Harry learning to listen to and trust his intuition more and more. He began to stand firm in his willingness to follow his intuitive “hits” even in the face of disagreement from those around him.

5. Sometimes It’s Best To Wait.
Action is important. Movement is necessary. And, sometimes there is a need to wait. Learning to distinguish between the indecision and paralysis that comes from confusion and the inner guidance encouraging you to wait a bit before making a decision is a critical life skill. And it can only be learned through trial and error. By the end of book 7 Harry had learned to distinguish this difference.

6. A Circle Has No Beginning And No Ending.
We have Luna Lovegood to thank for this one. Luna, in her endearing and magical connection to reality spoke this at a critical moment. It not only allowed them to access the information they needed, it also placed an important concept in Harry’s head that would serve him, and save him, at the end of the book. This is such an important concept to remember. Let’s cut to the chase here. If we think of birth as a beginning and death as an ending it sets up a sense of urgency and a tone of seriousness that we carry through our lives. If we open to the possibility that life is, indeed a circle, with no beginning and no ending, it gives us permission to lighten up and take things a bit less seriously. A lesson many of us can benefit from. Harry did!

7. Ask And It Is Given.
Without a doubt Harry and his friends are working it. They are taking action. And throughout the books their actions are rewarded by the appearance of the support, resources and things they need. When you ask, and take action, the Universe always answers. The answer may not always come in the timeframe you would like or the manner that you expect, but if you take action and remain open, your asking is always answered.

8. Hope Is Present Even In The Depths Of Hopelessness.
Harry and his friends experienced plenty of hopelessness. And yet, even in their darkest moments, they had the ability to grab onto that tiny thread of hope that illuminated their path. Perhaps because they were still young and not yet tainted by the cloud of “reality” that hovers over most of us older folks, they were able to find hope even in the darkest of moments.

9. That Which You Most Fear Is More Afraid of You.
Throughout the series we have glimpses of the fear that Voldemort feels towards Harry Potter. His inability to understand how Harry lived eats away at him even as he gives the outward appearance of growing in power. The things we fear are even more afraid of us. We know the truth. Our fears don’t. So the next time you find yourself struggling to step through a fear, remember that what you fear, fears you more!

10. Our Thoughts Do Not Determine Our Character, Our Actions Do.
This insightful tidbit comes from the latest movie when Sirius, in his last moments, assures Harry that it is not the thoughts in his head that determine whether he is good or evil, but rather which thoughts he chooses to act on. Our thoughts are very often out of our control. But our actions are always in our control. Which thoughts do you choose to act on? That, more than anything else, determines the quality of your character and of your life.

11. The Battle Is Won Or Lost Long Before The Swords (Wands) Are Crossed.
This is a concept I learned long ago in my karate training. The Dojo is a reflection of the world. The way you train, the intensity and focus you bring to the Dojo, determines the results you will have in the “real” world. Harry and his friends in the DA (Dumbledore’s Army) trained as if their lives depended on it. And their lives did depend on it! The Death Eaters, on the other hand, let Voldemort’s apparent invincibility lull them into laziness. And when the time came for the DA to cross wands with the Death Eaters, guess who won.

12. Don’t Wear A Horcrux Around Your Neck!
We all have Horcruxes that we carry around with us. You know what I’m talking about: The wedding ring from a previous marriage, the love letters from an ex-girlfriend, the pink slip from our last job. Any object that ties you to the past qualifies as a Horcrux. These objects keep you from being fully present in the moment. They draw your attention into the past, leaving you with less energy to devote to your present. Scan your life to see if you are carrying around a horcrux. If you are, immediately find yourself a Basilix tooth or Gryffindor’s Sword and destroy it!

13. When In Doubt, Choose Trust.
When given a choice between trust and doubt, it’s far too easy to choose the latter. Whether conscious or otherwise, most of us slip into a place of mistrust at the slightest trigger. Certainly there are times when a healthy dose of caution is warranted, but in many cases our lack of trust keeps potentially helpful people at a distance. Often these are people who would otherwise be able to assist us in the manifestation of our desires. Harry learned this lesson when he discovered the truth about Snape. (See 14 below).

14. Perception Is Not Always An Accurate Reflection of Reality.
There were so many examples of this throughout the series. But the most obvious example comes at the end when Harry discovers the truth about Snape. Our perceptions and beliefs about the world around us usually have very little in common with what is true. Don’t always trust YOUR reality. Remember that everyone has their own personal reality and most of them probably don’t match yours.

15. Know What You Are Fighting For.
Harry and his friends were fighting not just for their own lives, but for the lives of their loved ones, for their world and their way of life. Their fight was a means to an end. And that end was a powerful, driving force that fueled them in the battle. For Voldemort the battle was the end. There was nothing beyond it and no fuel beyond his lust for power. Do you know what you are fighting for? Is there an end beyond your daily grind that fuels you to keep going?

16. Love Is More Powerful Than Fear
Voldemort’s power is based on fear. He controls his Death Eaters with fear. But while fear may, for a short time, control and motivate people to act, ultimately that control breaks down. The force that connects Harry and his friends is Love. Their love for one another binds them together into a cohesive whole that is far more powerful than the fear-filled and isolated soldiers that Voldemort has assembled. Harry and his friends are fighting for love and it is love that gives them the courage and strength to overcome the raw force of Voldemort and his minions.

So there you have it: 16 personal development lessons from Harry Potter.

I know there are quite a few more. If you have one, leave it below in the comments. If there are enough new ones added, I’ll create a new post with all of them and include a link back to you if you have a blog.

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      31 Responses to “16 Personal Development Lessons From Harry Potter”

      1. Kellen on August 16th, 2007 4:58 pm

        Your site is on stumble!

      2. Kris on August 16th, 2007 5:54 pm

        thanks for this page. im an adult who loves harry potter, for the reasons you put him on this page– there are marvelous life lessons hidden in the books!!!

      3. Auto Parts for Brains on August 16th, 2007 7:27 pm


        I like the how you approached the topic on Harry Potter. You were at times philosophical without losing the touch of simplicity and reality in presenting your lesson.

        I have read followed the Harry Potter series since it first came out mainly because of the pleasure I derive from reading it. It brought me to this other world where I would be called a muggle and where anything is possible.

        Still, I did learn a lot from the books. When JK Rowling tried her best to make the characters in the story look real, she made people we could all relate to. She put them in ciscumstances that we have, one way or the other, been in.

        Nice story man. Hurrah for the muggles.

      4. Edward Mills on August 16th, 2007 8:02 pm

        Kellen. I’m glad you found this through Stumble. Looks like quite a few folks are Stumbling their way through this post! Welcome!

        Kris. I’m with you. It took me a while to give Harry a shot, but once I did, I was hooked.

        Chris (APFB). Thanks for stopping by. Hurrah for muggles and magicians! We are all magical in our own way.

      5. Steven Aitchison on August 16th, 2007 11:42 pm

        Ed, this is a great post for harry Potter fans and personal development fans alike. I love how you have integrated the two together.

      6. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on August 18th, 2007 9:18 am

        Wow!!! I just finished reading the last Harry Potter book. I love your list. They are such good lessons to have gotten from the series. Thanks for sharing them.

      7. Rohit Rohila on August 19th, 2007 4:59 pm

        I loved this article. I did a similar one for Harry Potter as well as for Lord of the Rings. I’ve noticed that ever since I started finding the personal growth involved in movies, I enjoyed them more. For the Lord of the Rings one, I talked about how Aragorn became King once he battled his own sub-concious. If you would like to read it, it can be found here.
        Thanks for the great work 🙂

      8. Adrian on August 20th, 2007 1:02 pm

        Hi Edward,
        Well i just love the way you write……definitely a gifted person and I will be a constant visitor from now on!
        I particularly liked number 12…dont wear a horcrux around your neck! LOL
        I know alot of what holds us back is because of what we are holding onto!!this has been so true in my life.
        My quest for personal development and bettering myself has this down as my number one reason of not quite getting to where I want……my journey is now on the right track thanks to letting go of those negative beliefs in myself.
        Have a wicked day my friend

      9. Linda on August 20th, 2007 2:49 pm

        what a wonderful blog of lessons! Great Job

      10. Theresa on August 20th, 2007 11:39 am

        Hi Edward!

        From someone whose more or less stuck in a do-loop reading and rereading the entire series (several times over, I just can’t find anything else at the moment that holds my attention as well, plus the “escape” is nice and needed), I love this post!

        You mention Luna above, but there’s more to her (as I know you’re aware). How many times do we see what we want to see (#14 above) without using all of our senses to see beyond. Luna’s reality may not have been your typical reality, but you’ve got to admire the fact that she was HAPPY 🙂

        You are to be commended, this is really an amazing bit of work and I thank you!

      11. Edward Mills on August 20th, 2007 1:06 pm

        Thanks Steve and Patricia!

        Rohit, I enjoyed your article on Aragon’s inner struggle. The Lord of the Rings is one of my all-time favorite series. It is so rich with valuable messages. Thanks for sharing your story.

        Theresa, you’re so right about Luna. She really was the bearer of many valuable lessons. You have to admire the fact that she was happy and that she really didn’t care that most other folks made fun of her. That’s such a huge one. I remember hearing the phrase “what other people think has more to do about them than about you,” and having a huge “aha” moment.

      12. Ken Daniels on August 20th, 2007 9:11 pm

        I was attracted to ultimately we have to do it alone,
        as a fighter you can punch on the bag Or take punches at a trainer with pads on his hands,but, ultimately to be a fighter you have to take the step to oppose another fighter alone to say you were in a boxing match. the same with personal growth you can
        be taught,guided encouraged & lead but sooner or later you have to take off the training wheels & face life on lifes terms & alone face your fears or a situation you have been resisting & alone grow stronger & have grown as a person from that experience

      13. jim redmond on August 20th, 2007 2:43 pm

        I never thought that Harry Potter would end up given me a great message to live by. It is very thought provocative and very much worth my valuable time to recommend it. thanks again for the eye opening message. jim redmond

      14. Eric on August 20th, 2007 6:49 pm

        I’m probably one of the very few that hasn’t read any of the Potter books but I do appreciate the article and how you tied in life lessons with the stories. Contains some great messages whether we’ve read the books or not. Well done.

      15. sylvan on August 21st, 2007 4:16 am

        As a fan of the movies and a fan of life, I have to agree. I never saw it that way but when spelled out this makes a lot of sense. The first two I really like, support makes everything easier but without your will, nothing can come to fruition.

      16. David Tupica on August 21st, 2007 7:08 am

        Great insight on positive aspects of Harry Potter. I have always been a little skeptical of allowing my children to read or watch the Harry Potter series. I will now begin to explore this series and look for the good in it.

      17. Susan on August 21st, 2007 6:28 am

        Excellent post – having gone through some Klemmer & Associates training, I really liked your parallels. Especially #15 (Know what you are fighting for). It’s so easy to get sucked into the daily grind of family – laundry, homework, activities – and to forget that it’s all for a very definite purpose. Keeping the end in mind is a huge motivator.

        Thanks for always having excellent posts.

      18. Edward Mills on August 21st, 2007 10:47 am

        Thanks for the great comments everyone.

        Ken, I love the metaphor of taking the training wheels off. It’s hard to fly if you’re still riding a tricycle!

        Susan, I agree that it’s so easy to get sucked up in the daily tasks! If we remember why we’re doing them, it not only gets us to where we want to be faster, but it makes those day-to-day tasks much more enjoyable.

        David, just keep in mind that these are definitely young-adult books/movies. I cringe when I’m at the theater and see kids that are younger than eight. (Just my opinion for what it’s worth).

      19. Shirley on August 24th, 2007 3:12 pm

        I might be among the minority who hasn’t read any of the Potter books. But I really like your writing style and how you made it such an extremely thought-provoking piece. I think it not only deals with pointing out the life lessons, but in doing so helps to show readers how much substance can go astray during a reading journey. Good food for thought and ingenious!


      20. abigail thein on September 5th, 2007 12:26 am

        im doing this harry potter focus question thing. i really need help

        the question is
        What type of personal growth are experienced by Harry in Harry potter and the chamber of secrets ?

      21. Edward Mills on September 5th, 2007 9:06 am

        Thanks Shirley. No you’re probably not in the minority – except here! It’s just that those of us who are Harry Potter fans are a very vocal bunch!

        Abigail. I’ll need to go back and look over the Chamber of Secrets. In the meantime, does anyone else have any thoughts about specific personal growth lessons in the Chamber of Secrets?

      22. Powerfull Living on September 7th, 2007 8:20 am

        The Personal Development Carnival September 9, 2007…

        My thanks to Lyman Reed for inviting me to host this week’s Personal Development Carnival. This is my first hosting and I appreciate all of you who sent submissions. There were so many great articles to choose!
        I hope you enjoy the wealth of inf…

      23. James - Visualized.Feel.Abundance on September 13th, 2007 11:01 pm

        Hey Edward,

        Great article. It gives another perspective to Harry Porter novels and proves yet again that different perspective can generate different results. Your view of Harry Porter from a personal development point of view generated such excellent tips that are worth sharing.


        PS: Deserves a Stumble 🙂

      24. Edward Mills on September 14th, 2007 11:50 am

        Wow, Rene: Your Gryffindor Sword! I take that very seriously and am grateful that these words could be here to help you when you needed them.

        Your comment makes putting up with these most definitely worth it!

      25. Rene on September 14th, 2007 6:03 am

        How lucky can I be! Stumbling on what I needed most at the moment…positive energy, motivation, and words of wisdom…such confluence of the universe. You became my Gryffindorf sword! Thank you for being there when I stumbled!

      26. Edward Mills on September 14th, 2007 11:46 am

        Thanks James!

      27. Andrew G.R. on September 17th, 2007 11:38 am

        Well done. Readers of this entry might also enjoy 5 Career Reminders From J.K. Rowling:


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      30. Edward Mills on October 2nd, 2007 8:08 pm

        Andrew. Very nice post. I’m not sure I would agree with your suggestion to hide your gender. It worked for JK, but I would like to think we are moving beyond the space where that needs to happen. Maybe it’s easier for me to be hopeful as a man.

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