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6 Rules of Life Embodied by Shaun of the Dead

Updated on February 7, 2018

If you’re stuck in a dead-end job, love your job but feel stifled, or simply feel like it’s time to make some changes, everything you need to know can be discovered by watching Shaun of the Dead.

A quick recap for those of you who’ve never seen the movie: Shaun is basically your average joe. He’s stuck in a dead-end job. He’s lost his girlfriend, Liz, because he can’t seem to get motivated in the romance department. He loves his mom but has an acrimonious relationship with his stepfather. And his best friend, Ed, by all accounts, holds him back from moving beyond their carefree youth. A zombie outbreak forces Shaun to reevaluate his life, decide what’s important to him and what he’s going to do to keep what he wants so he can get rid of the rest.

Rule #1: Feeling Unsettled? Act.

Shaun is forced out of his comfort zone by the zombie apocalypse. He’s freaked out – as most of us would be – but he has only two choices: stay stuck where he is, hiding from all the adventure life has to offer, or pull on his proverbial boots and kick his way out of the mess.

What is your zombie apocalypse? Is there one thing that would force you to act to change something about your life that you don’t like? If nothing is apparent, create your own. Forcing yourself out of your comfortable routine is both exhilarating and frightening, even if it doesn’t involve an infestation of zombies. It can be as simple as deciding to learn something new or as risky as quitting a job to start your own business. Do something that scares you. If you have a phobia of kittens, volunteer at an animal shelter. Scared of heights? Go skydiving.

Once you realize that the discomfort goes away the more you challenge yourself, the larger your comfort zone will be.

Rule #2: Decide What You Can’t Live Without

The first thing that Shaun has to do is decide what’s most important to him? There’s no time for him to overthink his options, and his subsequent actions are dictated by a desire to obtain what he can’t live without. His three goals end up being:

  • Save himself and the people he loves
  • Get his girl back
  • Create the life which best suits him

By stepping up and saving himself and those he loves, Shaun will prove to Liz that he’s worth of her and will be able to win her back. By doing so, he will eventually be able to create the life he wants.

Sit down and think about what is part of your life right now. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Once you have the list down, really consider what you absolutely can’t live without and circle the top three or five. You’ll probably discover that they are intertwined and that by addressing one thing of importance, you’ll reap benefits in the other areas, as well. If it’s not on your list of importance, don’t feel bad about leaving it behind.

Rule #3: Don’t Sell Yourself Short aka Don’t Think, just Do.

As would be with any zombie apocalypse, Shaun has to go through a series of tests: out with / kill the zombies that threaten him, contend with both well-meaning and asinine people who eventually become zombies (including people he loves), and get those who are left to safety.

The pre-zombie apocalypse Shaun would be the last person considered an effective leader and yet he takes charge. Mistakes are made along the way – what leader doesn’t? – but he makes it to the other side, not unscathed, but ultimately stronger and more sure of himself and his abilities.

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it can also paralyze us by leading us to question our abilities when we’re faced with our own tests. It’s easy to fall prey to the naysayers, including ourselves, who insist that taking risks is stupid, that you’ll fail, that you’re not smart enough, that you’re not capable enough, that you’re not good enough.

The bottom line is that you’ll never know what you’re capable of until you let yourself find out. Don’t think, just do.

Rule #4: Surround Yourself with People who Accept and Support You

One of the running gags in Shaun of the Dead is the relationship between Shaun and his best friend, Ed. Ed is the quintessential slacker, loafing on Shaun’s couch, mooching food and beer, incapable of doing the slightest bit to help out around the house, including something as small as writing down phone messages. At times, Shaun and Ed act like an old married couple, frequently finishing each other’s sentences and bickering. Sure, it’s hard to deal with moochers, but for all his faults, Ed is Shaun’s biggest support.

In contrast, there’s Shaun’s (and Ed’s) roommate, Pete, who is fed up with Ed’s mooching and slacker lifestyle which goes against Pete’s straight-laced, 9-5-type existence. Pete repeatedly tells Shaun to ditch Ed and sort his life out.

And then there’s Shaun’s mom, Barbara, who loves him, but caters to him and tends to treat him like he’s a little boy, never fully allowing him out of that role until he’s forced to shoot her.

Spoiler Alert!!! All three become zombies, but do you know which one plays a role in Shaun’s life after the zombie crisis has past?

That’s right: Ed, Shaun’s biggest supporter.

It’s easy to keep people in our lives simply because they’ve always been there, even if they don’t support us or constantly insist we’re doing things wrong because it’s not their way. And as much as you might love these people, if they always tear you down instead of helping you be the best person you can be, they’re not the best people to keep in your inner circle. The Pete’s of this world, who seem to think they know what’s best for you better than you do, can be delegated to an occasional meeting or cut out entirely. People grow in different directions, and sometimes that means growing apart.

Handling well-meaning relatives is a bit more difficult, especially if it’s someone as close as your parents or sibling. I don’t advocate shooting anyone whose best intentions are misguided, but setting boundaries will go far in terms of freeing yourself from that particular constraint. If someone you love and who loves you is unwilling or unable to allow you to make your own decisions, sometimes cutting them out of the decision-making process is all that’s needed.

As for the moochers in your life, setting boundaries for them is a good idea, too. Ask yourself if they’ll be there for you when it really matters. If they’ve got your back when it matters most, they’re well worth keeping in your life.

Rule #5: Always Carry a Big Stick

Shaun’s big stick in Shaun of the Dead is a cricket bat, but your big stick doesn’t have to be a literal stick or bat or anything else that can be construed as a weapon. Police involvement does not equal a good time.

The concept of a big stick is more about being willing to do what it takes to reach your end goal – your tenacity to beat the hell out of any obstacle that gets in your way. What is the one thing that makes you feel powerful? Find a token that represents this and carry it with you as a reminder. When you’re feeling unsure of yourself or frustrated or just plain beat down, pull it out and look at it – consider what it represents and use it as motivation to find the way best suited to tackle whatever is standing in your way.

Rule #6: Enjoy the Results of your Labor

Shaun’s surroundings don’t change much by the end of the movie. He still lives in the same neighborhood in the same house. But he’s changed his way of thinking and he’s accomplished his goals: he saved Liz and won her back, and he still has Ed to play video games with. The remaining zombies have been incorporated into daily life. Shaun is content and happy.

Reaching your goals can play a huge part in your happiness even if the outward trappings don’t change much. Making changes to your physical surroundings aren’t the point; it’s changing your inner landscape that brings about contentment and happiness. Changing your perspective is imperative. If you decided that you didn’t want to be part of the rat-race and found you were better suited to a life filled with creativity and art in any form, enjoy feeling free from the corporate constraints. If you felt unchallenged by your job and you either created a way to continually test yourself or found an arena that better challenged you, good job! The ultimate goal was to find what makes you happy and you went for it!

Shaun of the Dead Trailer

What do you think is the most important rule?

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What Rules do You Create for Yourself?

Let me know in the comments. :-)


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    • kjpiercetrc profile image

      KJ Pierce 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Thank you, Adept2012. If you haven't seen Shaun of the Dead, I highly recommend it. :-)

    • Adept2012 profile image

      Adebayo Adeolu Ibrahim 4 years ago

      Great article, this is particularly important to those who cannot watch the movie. At least, we have been able to learn. Thanks