Good at Life

It's a wonderful New York Life: 5 life lessons from George Bailey.

New York Life | December 24, 2019

Updated November 27, 2023


If you’ve seen the classic holiday movie It’s a Wonderful Life, you know that it’s packed with life lessons. If you haven’t seen it, we recommend grabbing the popcorn and your loved ones -- and keep a box of tissues handy, it’s a real tearjerker!

We’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but the movie follows the life of everyday hero George Bailey. George thinks that the only way to save his family from bankruptcy, and his beloved community of Bedford Falls from falling into the evil hands of tycoon Mr. Potter, is the death benefit on his insurance policy. 

Fortunately for George -- and everyone in Bedford Falls -- there's a guardian angel watching over him who convinces him that he's definitely better off choosing life... his life. In the course of the movie, George learns a few life lessons. Here are five key takeaways:

1. The power of doing good

Doing the right thing is sometimes hard, but it is ultimately rewarding. George Bailey doesn't realize the power of the good he does -- for his colleagues, his friends, his family, for the whole of Bedford Falls. If it wasn't for the good he does, Bedford Falls would be Pottersville. If it wasn't for him, his younger brother would have drowned. There is something inherently meaningful and purposeful in being good at life and watching out for each other -- for our employees, for our customers, for our country's veterans, for everyone.

2. The importance of family

Ever since he was a boy, hanging out at the soda fountain, George dreams of seeing the world, of running away from responsibility. He's tempted by Annie. He's tempted by Tahiti. But he learns that his family really is the most wonderful thing, that they're worth living for, that they're worth protecting.

3. We all need a little help in life

George is always helping others. He never asks for help... until it is (almost) too late. But he learns that we all need a little help in life. Wherever you are on your wonderful life's journey, whether you’re just starting out, juggling family and career, or approaching retirement, we believe the mindset of accepting help is key to successfully navigating life’s complexities.

4. We're in it together

For George, sleepy Bedford Falls sometimes feels like an albatross around his neck. He longs to escape. But events teach him that his community is where he belongs, and that belonging is wonderful. George has done so many good things for his community, and for that he's a local hero. This holiday season, be sure to drop in on a neighbor, gather loved ones around, and celebrate the important things in life, together.

5. The value of humanity

George essentially believes that people are good. But he walks through the valley of doubt. There's evil Mr. Potter and friendly barkeep Martini isn't so friendly. He makes his dear wife cry. Even his kids recognize his internal struggles. But as his family, friends, and neighbors rally around him, George learns the value of community. While much has changed since the 1940s when this movie was set, the importance of community and all it provides has never been greater.

So, deck the halls, eat your favorite things, and watch those classic holiday movies. Whatever you most enjoy about the holiday season, it's the most wonderful time of year. And whatever your plans, whatever your dreams, at New York Life, we're here to protect you, your family, and your futures, throughout this wonderful life.


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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937