Why we should strive to be more like Forrest Gump
November 7, 2013
When you ask someone who their role model is you can expect a wide range of responses: Ghandi, Mark Cuban and Steve Jobs are some common ones I’ve heard.
For me, though, I’d have to say Forrest Gump. Granted, he’s fictional, but I’m cool with that.
Forrest Gump, for those rock dwellers out there, is the protagonist in an epic movie (based on the novel by Winston Groom) that won best picture at the 1994 Academy Awards.
Despite not being the sharpest tool in the shed, Forrest’s free spirit takes him on a number of adventures, from becoming an All-American college football player, to fighting in Vietnam, to starting his own shrimping business.
Forrest goes through life like a feather floating in the wind. His actions are influenced by his external environment, but it never changes who he is.
He brings a positive perspective to everything, is extremely loyal to those he cares about and exhibits only kindness to others. He seeks the most fundamental means of happiness without getting caught up in the significance of his actions or trying to leverage relationships to obtain selfish objectives.
There are many instances throughout the movie where Forrest Gump illustrates significant life lessons.
First is the iconic metaphor that life is like a box of chocolates.
It is a true statement — you never know what you’re going to get, nor do you always have very much control over it. But, it is the optimistic way in which Forrest proclaims this to a random stranger sitting next to him on a park bench in Savannah, Ga. that gives it its true meaning.
Instead of looking at life as a series of things that we wish could have been, Forrest’s perspective reminds us to look at what we do have and make the most of it.
Another Gump-ism that I love comes when the love of his life, Jenny, leaves him, causing him to take off on a three year coast-to-coast marathon run.
Along the way, people ask Forrest why he’s running and he responds, “I just felt like running.” This conveys the message that we should live in the moment and do what makes us instinctively happy.
Granted, living in the moment is not the only way we should live. Not having any regard for the long-term can have some negative consequences.
However, the notion serves as a good stabilizer for the times when we get so caught up in trying to get somewhere that we forget about where we are. Sometimes going for a run is the best cure.
Forrest also uses running as a means to deal with conflict.
While I don’t think it is always good to run away from your problems, the metaphor serves as a good reminder that when we are feeling marginalized or abused in one world, escaping to another one for just a little can allow us to find our inner strength and eventually overcome the adversity.
Finally, we see the idea that happiness is a state of mind.
Forrest’s optimistic nature, even in the face of tragedy, reminds us that much of what makes us unhappy is just ourselves. Even when Forrest was fighting in Vietnam he still managed to put smiles on the faces of those around him.
This attitude eventually rubbed off on the curmudgeonly Lieutenant Dan, who, after wishing to die on the battlefield, found new meaning in his life after Forrest saved him in action.
Some studies have shown that just forcing a smile can indeed make us happier, which suggests that there is some substance to this ideology.
All this being said, it is likely impossible that a normal person could achieve the same level of bliss as Forrest Gump, and it probably wouldn’t be ideal for someone to do so.
However, the lessons he conveys are a tremendous compliment to our self-awareness, which can sometimes become stifling if not put in the proper perspective.
Forrest Gump’s brilliance comes from the fact that although he is not the brightest, he is still able to grasp the most fundamental values that bring humans together and ultimately provide happiness.
He’s my role model, and I think the world would be a better place if everybody let a little more Gumption into their lives.
Andrew is a junior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected]