“Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.”
— Charlotte Bronte, English novelist and poet
I had just removed the wrapping paper from a Christmas gift presented to me by my sister. It was a book by Winston Groom entitled Forrest Gump. It seemed an odd title to me. The cover looked almost cartoon-like. This was years before the movie with Tom Hanks.
“What’s it about?” I asked.
“Oh, you’ll love it,” she replied. “It’s about this fellow by the name of Forrest Gump. He’s not the brightest man but he has all these adventures and he changes the world.”
“What kind of adventures?” I wasn’t much into reading novels at the time – especially ones with cartoon covers. I preferred non-fiction, mostly autobiographies of famous people.
“Grand adventures,” she said. “You’ll have to read it to find out more.”
I never did read it. In fact, a few years later, I tossed it into a box of items going to the local second-hand store. I wished I hadn’t. The book was gone and, all too soon, so was my sister. I didn’t expect much from the book. I literally judged it by its cover and I was wrong.
Today, Forrest Gump is precisely the type of book I enjoy reading. Forrest sees the world simply and truthfully with a type of clarity many of us do not possess. Despite an IQ that is — by all reckoning —considerably lower than most people’s, he is able to move successfully through life, succeed personally and in business and touch the hearts of everyone he encounters.
Yes, it’s a work of fiction but the life lessons are sound and more applicable today than ever.
In the book and subsequent movie, Forrest’s mother tells him that, “Life is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get.”
It’s a fact that what we expect and what we get are often too completely different things. How we deal with what life presents us with is the true test of our character.
There’s something profoundly intriguing in Forrest’s ability to embrace life free of expectation.
To, figuratively speaking, reach into that box of chocolates, withdraw whatever our fingers touch and savour it.
Mama Gump does not want Forrest to limit himself – she does not want him to buy into the predictions and expectations of others.
She tells Forrest that we all must do the best with what we’ve been given.
Forrest takes her words to heart and moves forward with a confident expectation of good things. One of our greatest challenges is assessing the expectation we have for ourselves.
Expectations can limit our success or launch us into the life we desire.
In many ways, Forrest is like a child — free of preconceived notions about the inherent fairness of life or the limitations that come from living in fear.
Forrest believes and therefore achieves.
Forrest runs believing his magic shoes can take him anywhere. Is fear limiting your life experience? Have you stopped believing? Time to find your magic shoes and start running.
A crucial element of embracing life is having faith. In the novel, Forrest’s mother has unwavering faith in her son and will do whatever it takes to ensure that he is given the opportunities she is convinced he deserves.
It’s important to surround ourselves with people who believe in us and have faith in our abilities. Friends and family that we can turn to for support, encouragement and advice.
And by this, I mean a grounded and viable faith that is not built upon hollow compliments and empty platitudes.
People who truly know who we are, who recognize our potential and are not afraid to be completely open and honest with us when necessary.
Of course, we must have faith in ourselves and abilities, too.
Essentially, we must know ourselves. This is much more likely when we have good self-esteem and a grounded sense of self. Did Forrest have good self-esteem?
He certainly had an understanding of who he was as is evident in a comment his makes to Jenny. “I’m not a smart man … but I know what love is.”
I would take this even a step further and suggest that having faith in our fellow man — the essential good of mankind — is crucial to living a life that is positive and empowering.
Forrest teaches us not to play the victim. We all have tragedy to overcome. Standing by his mother’s grave marker Forrest acknowledges that dying is a part of life, though he wishes it wasn’t. Life can be brutal at times. Painfully so.
When we embrace the totality of life we have a much greater appreciation for every aspect of it. We love fully. We laugh heartily. We cry when we’re sad and remember fondly when we’re lonely. Every experience brings us the gift of self-awareness. Life comes full circle when we know what love is, do our best and believe.
Forrest teaches us to step out of resistance and embrace all that life offers us. To stop complaining and playing the victim. Forrest doesn’t blame the heavens, himself or anyone else. He never resists what’s happening. He fully accepts the moment and lives in alignment with it.
Truth is in behaviour. Actions speak louder than words. “Stupid is and stupid does,” says Forrest. I would amend that to say wise is as wise does. Our words mean little if our actions do not align. When we live life courageously and deliberately, we define our destiny. We release ourselves from everyone else’s expectations and begin to live the life that is rich and fulfilling. Joyous living is really about being our best, being fully engaged in whatever we’re doing, holding ourselves accountable and establishing firm, yet healthy boundaries. To live life fully, we must step out of fear and be willing to take a stand for what we believe to be true.
“I don’t know if we each have a destiny or if we’re all just floating around accident-like on a breeze,” said Forrest. “But I think maybe it’s both … happening at the same time.”
Perhaps life is truly like a box of chocolates. We never know what we’re gonna get and just maybe that is the way it should be.
“Never tell me the sky’s the limit when (I know) there are footprints on the moon.”
– Author Unknown
Murray M. Fuhrer – The Self-Esteem Guya
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.