Forrest Gump's Simple Guide To A Happy Life


One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. It's a beautiful story and there are jewels of advice on how to live a happy life hidden throughout the story. Here are eight of my favorite lessons. You might enjoy listening to this in the background while you read.


Notice the small things

The movie starts and ends with a feather. Forrest notices it the first time when he is sitting on a bench. He takes it, admires it and puts it in his favorite book. Years later it reappears after we learn Forrest's amazing story.


Remember that Miracles happen every day

My Momma always said that, "Miracles happen every day." 
Now some people don’t believe that but it’s true.

To illustrate the point, interestingly, Forrest talks about what could seem like a pretty terrible memory: the first time he ever ran from bullies. It's in this scene that Jenny famously yells “Run Forrest Run!” and he runs down his driveway as three bullies chase him on their bikes. His braces fall off and he outruns them across the field and clear across town. It turns out he could run like the wind. As got older he says, “Now it used to be I ran to get where I was going, I never thought it would take me anywhere.” It took him all the way to college.


DO A great job the first time

One of my favorite exchanges in the movie is between Forrest and his Drill Sergeant. Forrest stays focused on his task in front of him, whether it's assembling his rifle in record-time, cleaning the floors with a toothbrush or just responding with enthusiasm. It's easy to overthink things but Forrest has it right when he stays focused and does a great job the first time. 

GUMP! What’s your sole purpose in this army?”
“To do whatever you tell me Drill Sergeant.”
“God damn it Gump! You’re a god damn genius. That is the most outstanding answer I have ever heard!"


Focus on the Good

He always saw the best in people and circumstances. When in Vietnam on patrol he would say, “We got to see lots of the countryside” and of course he would always see the best in Jenny, Bubba, Lt. Dan, and everyone around him. Not only did he focus on the good, he was always good to others as well even when they didn't understand why.


Always Keep Your Word

After finishing his time in the Army, Forrest kept his word to Bubba and starting a shrimping company. He also split everything with his family 50/50. When Forrest reminds his Lieutenant, “Bubba was going to be Captain and I was going to be his first mate. Now I need to be the Captain. A promise is a promise Lt. Dan!” He jokes, “And the day you become a shrimp boat captain, I’ll be your first mate,” It turned out that Forrest kept his promise to Bubba, and Bubba's family and ultimately Lt. Dan kept his promise too. 


Dive in for those you care about

One of my favorite scenes in the movie that just makes my heart happy is when Lt. Dan comes to see Forrest on his shrimping boat. Forrest waves and gets so excited that he just walks right off the boat and swims to Lt. Dan. Years later, when their company is incredibly successful, Forrest hears that his mom is sick over the radio. He figures out what direction home is and then dives straight into the water to swim to her. In both cases he doesn't hesitate and he doesn't say a word. He just dives in for those he cares about. 


Just FOCUS ON the NEXT step

After his mother passes away, Forrest is pretty set. He has made a ton of money with his company and given away almost all of it. "Momma always said there's only so much fortune a man really needs, and the rest is just for showing off." He spends his time mowing because he loves it and he sees Jenny again when she comes to stay with him. 

But after a while she leaves. He's heartbroken and unsure what to do next. That's when he decides to run. He isn't sure what to do in the big picture so he just starts with a step. His simple approach quickly turned into an inspiring movement without him saying a word. It's easy to overthink things, but people respond to action and we all have to start with the first step.  

That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.


Just say I love you

Most people don't remember the very last line in Forrest Gump. I certainly didn't.

But I think it might be one of the most profound and touching lines in the whole movie.

When Little Forrest goes to school in the last scene his dad says,

"Hey Forrest, don't...... I wanted to tell you I love you."


I found this incredibly interesting and touching. Forrest is concerned, like all parents, about letting his child go. He remembers his first day on the bus and all the things that he probably wants to warn his son about. That "don't" could have been so many things.

Had Forrest continued the sentence, it would have been the very first time we ever saw Forrest tell anyone what to do. But he doesn't.

He does what I think all of us should do, he focuses on love.

It's the perfect last line of a beautiful story.