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12 Lasting Lessons From Forrest Gump

By Nancy Burnett
Updated August 8, 2017

New blockbusters hit theaters every summer, but not all movies go on to live for decades in the minds of viewers and pop culture. One film that has passed the test of time and defies the typical “watch and forget” pattern of many other movies is 1999’s “Forrest Gump.”

Starring Tom Hanks, this award-winning drama-comedy had it all: humor, inspiration, and all-out emotion rolled into a wonderfully shot, well-acted and unique story. This beloved movie is also based on a 1986 book of the same name from American novelist Winston Francis Groom. As in other books, there are many life lessons to be learned in the narrative that are also found in the film.

Whether you’ve just watched “Forrest Gump” for the first time or have seen it many times over, there are many lasting life lessons you can learn from this heartwarming flick. Here is a look at 12 of them.

1. It Pays To Be Honest

One running bit in the movie is Forrest’s habit of saying exactly what it is on his mind. This is often played for laughs, but sometimes, it helps people realize something important about themselves. The character sometimes offends people a bit, but it’s always obvious he means well.

As in the movie, it pays to be more honest in your communications and dealings with other people. While you may end up accidentally hurting someone’s feelings at times, if you are coming from the right place, people will understand, and the risk may be worth it depending on the situation.

2. Treat Everyone The Same

From the President of the United States to the woman at the bus stop, Forrest treats everyone equally in the film in terms of respect and honesty. You don’t see him brown-nose or talk down to anyone, no matter who they are.

This lesson is really important, but it can be difficult to learn. Whether you realize it or not, you may be treating different people in different ways. True, full respect may be reserved for educated or accomplished people only, for example. Take a close look at how you treat everyone in your life, from the cashier at the store to your boss, and make adjustments as necessary.

3. Don’t Fear Love

While it hurts sometimes, Forrest spends the entire moving caring for others, from his mother to Jenny and Bubba. He’s never afraid to love and care openly and deeply, even if it could end up hurting him in the end. Forrest simply doesn’t let fear stop him from caring or loving, and he doesn’t even factor that into the equation; he just feels and expresses.

When you’re worried about being emotionally attached to someone else, keep this lesson in mind. While you may end up hurt because you loved and cared, the risk is well worth it and the rewards along the way can’t be expressed in words.

4. Don’t Fear Loss, Either

Caring about other people always comes with the risk of experiencing loss. In the film, many people that Forrest cares about dies, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He feels the grief purely and completely, and we see him talking to graves and thinking about those he has lost.

Loss is an inevitable part of life that we all have to accept. Never caring enough to experience grief from a loss is hardly a life that is full of actual living.

5. Try New Things

One pivotal point in the movie is when Forrest is asked to play ping pong, which he’s never done before. He tries immediately without hesitation, and it’s soon obvious he’s a natural. This opens a lot of new doors and exciting experiences in his life that he would not have had otherwise.

Never be afraid to try something new, as you never know what you’re going to end up excelling at or loving. Even if you fail, it doesn’t matter; the experience alone will count for something.

6. Trust Your Instincts

It is an emotional scene when Lieutenant Dan wants to die after being injured on the battlefield. Forrest, however, does not believe this is the right thing to do, so he saves the lieutenant, and Dan eventually goes on to have a fulfilled and happy life.

Sometimes in life, your heart may pull you one way while everyone else tells you to go in the other direction. Trust yourself and your instincts as you are the one who will have to live with your decision in the end.

7. Value Yourself, Despite What Other People May Say

In “Forrest Gump,” Mama Gump is always quick to remind Forrest he is just as good as everyone else, and she is totally right.

Society dictates what “normal” is to us, but it is awfully relative and somewhat meaningless. Do not be afraid to live life as you truly want because it is your time and not anyone else’s.

8. You’ll Never Know Your Own Impact

Forrest not caring about being “normal” leads to a lot of great things in the film without him even realizing it; he makes Elvis famous and helped a person be successful by way of a smiley face and fun bumper sticker.

Like Forrest, always be yourself. While you may not help someone launch a business or become a celebrity, your impact will still be felt, and it can do wonders for someone else.

9. Remember To Watch What You Say

When Jenny rejects Forrest’s proposal of marriage, he reminds her of a cruel insult she hurled at him years earlier. It’s a heartbreaking moment in the film, and it’s also an important reminder: there are no do-overs in real life. Words can have a serious impact on another person, and you can’t take them back once they have left your mouth. Think before you speak.

10. Don’t Take Genuine Friendship For Granted

12-Lasting-Lessons-From-Forrest-Gump-pin Forrest has friendships come and go in the movie, but when true friendships happen – such as Jenny, Bubba and Dan – he recognizes it and does not let those relationships fall by the wayside. Like Forrest, try to keep a hold on those true friendships in life as they won’t come by every day.

11. Remember There Isn’t Always A Deeper Meaning

When Forrest starts running nonstop across the country, he inspires a lot of people who want to know why he is doing it. In truth, he just felt like running. There is not always a deep meaning to everything we do, and sometimes we do things just because we want to – and that’s okay, too.

12. You Never Know What Life Will Bring

The “box of chocolates” line is a famous one from this film, and it’s really accurate. While you never know what life is going to bring you, it’s still worth trying. You won’t always like the results, but every once in a while, you’ll get sheer perfection.

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Katherine Hurst
By Nancy Burnett
Nancy, a Master Coach and Certified Professional Co-Active Life Coach (CPCC) has a passion for helping her clients to live vibrant, authentic and fulfilling lives; lives that are under their total control and which have been shaped in exactly the way they want. She believes that you can live a life that you love and that it is possible to manifest your dreams into reality.

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