I ended my previous blog with this question; Do you think maybe the reason Forrest Gump was so content was because he understood his own core values and lived life in harmony with them? Let’s dig deeper and contrast Forrest’s way of living with the life that others lived … specifically Lt. Dan. In contrasting these characters, we’ll see a perfect example of a person living contentedly because he was living life consistent with his core values, as well as a man who was unhappy and struggling as he lived in conflict with (or out of touch with) his core values.
Forrest was generally happy throughout most of his life. Of course he experienced sadness and disappointment, even tragedy and loss; but you always sensed that at the end of the day, he was content within himself. He understood who he was, his capabilities and limitations, and did his best every day.
Lt. Dan on the other hand, was happy when he was commanding his troops but collapsed into depression and misery after personal tragedy; we sense that he is conflicted, angry and disconnected for a large part of his life after losing his legs and suffering the death of his men.
Is it possible that the source of happiness vs. unhappiness is a direct result of living a life that is either in harmony with or in conflict with core values? … I say yes.
I am also not the first to suggest that living life in harmony with your core values is an ideal pursuit.
Lorraine Cohen wrote on her Powerfull Living blog, “when you act in a way that is in conflict with your heart, your life feels more like a struggle, unhappiness grows, you can feel disconnected from your SELF.”
Life Coach Douglas Woods says, “A good many people are leading lives unconnected with their core values. This can lead to a life of unhappiness, discontent and lack of fulfillment. Sometimes it can lead to conflict. Often the person does not know why their life seems unhappy, unfulfilled and sometimes full of conflict. Often, the cause is that the life they are living is not in accordance with their personal values.”
In past blogs, I’ve shown how Forrest was living with Gumption, and in harmony with his core values, which promote his peaceful and contented manner and calm, easygoing personality. It seems natural to look at Forrest’s counterpart for the contrast and example of living otherwise.
What was Lt. Dan’s original goal in life? To fight and die in a war just like every previous male in his family … From the Revolutionary War to the Civil war and through both World Wars. He felt it was his destiny and honor to die on the battlefield. But what happened? Forrest saved his life and he lost his legs. Lt. Dan felt robbed and cheated of his destiny, and then he was crippled on top of it.
Can we agree that deep down inside, Lt. Dan was most likely a good guy? This was a man raised in a military tradition, one who cared for his troops, who served honorably in the Army and clearly understood right from wrong, duty and honor. Wearing his military service as a badge of honor and pride, this is where his core values would have sprung from.
After his injury, Lt. Dan physically recovered, but he didn’t live with integrity, duty and honor any longer. He did drank heavily, he felt sorry for himself, he blamed others, he lived off the government dole without remorse and treated others with disrespect and harsh words. Clearly a man who was once physically fit and loses his legs has the right to be angry, hurt and disappointed as he was … but his anger and discord grew, deepened, and festered.
Lt. Dan was living in a way that contrasted with his core values of integrity, duty and honor. Living out of harmony with his honor and service-based values, he sank deep into anger, resentment, despair and inner conflict. This in contrast to Forrest, who suffered loss, disappointment, pain and tragedy, yet continued to live life and remain true to himself and his core values, thus maintained his sense of peace through it all.
Life is tough. Bad things happen. Life is joyous. Good things happen. If we can somehow take the continuous roller-coaster of events that challenge us and see them only as events, while staying true to the relatively few core values we?ve chosen for ourselves, then at the end of the day, the events are neither good or bad. They just are. But we are true to ourselves.
Eventually, Lt. Dan did make his peace with God and accepted the unfortunate circumstances for what they were. He gave up being angry and decided to live again. He ceased merely existing and started living consistently with his core values. He regained who he was as a person and a man.
Are you living a life that is consistent with your own core values? Are you happy and content despite the pains and bruises that life gives you?
Next Blog Title: The Bitterroot Mountains
Next Blog Date: September 13, 2010