One of the most popular films of all time is “Forrest Gump,” and rightfully so. It’s one of those movies that tears your heart out and makes you want to reinvent your life, like “Shawshank Redemption,” “The Blind Side” and “The Fox and the Hound.”
Ok, maybe not “The Fox and the Hound.” But jokes aside, there really are plenty of valuable life lessons to take away from Tom Hanks’ performance. He taught us to persevere, be honest, try new things and have self-respect. One lesson we don’t typically consider, though, is what the movie teaches us about productivity.
Forrest Gump is a productive guy. When he’s young, he teaches Elvis how to dance. Throughout college, he plays football, earning a spot on the All-American team. Later, Gump becomes a pingpong champion, learns how to sail a boat and navigates the shrimp business. He accepts an invitation to the White House and even runs across the country a few times!
He is productive in other ways, too. He invests in his friendships with fellow soldiers and pursues activities that he loves. He spends time chatting with strangers and prioritizes his relationships with loved ones. Although these commitments may seem ordinary, they’re actually the root of Gump’s greatest accomplishments.
In a college student’s mind, productivity is often confined to improving grades, earning money and checking tasks off a to-do list. To many of us, productivity is connected to the completion of tangible, unpleasant tasks (and we need to prioritize those unpleasant tasks in order to be successful…right?).
What if we challenged our skewed perceptions of productivity? I believe that often the most productive things we can do are not required of us by our professors and bosses.
We gain wisdom by visiting with our grandparents. We encounter new opportunities when we develop our talents (even the seemingly-useless ones, because someone has to come up with the messages inside fortune cookies). We improve our relationships by spending time in deep, winding conversations. We take care of ourselves by enjoying our hobbies.
Most importantly, we develop a more genuine relationship with God by enjoying time with Him. Fellowship with God is the ultimate act of productivity, and one awesome thing about God is that He’s always available!
We can turn to Him in any moment, confident that he won’t brush our trivial concerns aside for the sake of more pressing issues. Unfortunately, this privilege allows us to take advantage of God. We schedule our lives in ways that maximize our idea of productivity, and then we fit God into the convenient gaps. We minimize guilt by overlapping “God time” and “productive time.”
In theory, streaming a church service while doing laundry can double productivity! In reality, though, these habits show that we often sacrifice our spiritual lives the moment busyness sets in.
I think our campus will be healthier and happier if we acknowledge the breadth of productivity. Productivity won’t always be enjoyable, but sometimes it should be!
And one thing I’ve learned from Forrest Gump is the enjoyable things are what stick with us 20 years down the road and are usually the foundation of our biggest successes.
So, whether you’ve seen the movie or not, I encourage you to think twice before neglecting something you love in order to “be productive.”
Maybe that thing you love is actually the most productive thing you can do.