Forrest Gump happens to be one of my favourite films. Not because I love Tom Hanks. But because it is more than just a movie; it is a life lesson on celluloid. I rewatch the movie from time to time, hoping to glean something new from the protagonist’s–Forrest’s– utterly unique and fascinating life. Since the last time I watched it, one particular scene has been replaying in my mind: the scene where Forrest sits at a bus stop with a box of chocolates in his hands. He tells a stranger, “My mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’.” Though I have watched the scene numerous times, it felt different this time. It got me thinking what Forrest might have intended to convey through these words.
I wondered if Forrest was referring to the randomness of life–we never know what is going to come our way. Life, as we know it, has its highs. But along the way, we face our fair share of lows. During such times, we are told life is about making the right choices and staying positive no matter what. Making the right choices sure is a necessity, but I wonder how far thinking positively can help. Wouldn’t an overdose of positivity blind one to potential disasters? After all, life is full of surprises.
Perhaps, it is ideal to hope for the best while also preparing for the worst. This approach doesn’t make an individual a pessimist. It just makes them a better planner, preparing them to face the worst possible situations. Bangalore-based wedding planner Divya Chauhan relates to this very well. She observes, “It is critical for us to think of all possible outcomes–from best to the worst–so that we can be prepared to tackle any emergencies.”
Bangalore is the ‘garden city of India’. Naturally, couples love the idea of getting married in open lawns. But 15 minutes of rain can ruin one of the most special days of their lives. “It is for this very reason we wedding planners always have an option A followed by an option B. It is only prudent to think of the worst-case scenarios,” Divya explains.
Hoping for the best is just as important as preparing for the worst. In fact, one without the other is probably unrealistic.
Preparing for the worst is simply an objective way of going about our lives. Having said that, I do not mean we should not stay positive. Hoping for the best is just as important as preparing for the worst. In fact, one without the other is probably unrealistic. In fact, Peter T Underwood in his book US Army Survival Manual, writes: “When you go into survival setting with unrealistic expectations, you may be laying the groundwork for bitter disappointment. Follow the adage, ‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.’ It is much easier to adjust to pleasant surprises about one’s unexpected good fortunes than to be upset by one’s unexpected harsh circumstances.”
Pastry chef Sandhya Sureshkumar could not agree more. She believes this kind of survival-mode planning is integral to baking. “There’s a reason bakers spend a lot of time measuring and weighing ingredients. When it is a bulk order, consistency is key. And following a set recipe, right down to the last digit of an ingredient’s measurement, is essential to make sure there are no ugly surprises,” she says.
If Sandhya’s approach is not a wise one, then I do not know what is. This kind of thinking helps one assess an event or a situation from various perspectives, thereby averting any potential disasters. Unfortunately, the concept of positive thinking rarely leaves any room for probable problem assessment. Mere positive thinking, without looking a situation in its totality, is plainly wishful thinking. Being wishful doesn’t take us anywhere, does it?
One cannot always live in a bubble of positivity. If we haven’t been saving up, a rainy day might just burst that bubble someday. We cannot just assume that when the need arises, we will suddenly discover gold! Even the ant in the Aesop’s fable The Ant and the Grasshopper knew this truth. While the grasshopper frolicked about throughout the summer, the ant gathered food for the winter. Sure, the ant might not have enjoyed the summer. But when winter came, the ant had food and the grasshopper did not. It is clear, isn’t it? It is always better to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.