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Thought Provoking Quotes From Dr. Gordon Livingston

November 18, 2013

Gordon Livingston Archives - Scriptum

I have always been a fan of Dr. Gordon Livingston and his four books: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart; And Never Stop Dancing; How To Love; and The Thing You Think You Cannot Do.  I highly recommend all of them.  I often refer to each of these books for inspiration and guidance. Today, I thought I would share some excerpts from his first book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, to help launch the week on a positive and thoughtful note:

“We are not what we think, or what we say, or how we feel.  We are what we do.”


“The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”


“We are entitled to receive only that which we are prepared to give.”


“If we wish, as most of us do, to be treated with kindness and forbearance, we need to cultivate those qualities in ourselves.”


“Some ignorance is invincible.  People can become so wedded to their particular view of how things should work that they ignore all evidence that suggests change is necessary.”


“We do not control how we feel or what we think.  Efforts to do so are uniformly frustrating as we struggle against unwanted thoughts and emotions in ways that only exacerbate them.”


“…there is a fine line between expressing empathy and solidarity for those who suffer and endorsing a passive dependency.”


‘In some settings notably our intimate relationships, we gain control only by relinquishing it.”


“There are certain personality characteristics that are highly correlated with academic and professional success: dedication to work, attention to detail. ability to manage time, conscientiousness…”


“Only by embracing our mortality can we be happy in the time we have.  The intensity of our connections to those we love is a function of our knowledge that everything and everyone is evanescent.”


“Usually, it is fear and its close cousin, anxiety, that keep us from doing those things that would make us happy.  So much of our life consists of broken promises to ourselves.”


“The disconnect between what we say and what we do is not merely a measure of hypocrisy, since we usually believe our statements are of good intent.  We simply pay too much attention to words–ours and others’- and not enough to the actions that really define us.  The walls of our self-constructed prisons are made up in equal parts of our fear of risk and our dream that the world and the people in it will conform to our fondest wishes.  It is hard to let go of a comforting illusion, but harder still to construct a happy life out of perceptions and beliefs that do not correspond to the world around us.” 


“Whatever obligations we have to our children, a conviction that we can achieve happiness amid the losses and uncertainties that life contains is the greatest gift that we can pass from one generation to the next.  Like all the values we wish to teach our children–honesty, commitment, empathy, respect, hard work–the supreme importance of hope is taught by example.”


“All significant accomplishments involve taking risks: the risk of failure in invention, in exploration, or in love.”


“Our feelings depend mainly on our interpretation of what is happening to us and around us—our attitudes.  It is not so much what occurs, but how we define events and respond that determines how we feel.”


“The traits that we display toward other people are major determinants of how successful we are in forming and sustaining relationships.”


“Virtually all happiness-producing processes in our lives take time, usually a long time: learning new things, changing old behaviors, building satisfying relationships, raising children.  This is why patience and determination are among life’s primary virtues.”


“…it is the act that defines us, not the cause we use as rationale…If we believe it is better to build than destroy, better to live and let live, better to be than be seen, then we might have a chance, slowly, to find a satisfying way through life, this flicker of consciousness between two great silences.”


“Nearly every human action is in some way and expression of how we think about ourselves.  There are few behaviors that are self-esteem neutral.”


“We routinely invoke theories of accident, coincidence, and forgetfulness to explain behaviors that we do not wish to examine closely.”


“It is always easier to keep doing what we are used to, even if it’s evidently not working for us.”


“To know someone fully and love them in spite of, even because of, their imperfections is an act that requires us to recognize and forgive, two very important indicators of emotional maturity.”


“It is our fallibility and uncertainty that make us human.  Our constant challenge is not to seek perfection in ourselves and others, but to find ways to be happy in an imperfect world.  We are impeded in this effort if we cling to an idealized vision of the past that insures dissatisfaction with the present.”


“To be able to fully experience the sadness and absurdity that life so often presents and still find reasons to go on is an act of courage abetted by our ability to both love and laugh.  Above all, to tolerate the uncertainty we must feel in the face of the large questions of existence requires that we cultivate and ability to experience moments of pleasure.”


Mental health is a function of choice.  The more choices we are able to exercise, the happier we are likely to be…We are never out of choices, no matter how desperate the circumstances.”


“If we can relinquish the preoccupations and pseudo-explanations that are rooted in the past, we are free to choose the attitudes with which we confront the present and future.”


“If we approach others in a suspicious or hostile way, they are more likely to respond accordingly, thereby confirming our low expectations. Fortunately, the opposite is likewise true.”


“Coming to terms with our past is inevitably a process of forgiveness, of letting go, the simplest and most difficult of all human endeavors.  It is simultaneously an act of will and of surrender.  And it often seems impossible until the moment you do it.”