Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is the title of a book by Gordon Livingston, M.D. The headline you see at the top of the page comes from the book’s subtitle, Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now. I stumbled upon Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart on someone’s Top 10 Favorite Books list, and I found the title so compelling, I picked up a copy.
Turns out that Livingston was a psychiatrist who lived in Columbia, Maryland. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 77. Livingston wrote on the side, penning magazine articles and authoring a few books. As a blurb on the book jacket says, “his life has been touched by fire.” He lost 2 sons at young ages, one to disease, the other to suicide. He received a Bronze Star for valor in Vietnam.
The list of 10 you’ll find below is not pulled directly from Livingston’s “30 True Things.” Instead, I found that some of his “things” contained 2 or 3 valid points or that a key message was buried within the text. I’ve listed my favorite thoughts below, lightly edited with a few personal asides tossed in. They truly are words to live by.
10 True Things You Need to Know
- The three components of happiness are 1.) something to do, 2.) someone to love, and 3.) something to look forward to. If you have useful work you enjoy, at least one strong and sustaining relationship, and the promise of pleasure, it is harder to be unhappy.
- We love someone when the importance of his or her needs and desires rises to the level of our own. In the best cases, your concern for the welfare of another exceeds what you want for yourself.
- We define who we are and who and what we care about, not by what we promise, but by what we do. As the saying goes, our actions speak louder than our words.
- Much of our lives consist of broken promises to ourselves. We often don’t do what is necessary to become the people we are meant to be. To do anything, you must first imagine it. Then, step by step, do what it takes to make the promise a reality.
- We must retain our good humor and interest in others, even as the curtain closes. Do this and you will have contributed something of inestimable value to those around you.
- What happens to us is not nearly as important as the attitude we adopt in response. It’s not so important what occurs in your life, but how you respond to it that determines how you feel. If your choices become constrained by the need for anxiety avoidance, your life shrinks.
- Virtually all the happiness-producing events in our life take time, usually a long time. These events include building satisfying relationships, raising children, mastering new hobbies. To make them happen, takes patience and determination.
- There is no way around grief, you just have to go through it. Those we have lost evoke feelings of love in us we didn’t know we were capable of. It is our task to transfer that love to those who still need us. In that way we remain faithful to the memory of those we have lost.
- Our challenge is not to seek perfection in ourselves and others, but to find ways to be happy in an imperfect world. If you cling to an idealized vision of the past, it ensures dissatisfaction with the present.
- We need to come to terms with the loss of our younger selves with grace and acceptance. If you begin feeling devalued by becoming older, than your life becomes a discouraging process of trying to look and act younger. You must instead realize the immense value of the knowledge and perspective you have gained from your life experience.