Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Gordon Livingston

our passage through life consists of an effort to get the maps in our heads to conform to the ground on which we walk.”

“Much of our difficulty in developing and sustaining personal relationships resides in our failure to recognize, in ourselves as well as in others, those personality characteristics that make someone a poor candidate for a committed relationship.”

“What would be equally useful, I think, would be a manual of virtuous character traits that describes qualities to nurture in ourselves and to seek in our friends and lovers. At the top of the list would be kindness, a willingness to give of oneself to another. This most desirable of virtues governs all the others, including a capacity for empathy and love. Like other forms of art, we may find it hard to define, but when we are in its presence, we feel it.”

“This is the map we wish to construct in our heads: a reliable guide that allows us to avoid those who are not worthy of our time and trust and to embrace those who are. The best indications that our always-tentative maps are faulty include feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal, surprise, and disorientation. It is when these feelings surface that we need to think about our mental instrument of navigation and how to correct it, so that we do not fall into the repetitive patterns of those who waste the learning that is the only consolation for our painful experience.”

“Happiness is not simply the absence of despair. It is an affirmative state in which our lives have both meaning and pleasure.”

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

“Conversely, in judging other people we need to pay attention not to what they promise but to how they behave.”

“Most of the heartbreak that life contains is a result of ignoring the reality that past behavior is the most reliable predictor of future behavior.”

“In general we get, not what we deserve, but what we expect.”

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

“We love someone when the importance of his or her needs and desires rises to the level of our own. In the best of cases, of course, our concern for the welfare of another exceeds, or becomes indistinguishable from, what we want for ourselves.”

“The point is that love is demonstrated behaviorally.”

“Often people alternate between the extremes of loneliness and self-deception. Somewhere in the middle lies our best chance at happiness. Finally, we are entitled to receive only that which we are prepared to give. This is why there is truth to the adage that we all get the marriage partners we deserve, and why most of our dissatisfactions with others reflect limitations in ourselves.”

“The things we do, the prejudices that we hold, and the repetitive conflicts that afflict our lives are seldom the products of rational thought. In fact, we operate in the world mostly on autopilot,”

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

“Marriages that come to my attention are on life support. Their common theme is that they have become power struggles; in fact, most appear to have been so from the beginning. The issues over which the contest is fought are familiar—money, children, sex—but the underlying causes are usually diminished self-respect and unmet expectations.”

Feelings follow behavior

“Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

“The best one can hope for is to introduce them to the paradox of perfection: in some settings, notably in our intimate relationships, we gain control only by relinquishing it.”

“To take the risks necessary to achieve this goal is an act of courage. To refuse to take them, to protect our hearts against all loss, is an act of despair.”

“Our ability to experience any pleasure requires either a healthy denial or courageous acceptance of the weight of time and the prospect of ultimate defeat”

“Before we can do anything, we must be able to imagine it.”

“the only communication that can be trusted: behavior.”

“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.”

“To be happy is to take the risk of losing that happiness. All significant accomplishments require taking risks: the risk of failure in invention, in exploration, or in love”

“the union of two people offers us the primary compensation for all the burdens of being human: the need to toil, the “thorns and thistles,” and the lifelong knowledge of our mortality”

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

“Virtually all the 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.”

“There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition, and a willingness to be surprised.”

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