Jul 3, 2009

recipe for a happy life.

I am a big fan of Dr Gordon Livinston- for those of you who don't know him or haven't heard of him he is a psychiatrist but a very straight talking insightful and funny man. I first discovered him on Life Matters on Radio National and read the book he was plugging at the time and it is one of my all time faves now... like a little reference book - for life...

Nooo- not like Dr Phil, ( I am not a fan at all- he just tells people what to do) Dr Livingston has some brilliant ideas about life and love. The book is called Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart ( he has written a couple more since then) it is a book of short essays about life and all the things he has learnt from his patients over his years as a psychiatrist ( as well as the lessons learnt personally surviving the death of two of his children) . I generally run screaming from anything even remotely like a self help book - and spend a large amount of time explaining the inappropriateness of some of the " advice" in some of the books my clients bring in to show me. But this book is something different... he writes in a way that is planting a seed and you find yourself - while reading the book regularly stopping and thinking about what he is saying... I feel as if he has been able to simply explain quite huge ideas and concepts.

My favourite idea of his : it is so simple yet so eloquent, I cannot believe no one else has ever explained this concept to me in this easy way-

happiness is not simply the absence of despair... our lives should have both meaning and pleasure. He goes onto to say that happiness is about three simple things

1. something to do,

2. something to love

3. something to look forward too...

I keep it in the back of my mind when I am working with my clients to get their lives back on track after usually a very difficult time in their lives... but he also goes onto to say in his most recent book about love and life that the three most important decisions you will ever make are:

1. what to do (as in to earn money- for most of us)

2. where you live

3. who your partner is.

Again seems so simplistic but perhaps not. If I honestly think about times in my life where I have been unhappy it has been one of those three reasons every time.

Why at almost 35 years old (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk) has this concept just been explained to me! Should we not learn this at school- in some way??? I feel at this point in my life I have made a decision I am happy about on all three of those big questions- is this what makes me happy? I think yes.

Yes, we are born with certain tendencies towards happiness for sure but ultimately we make decisions about how we react to the events on our lives- this determines our happiness...not the things that happen to us but how we react to them. I am sure you can all think of the person who always looks on the negative side... I know of someone like this who recently sold his house very quickly- rather than be happy that it all went so well his reaction is one of despair that it must have been too cheap! this negativity drives me absolutely bonkers!

So I say- stay away from people that bring you down - but most of all be happy- look at your life and change the bits you don't like. You deserve to laugh everyday.


  1. He sounds amazing Cath - I really like his 'top three'. Personally I feel the happiest I ever have at this time of my life, and those three things are all in place - and haven't been before.

    Thanks for a lovely blog too. I'm a new follower, which always sounds creepy to me. Plese don't make me drink the Kool-Aid.


  2. A wonderful, inspiring post! At age 32 (eek again!) I am just starting to figure this stuff out, I wish I had learnt it back in my twenties but I guess back then I wouldn't have realised how important those things actually are! I think a lot of it comes back to knowing who you are (the real you, not who other people expect you to be) and trusting your instincts about what makes you happy.
    Thanks for this post : )

  3. wow! great post. going to look for his books now!

  4. I think it is called Wisdom. Most often it comes with age. I can honestly say i am feeling it finally at the ripe old age of 48. It is just being content with who you are in the scheme of things. When you are young you worry about fitting in, and when you don't you worry, All that you can be is the best person you can be. The competing and fitting in is no longer an issue.

  5. I absolultely love this post, Cath and have put the book in my Amazon shopping basket! It is just the sort of advice I hope to be able to give to my eldest as it says everything that needs to be said. I fell into the self help book thang when I was finding my way out of a smallish depression a couple of years ago but had to wean myself off them for my own sanity! But this sounds a really interesting lovely little book. Thank you.

  6. I gave you a lovely blog award - pop over to my blog to see!

  7. Yep, going to have to look at that book for myself. Thanks for passing it on!


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