Viewpoint: Retain a Youthful State of Mind

  • 29 July 2015

We can take steps to stay young at heart and appreciate the beauty of life.

Article Highlights

  • When we’re young, life has so much to offer and every day is the “best day.”
  • People try many things to stay young, but it is most important to stay young at heart.
  • Prayer and reliance on the Holy Ghost for personal guidance help us find the real beauties and magnificence of life.

“Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.” —Samuel Ullman, poet

A young boy rushed into ocean surf, splashed around, jumped over knee-high waves, and shouted, “This is the best day!”

Nearly every day, it seemed, was his “best day.” It was a “best day” when his mother made his favorite dessert or his grandfather took him fishing or his team won a game. Christmas was a “best day.” So was his birthday.

If he retained his appreciative nature and enthusiastic attitude, this boy would be among the fortunate souls who get the most from whatever life offers, who grow old in years but remain young at heart.

Billions of dollars are spent on products, fitness plans, gym memberships, and various “remedies” purported to stave off the effects or signs of aging. While some benefits are found in many of these offerings and pursuits, perhaps the greatest are in our minds and attitudes, such as that exhibited by the boy at the beach.

Samuel Ullman (1840–1924) wrote a poetic essay titled “Youth” that captures the essence of retaining such a nature and attitude:

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

“Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

“Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

“Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

“When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty” (Samuel Ullman Museum, http://www.uab.edu/ullmanmuseum/).

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who died May 30, 2015, at the age of 92, was an example of one who retained a youthful enthusiasm throughout his life, demonstrating that youth is, indeed, a state of mind.

Elder L. Tom Perry was an example of one who retained a youthful enthusiasm throughout his life, demonstrating that youth is, indeed, a state of mind.

In an interview on the occasion of his 90th birthday, Elder Perry said, “When my dad turned 60 I was convinced he was ready for the grave; that was old. But when I turned 60, I felt like a kid of 18. When I turned 70, I felt like a kid of 20. When I turned 80, I felt like a kid of 30. Now that I’m 90, I feel like a kid of 40.”

Elder Perry recognized the paradox of remaining “young” through labor and gospel service. “You don’t have time to get old,” he said.

He approached each decade of life with confidence and optimism. He knew sorrow and disappointment. “But I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day because I’ve learned something from every experience I have had” (Church News, Aug. 5, 2012, 3).

Many people tend to look to the past when thinking about their great experiences in life. However, if we think those experiences exist just in the past, we will miss out on the ones happening today or those that will come in the future.

In an April 1971 general conference address, Elder Sterling W. Sill (1903–1994) quoted Charles F. Kettering (1876–1958), an engineer and inventor who held more than 180 patents: “My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”

Further, Elder Sill said Branch Rickey (1881–1965), major league baseball player, manager, and executive, was once asked to describe his greatest day in baseball. Mr. Rickey said, “I can’t because I haven’t had it yet.”

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “While the body may reach the peak of its maturation in a few years, the development of the spirit may never reach the limit of its capacity, because there is no end to progression” (Oct. 1997 general conference).

Throughout their lives, some people keep alive and develop their sense of wonder and gratitude. As did the little boy at the beach, they find joy in simple things, whether it’s the beauty of a sunrise or sunset; the shape and colors of leaves, flowers, and trees; or the trill of songbirds and other sounds of nature.

To expressions of delight and appreciation for these simple pleasures are layered joys that come from the development of spiritual sensitivities. Prayer and reliance on the Holy Ghost for personal guidance help us find the real beauties and magnificence of life. Studying the scriptures; listening to the teachings of apostles, prophets, and other leaders; attending Sabbath services and the temple; reading books and articles that inspire and lift us; associating with people who do good works and motivate us to do likewise—all these actions, and other positive experiences, help us grow spiritually throughout our mortal lives.