You Are Never Too Old To Set Another Goal or To Dream a New Dream

C. S. Lewis? Les Brown? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous fantasy author C. S. Lewis has been credited with an encouraging statement aimed at seniors:

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

I haven’t been able to find a citation. Is this ascription accurate?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence supporting the linkage to C. S. Lewis.

The first match found by QI occurred in the 1992 book “Live Your Dreams” by the motivational speaker and author Les Brown within a section titled “Never Too Old to Be Bold”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

And please note this: You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. A gentleman nearing retirement age once approached me after I’d given a speech to his corporation. He said, “You know, that was real great motivation for the young guys, but I’ve done all my work. There is nothing else for me to do.”

I replied, “Oh yes, you have a lot to give. The fact that you are still here on this planet means that your business is NOT DONE.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1859 an interesting thematic match appeared in a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter called “The Ghost in the Picture Room”. The following couplet suggested that new goals were achievable at any age: 2

No star is ever lost we once have seen,
We always may be what we might have been.

The Quote Investigator website has an entry about an expression that appeared by 1881: 3

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

In 1993 a columnist in a North Hills, Pennsylvania newspaper discussed the 1992 work by Les Brown and found his quotation compelling enough to reprint it together with another remark from the book: 4

“If you are the same person today that you were a year ago, or even a day ago, you are not growing

“You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream,” says Brown. . .

In 1998 a book in the popular “Chicken Soup” series employed the quotation as a chapter epigraph and credited Les Brown. 5

Also in 1998 “Daily Riches: A Journal of Gratitude and Awareness” by Jane Bluestein, Judy Lawrence, and S. J. Sanchez printed the saying in a sidebar and credited Brown. 6

In 2006 a newspaper in Anniston, Alabama printed an article about C. S. Lewis. A companion article listed a collection of quotations ascribed to him. This was implausible included: 7

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

The website “Essential C. S. Lewis” includes a section dedicated to evaluating the accuracy of quotations attributed to Lewis. The writer William O’Flaherty concluded that the ascription to Lewis was incorrect and Les Brown was the likely creator. 8

In conclusion, QI believes Les Brown should be credited with the quotation under examination.

Image Notes: Picture of Les Brown; author Dominick Brady from Atlanta, Georgia, United States; image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Illustration “Set Goals” from gabrielle_cc at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Rob Spence and Tina Tamman whose discussion and inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1992, Live Your Dreams by Les Brown, Chapter 3: The Power To Change, Quote Page 75, William Morrow and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1859 December 13, All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal, Conducted by Charles Dickens, (The Haunted House: The Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round. Containing the amount of two ordinary numbers, Christmas 1859), The Ghost in the Picture Room by Adelaide Anne Procter, Start Page 19, Quote Page 21, Column 2, Published at Number 11, Wellington Street North, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1881 June, Literary News Prize Question No. 31: Subject: Gems from George Eliot, (Quote Number 23), Start Page 176, Quote Page 177, Publisher and Editor: F. Leypoldt, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  4. 1993 January 1, North Hills News Record, Book gives strategies for turning life around by Robyn-Denise Yourse, (Discussion of book “Live Your Dreams” by Les Brown), Quote Page A10, Column 1, North Hills, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1998, A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul: 101 More Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Women by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne, and Marci Shimoff, Chapter: Late for School by Virginia Schantz as told by Daniel Schantz, (Epigraph), Quote Page 115, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida. (Verified with scans)
  6. 1998, Daily Riches: A Journal of Gratitude and Awareness by Jane Bluestein, Judy Lawrence, and S. J. Sanchez, Chapter 11: Wish List, (Sidebar), Quote Page 239, Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida. (Verified with scans)
  7. 2006 November 11, The Anniston Star, Apostle of the Imagination by Brett Buckner (Star Staff Writer), C. S. Lewis Quotes, Start Page 1D, Quote Page 3D, Column 1, Anniston, Alabama. (Newspapers_com)
  8. Website: Essential C. S. Lewis, Website section: Confirming Quotations, Not Quite Lewis, Article title: (CCSLQ-7) Never Too Old, Article author: William O’Flaherty, Date on website (update): October 24, 2015, Website description: Information about C. S. Lewis. (Accessed essentialcslewis.com on September 8, 2017) link