We tend to be weak-willed, and there are many people who are troubled by having decided on something yet being unable to carry on with it.
A housewife once asked my advice about this kind of problem:
“I know I should clean house every day, but somehow my urge to do that soon weakens.
I do start to clean, but then the thought of all the trash that has accumulated in my home depresses me.
I end by giving up and feeling contempt for myself.”
This woman is probably a very conscientious sort of person.
She becomes depressed at the thought that she must do the cleaning every day.
Thinking, “It’s impossible for me,” she feels blue from the very start.
This was my advice to her: “You don’t have to do it every day. Just try doing it for today. You can do it just for today, can’t you?”
“Is it okay to do it just for today?”
She was skeptical, so I told her the following story.
A well-known scholar was giving a speech urging his audience to give up drinking.
The first reaction of a member of the audience, who loved to drink, was, “How can I give up something I like so much?”
But as he listened to the scholar’s very logical explanation of the negative effect of drinking on one’s health, he was convinced and decided to give up drinking once and for all.
He knew, however, that he would be unable to give up drinking unless he was very determined to do so.
And so he asked the scholar to give him a word of advice on how to do it.
The scholar smiled and agreed to help him. He took a brush and wrote something on a sheet of paper.
The man thought that the scholar had written something like “Temperance until death.”
But what he actually wrote was “Temperance for today.”
“Is that good enough—just for today?” the man asked.
“Yes, that will be fine,” the scholar replied.
The man, who thought he would have to give up drinking until the day of his death, was delighted at the scholar’s words, and promptly pasted the sheet of paper on the wall of his room.
“Temperance for today, temperance for today . . .”
Gazing at a large bottle of wine that he had in his room, he eagerly waited for today to end.
Finally a clock outside boomed, signaling midnight.
“Now for a drink!” thought the man; but then he looked at the paper with the words “Temperance for today” written on it.
“Ah, today too must be a day of temperance,” he thought.
He suddenly understood the intentions of the scholar: “As one today succeeds another, they become one’s life.”
It is said that he was able to give up drinking until the day he died.
In other words, it all seems too difficult if one thinks that one must carry on for the whole of one’s life.
If you put thoughts of tomorrow aside and determine to keep your promise to yourself for today, you can carry on far longer than you might think possible.
The housewife who listened to this story answered in a cheerful voice:
“When I thought I had to do it every day, the idea of cleaning was just too much and I gave up.
But I think I can manage it if I say to myself, ‘Just for today.’
I feel much more relaxed about doing it.
So I’ll do my best to clean the house just for today.”
I hear that from then on she managed to clean her house not every day, but at least once every three days, and her house is much cleaner and tidier as a result.