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Manvotional: The Happy Habit of Living for the Day Only

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Editor’s note: The following excerpt has been condensed from the original.  A Way of Life William Osler Best Price: $5.18 Buy New $2.99 (as of 06:00 UTC - Details)

From “A Way of Life”

Address given to Yale students, 1914

By Sir William Osler

Fellow students — every man has a philosophy of life in thought, in word, or in deed, worked out in himself unconsciously. In possession of the very best, he may not know of its existence; with the very worst he may pride himself as a paragon. As it grows with the growth, it cannot be taught to the young in formal lectures. Why then should I trouble you? Because I have a message that may be helpful. It is not philosophical, nor is it strictly moral or religious, yet in a way it is all three. It is the oldest and freshest, the simplest and the most useful.

“Life is a habit,” a succession of actions that become more or less automatic. This great truth, which lies at the basis of all actions, muscular or psychic, is the keystone of the teaching of Aristotle, to whom the formation of habits was the basis of moral excellence. “In a word, habits of any kind are the result of actions of the same kind; and so what we have to do, is to give a certain character to these particular actions.” The Quotable Osler Best Price: $4.82 Buy New $25.29 (as of 08:10 UTC - Details)

Now the way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition. It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day’s work, Life in day-tight compartments.

The workers in Christ’s vineyard were hired by the day; only for this day are we to ask for our daily bread, and we are expressly bidden to take no thought for the morrow. To the modern world these commandments have an Oriental savor, counsel of perfection akin to certain of the Beatitudes, stimuli to aspiration, not to action. I am prepared on the contrary to urge the literal acceptance of the advice, but in the modernist spirit, as a way of life, as a habit, a strong enchantment.

Change that hard saying “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” into the “goodness thereof,” since the chief worries of life arise from the foolish habit of looking before and after. As a patient with double vision from some transient unequal action of the muscles of the eye finds magical relief from well-adjusted glasses, so, returning to the clear binocular vision of today, the over-anxious student finds peace when he looks neither backward to the past nor forward to the future.

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