Just for Today, I Will Try to Live Through This Day Only

Kenneth Holmes? Frank Crane? Hugh Barrett Dobbs? Sister Mary Xavier? Sybil F. Partridge? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is an inspirational essay called “Just for Today” that I have seen on many websites. It consists of a series of suggestions or guidelines. There are many versions, but one common example begins with the following statements:

Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

The information I have read about the provenance of this essay is confusing and contradictory. Could you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of closely matching text located by QI was dated 1921 in the Boston Globe. The author was Frank Crane who wrote a newspaper column called “DR CRANE SAYS”. The piece contained a set of ten daily suggestions and was titled “Just for Today” [BGFC]:

Here are ten resolutions to make when you awake in the morning.

They are Just for One Day. Think of them not as a life task but as a day’s work.

These things will give you pleasure. Yet they require will power. You don’t need resolutions to do what is easy.

1. Just for Today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life-problem at once. I can do some things for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep them up for a lifetime.

2. Just for Today, I will be Happy. This assumes that what Abraham Lincoln said is true, that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Happiness is from Within; it is not a matter of Externals.

3. Just for Today, I will Adjust myself to what Is, and not try to Adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my family, my business, and my luck as they come, and fit myself to them.

4. Just for Today, I will take care of my Body. I will exercise it, care for it, and nourish it, and not abuse it nor neglect it; so that it will be a perfect machine for my will.

5. Just for Today, I will try to strengthen my mind, I will study. I will learn something useful, I will not be a mental loafer all day. I will read something that requires effort, though and concentration.

6. Just for Today, I will exercise my Soul. In three ways, to wit:

(a) I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. If anybody knows of it, it will not count.

(b) I will do at least two things I don’t want to do, as William James suggests just for exercise.

(c) I will not show any one that my feelings are hurt. They may be hurt, but Today I will not show it.

7. Just for To-day, I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress as becomingly as possible,  talk low,  act courteously, be liberal with flattery, criticize not one bit  nor find fault with anything, and not try to regulate nor improve anybody.

8. Just for Today, I will have a Programme. I will write down just what I expect to do every hour. I may not follow it exactly, but I’ll have it. It will save me from the two pests Hurry and Indecision.

9. Just for Today, I will have a quiet half hour, all by myself, and relax. During this half hour, some time, I will think of God, so as to get a little more perspective to my life.

10. Just for Today, I will be Unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to be Happy, to enjoy what is Beautiful, to love and to believe that those I love love me.

(Copyright, 1921 by Frank Crane)

The copyright statement at the end of the column suggested that Crane was claiming authorship. (Special note: Since the text above was published in the U.S. before 1923 QI believes that the copyright has now expired and the essay is in the public domain in the U.S.) But QI is not certain that Crane originated the entire list of statements. Oddly, in 1932 a nearly identical set of ten resolutions was published in the Christian Science Monitor. However, Frank Crane’s name was not mentioned. Instead, the words were attributed to “Hugh Barret Dobbs”. This probably was a misspelling of the name of Hugh Barrett Dobbs who was a popular radio entertainer [CMHD].

Dale Carnegie, the famous advocate of self-improvement, included a version of the essay in his high-profile book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” which was first published in 1948.  Carnegie’s introductory words provided an ascription [JTDC]:

Let’s fight for our happiness by following a daily program of cheerful and constructive thinking. Here is such a program. It is entitled “Just for Today.” I found this program so inspiring that I gave away hundreds of copies. It was written by the late Sibyl F. Partridge.

Carnegie credited the essay to Partridge, but QI thinks this ascription was probably incorrect. There is a different work that was also called “Just for Today” that was published by 1880. This early piece was linked to Partridge and may have led to confusion. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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