When Benjamin Franklin was a young man of 20 years old he decided he wanted to better himself. He wrote down 13 virtues and determined to practice one virtue each week. He created a notebook to track his progress, writing one virtue at the top of on each page along with a short description of what that virtue meant to him. Then he drew 7 columns on each page, one for each day of that week. Each day that he faltered in living that virtue he would put a black spot in that day’s column. His goal was to have a day clear of spots so that he could form the habit of living a life of virtue. When he later wrote his autobiography he wrote extensively about this project and quest in the hope that his descendants would follow his example.
Here are his 13 virtues (the parenthesis are an attempt to simplifying the wording):
Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Moral Virtues:
- Temperance: Eat not to Dullness; drink not to elevation.
(Eat and drink in moderation for a healthy and good life.)
- Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
(Speak only kind and constructive words to yourself and to others; Silence is better than trivial or worthless conversation.)
- Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
(Bring order to every area of your life. Attend to each part of your business to succeed.)
- Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
(Commit to do the things that matter and persevere in spite of obstacles; Always honor your word without fail.)
- Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
(Be wise with your money and use it to help others; never be wasteful with anything.)
- Industry: Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
(Use 100% of your time wisely. Always stay busy doing things that are useful and important. Try not to waste time on things that don’t matter or don’t add value to your life or the lives of others.)
- Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
(Never lie. Always be authentic and fair in your communication with others. Tell the truth but always do so with total respect and with sincere intent of wanting to help the other person to become better. Always mean the words you say.)
- Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
(Don’t hurt others with your actions, or with your lack of actions. Love and serve others at all times.)
- Moderation: Avoid Extremes. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
(Practice self-restraint in arguments with others. Think before you react. Don’t hold grudges against others. Forgive quickly.)
- Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
(Cleanliness is a form of self-respect for the body God gave you. Always keep your body clean, your clothing modest and your home clean and organized.)
- Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
(Don’t react to things that don’t matter. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be as peaceful as possible in unpleasant situations. Forgive others of their mistakes.)
- Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
(Never disrespect your body or the body of another person. Never let yourself be involved in spiritually damaging yourself or someone else by being immoral. Remain true to your highest values and respect others.)
- Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
(Always ask yourself “What would Jesus do” and try to live as he would have lived. Live a virtuous life.)
I love the idea of making a virtue notebook and tracking your progress each day. It’s a great way to keep yourself focused on things that matter most. Have an fabulous day everyone!