In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin decided to be morally perfect. He created a system for self-improvement in a little notebook: he listed 13 virtues he sought to cultivate daily and every evening tracked his progress toward living a more virtuous life. Each week he highlighted a certain virtue and made a special effort to focus on improvements in that area.
His 13 virtues were:
- Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- 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.
- Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
What are your virtues? What are the qualities you wish or aim to embody? What do you admire in other people?
Virtues can also be narrowed down into concrete goals or resolutions. For a modern day version of Ben Franklin’s Virtues Chart, try Gretchen Rubin’s Resolution Charts from The Happiness Project. There are many sample charts and a blank one at the end.
And remember, Benjy was a bit of a bad-ass*, so trying his strategy may lead to great things.*Need a refresher? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin