Benjamin Franklin’s Self Improvement Program

Benjamin Franklin’s Self Improvement ProgramThe secret of Benjamin Franklin’s fascinating life, according to Franklin was a program he developed in his twenties in order to improve his personality. He began be creating a list of virtues, putting them in order and then working on each virtue exclusively and in order. It took him four months to complete his list, the first time around. He would then start over at the top. To track his progress he kept a nightly personal inventory, similar to the Twelve Step Programs Tenth Step. He would check off where he felt he fell short in any particular virtue and would then set to correct himself.

Admittedly as an old man he accepted that he would never reach perfection with being able to achieve 100% for each virtue, but he states that he is certain that he was a better and happier man than he would have otherwise been if he had not made the effort. This list of virtues was a catalyst for him though because within the decade of applying himself to his self-appointed program he had began his printing and publishing business and set off to enjoy his passions of science and statesmanship of which he is so famous for today.

Perhaps Ben’s work on virtues will not create the possibility of your name going down in history the way his has, but you might find great peace, health and happiness by giving is a shot!

Benjamin Franklin’s List of Virtues

  1. Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
  2. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
  3. Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
  4. Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
  5. Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i.e., waste nothing
  6. Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
  7. Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly
  8. Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
  9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
  10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
  11. Tranquility - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
  12. 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
  13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Working Benjamin Franklin’s List of Virtues

  • Focus on one virtue at a time, starting with number one and going in order
  • Keep a nightly self inventory of how you did with all the virtues for the day and set intentions to improve accordingly
  • When finished with the list, start over
  • Repeat until you think you have reasonably perfected each virtue

Admittedly, it can be a bit tricky to figure out what Benjamin Franklin means by some of the phrasing he uses. Here is a quick cheat sheet that works it more into modern day terms:

Updated Definition for Benjamin Franklin’s List of Virtues

  1. Temperance – Avoid eating or drinking too much or otherwise over indulging yourself
  2. Silence – Make your words count and avoid talking just to hear yourself talk
  3. Order – Keep your belongings and time organized to balance your attention on everything that matters most
  4. Resolution - Do what you say you are going to do
  5. Frugality – Avoid spending past your budget and refrain from wasting anything
  6. Industry – Make the best use of your time
  7. Sincerity – Be honest and truthful
  8. Justice – Be fair and accountable for your obligations
  9. Moderation – Stay the middle path (Avoid going from one extreme to the other, similar to temperance, in different shades of gray)
  10. Cleanliness – Keep your body, clothes and space clean
  11. Tranquility - Maintain a serene state of mind, even the midst of stormy life events
  12. Chastity – Practice responsible sex
  13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates (Can add your humble favorite people at will, but this one is pretty clear

If you can think of helpful tips and suggestions to help remember this list off the top of your head, share it with us! Also, if you want an accountability partner to help you get started on this self improvement program, I’m always just an email away.

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