Many people consider Ben Franklin as not only one of the Founding Fathers of the United States but as one of the founding thought leaders on personal development. Franklin pursued the following 13 virtues in his own personal quest for moral perfection:
- 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. Waste nothing.
- Industry: Lose no time; be always employed 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, clothes or habitation.
- Tranquility: 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.
Franklin kept a small book and recorded a mark each time he violated the virtue. It was his goal to focus on a particular virtue a week at a time. His goal was that by focusing on a single virtue for a period of time he could more fully focus on that virtue.
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Which Values Do You Pursue?
Ben Franklin’s virtues are certainly a worthy list of qualities but they may not all be values that resonate with you personally. While it would be admirable to adhere to the complete list, perhaps there are one or two that are important to you, or perhaps there are other values that are most important to you. Just planning such a list is the first step in self-improvement. This move allows you to clarify in your own head which virtues are most needed in your life, and which ones will bring you inner peace. It also helps you to get organized about your self-improvement so that it stops being a dream and starts to become who you are.