Benjamin Franklin created a list of 13 virtues that can still be applied today. He believed that this list allowed him happiness in life. He used it as a tool to inventory his attitudes and behaviors every day of the week so that he could improve his character step-by-step. Franklin’s initial purpose was to attain moral perfection in every aspect of life. In his autobiography, however, he quickly reflected on how difficult this task was.
He had a notebook that he took with him everywhere he went and every time he violated one of his virtues, he would put a black dot in his notebook. The black dot was placed in a table, which corresponded to the day of the week and the virtue that was violated.
This formula seems practical but difficult to sustain on one’s own strength. It seems to put a lot of focus on not messing up as apposed to living a free, grateful, humble, and joyous life. At least that is how I felt after trying to do it. When I started Franklin’s system, I only kept track for a couple weeks then I was done. It would take a lot more discipline than I have to keep up with it like he did.
The list goes like this:
1) Temperance- eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2) Silence- speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations
3) Order- Let all things have their places; Let each part of you r 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 employ’d 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, cloaths, 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 dulness, weakness or injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
13) Humility- Imitate Jesus and Socrates