As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other…I concluded at length that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous was not sufficient to prevent our slipping, and that the contrary habits must be broken and good ones acquired and established before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct.
- Ben Franklin
Who doesn’t admire and respect Ben Franklin. How comforting it is to know that even a man as great as he struggled. In fact, when he first undertook his program of developing the 13 virtues, he said of himself
I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined.
Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues
- Temperance. Eat not to dullnesss; 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; that is, 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 enefits 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. …
- Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
The Program to Incorporate Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues
You can’t focus on all 13 at once. Being fuller of faults than you imagined, you would soon drive yourself crazy!
The program is to focus on one fault for a week, and try to eliminate it. Focus on one at time, but record all transgressions for the week. The virtue you are focusing on should have an empty row at the end of the week. Franklin just marked whether the transgression occurred. You might want to mark the number of times it occurred to have a better mechanism of showing progress.
The 13 Virtues Chart
How to Proceed
- Use the chart and work on one virtue per week, marking your transgressions.
- Proceed to the subsequent virtue the next week.
- After week 13, repeat week 1, and proceed through the virtues again.
Following this course, you can go through the program four times per year.
Hey, it worked for Ben Franklin. Why not give it a try?