Ben Franklin was truly an amazing human being. He was a statesman, an inventor, an economist, a philosopher and the list goes on. And of course, he was one of our founding fathers.
Ben Franklin also had a deep desire to make himself a better man than he was the day before. Self-improvement was a lifelong passion for him. We would all do well to emulate him in this regard.
Because he felt he had been irresponsible in his youth, he made four resolutions for being a better person.
- Live frugally so that he could save enough to repay what he owed to others.
- Be honest and sincere in every word and action.
- Be industrious to whatever business he was involved in.
- To speak ill of no man, “not even in a manner of truth,” and to “speak all the good I know of everybody.”
From these 4 resolutions, Ben Franklin put together an actionable plan. He developed what he called his 12 virtues:
- Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- 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.
- Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- 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.
- 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
Supposedly, he showed his list and his plan to live by the list to a friend and his friend replied, drily, that Ben seemed to think much of himself and perhaps Ben should add humility to the list. And the 12 virtues become 13.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
He wrote each virtue on a separate page and evaluated his conduct with regard to that virtue on a daily basis. Further, he focused on one virtue each week and practiced at improving his behavior with regard to the virtue for the week.
This is powerful. Hundreds of years ago, Ben Franklin practiced a simple, yet profoundly powerful self-improvement technique that made him a better person, little by little, every day.
And also, his plan for improving himself is a textbook example of planning. His life goal is to live a good life. He began by writing what he wanted to do and be (Stephen Covey’s “begin with the end in mind”) with his 4 resolutions. Then he developed an actionable plan by writing down his virtues with daily and weekly follow-ups.
I would highly recommend looking into his life and emulating this great American.