How Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues Inspired My Own

Morning rituals for a more fulfilled life.

Image from Unsplash

Ben Franklin had a very famous approach to his own personal development. When he was 20 years old he listed a set of 13 virtues that he wished to aspire to. These included:

1. Temperance
2. Silence
3. Order
4. Resolution
5. Frugality
6. Industry
7. Sincerity
8. Justice
9. Moderation
10. Cleanliness
11. Tranquility
12. Chastity
13. Humility
He created a weekly scorecard for himself with seven columns for each day of the week and 13 rows for each virtue. Every night he would review his day and determine if he made any offenses against those virtues. If he did, he would mark little black spots in the proper row and column for the number of times he did not live up to that virtue.

In my quest to become the best version of myself I have adapted Franklin’s approach and implemented it as a ritual I do each morning, instead of evening as Ben did.

About 10 years ago I created a set of virtues, or missions, or goals related to each area of my life including:
• Marriage
• Fatherhood
• Friendship
• Health
• Financial
• Career

After reading about Franklin’s 13 Virtues I created my own daily scoring sheet. Each morning when I first wake up I spend about 5 minutes reviewing the previous day and writing down something I did within the past 24 hours that moved me in the direction of each of those six missions. This is another difference between my ritual and Franklin’s. I have found much more benefit focusing on the positive. Instead of marking how many times I made offenses against the missions, like Franklin did, I write down actions I took or accomplishments I achieved the day before that moved me closer toward that ideal.

I have experienced a multitude of benefits from this ritual, a few of which include:
• It puts me in a state of gratitude as I begin the day. When I am in this state I am much more productive and positive than when I am stressed out or rushing around.
• It increases my happiness. As the latest research demonstrates, just taking the time on a daily basis to journal positive things that happened to you or what you are thankful for results in measurable increases in one’s happiness.
• It keeps me accountable in making progress toward my goals and living the life I want. As Earl Nightingale said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal” and by grading myself everyday it ensures I am making consistent progress toward those worthy ideals.
• It ensures a balanced life. If I go several days without being able to write down something in a certain area I know this is an aspect of life I am neglecting. This motivates me to do something positive in that area later that very day so I can write something down the next morning.

Try out this technique each day for the next month to see if it works for you. It isn’t hard to do. Simply make a list of the virtues you wish to aspire to or the type of person you want to become in all areas of your life. Purchase a journal. Then spend just 5 minutes each morning reviewing the previous day and jotting down all the wonderful progress you are making to create your ideal life.