Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

I read something the other day that caught my attention — that Benjamin Franklin, one of the most revered people in our history, was a very ordinary man.

He did not begin his life with extraordinary wealth or education. He didn’t not come from a particularly prominent family, and no one really had any preconceived expectations of what his life should look like.

Except for Franklin himself.

He began his life as an ordinary man, but died as an extraordinary figure in our history.

And in his autobiography he lends credit to this fact to 13 virtues he wrote down and graded himself on daily.

Here they are:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your 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. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. 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.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

This list interested me even more.And so, being that it is the beginning of a new quarter (the third quarter of this year, if you can believe it!), I have decided to take the 13 Virtues Challenge myself.

In his autobiography, Franklin explained his method for improving these virtues in his own life:

“My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gon thro’ the thirteen. ” Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

You can read the entire chapter on this subject beginning on page 146 on Google Books.

So, I’ve created and printed my chart… and will begin this week with Virtue #1 — Temperance.

If you’d like to take the challenge with me, feel free to print your own copy of the chart I will be using, here:  13 Vitures Challenge

This should be fun!

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