I don’t know of any human BEing that can rival the impact on setting AND achieving a vision in life, not to mention a nation, quite like Benjamin Franklin had in the formative years in the United States. The man quite literally was the glue that held together a fledging, and warring, nation that was yearning for it’s own place in the world.
His life is detailed in the inspiring book, “Ben Franklin: An American Life”. And if you are not into reading, or fall asleep reading like I do on occasion, the audio book is very well performed also. Note: The author’s favorite reading hack is always the Audible app.
When he was 20 years old (in 1726), a few decades before his place in history would call to him, he wrote a list that he thought would be ideal to live by. This list of 13 virtues was to be this atheist’s bible so to speak. The idea he has was that he would take one value every day and perfect it starting with #1 (temperance). IF he mastered that he would not just move on to the second virtue but he would continue to live in perfect harmony with the first and now second virtue (silence).
I don’t know about you but a weekend without a “cheat day” at the dinner table or a day spent in silence (even though he didn’t mean it in the quiet sense) for me would be sailing lost without a rudder! After about a month of attempting to master the virtues all at once he adopted, what I recommend you do with this list: do your best and pick one a day.
So without further ado, the thirteen virtues of self mastery by THE Ben Franklin – and a brief synopsis of how you can apply it in binds or personal life.
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. Perhaps a more applicable word now would be balance. Seek to keep humble when things are high and elevated, and seek to look for the greatness and silver linings when things ebb and flow into lulls. Where there is balance in life, there lives inspiration and gratitude for life
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. I think of Don Miguel Ruiz here in his life changing book “the 4 Agreements” for a more modern version. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. There is a hidden order, a place for all things in life. Sometimes it’s best not to overanalyze any single person place event or thing. Instead just to “let it be”.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. So follow up with what you say you will do. Have integrity with your word. This is where an accountability coach comes in handy.
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing. Tough to grow rich if you buy buy buy everything you see. Also tough to expect great income in the world if you are not putting out a great service to humanity with a proportional price in receipt.
Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. In modern times, life your own life. Do not live for anybody else’s faints or in anybody else’s FB feed, or reality TV show.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. This one is timeless. Another modern phrase that resonates deeply with the Full Circle team is “Live Authentically.”
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. This one I have perhaps a bit of issue with. Justice implies right or wrong. In a world of Conversations with God (Neale Donald Walsch) I’m committed to the idea that right or wrong is a judgment of a thought word or deed viewed through YOUR own values systems. Would it be right for me to be american and a republican? Not to my democratic american brethren nor my Canadian cousins! Instead I like the word inspiration here. If you are living authentically through your values system, you are living with inspiration. And as long as you are not imparting your values on to another you will never do them harm! and vice versa!
See our Full Circle List of Values here to start from
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. Seems to me like a duplicate of temperance. But perhaps less libation and consumption here.
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. Aka shower. Just please shower people. Really…
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. I think there is a great deal that can be said for meditation and/or prayer in modern times. Sitting 20 minutes a day in tranquil silence has been shown to increase brain health.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. For a vocab catch up Venery = sexual indulgence. This is funny as a side note because Ben Franklin was at best a flirt and at worst, well loved to, you know, venery…
Imitate Jesus and Socrates. Timeless. You could throw in Buddha or Abe Lincoln or Ghandi but you get the idea. A solid one.
These are Ben Franklin’s version of the top 13 values that, if followed, would make him closer to his level of intention of living. This is not to say that these need to be the same for you. You can create your own 13 values that you want to master for your life. The point of it is to live one growth value at a time until you become closer to mastery and integrating them all into your life.