by Harriet Bond
(San Francisco, CA, USA)
Self-Improvement plans vary widely. Some are based upon objectives (get better organized), while others are based on roles in life (become a more attentive spouse). Others may be more general in nature. One of the most famous self-improvement plans is Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues.
Franklin created his list of thirteen virtues when he was only 20 years old. Rather than address all the virtues at once, he focused on one virtue per week, rotating through them four times a year. While he admitted that he sometimes fell short in one area or other, he steadfastly believed that his program made him a better person for the effort.
1. Temperance: Franklin believed in moderation in eating and drinking, avoiding both gluttony and drunkenness.
2. Silence: Avoiding trivial conversation and only speaking when there was a benefit to self or others landed Franklin a reputation for wisdom.
3. Order: Organizing both possessions and time kept things in order.
4. Resolution: Resolve to do as you should; then follow through on what you resolve.
5. Frugality: Avoid wasting money; spend only to do good for yourself or others.
6. Industry: Stay busy doing something useful; avoid unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity: Don’t be deceptive; think and speak with innocence and justice.
8. Justice: Don’t wrong anyone by doing things you shouldn’t, or not doing things you should.
9. Moderation: Avoid extremes; don’t resent injuries to the point you seek to retaliate.
10. Cleanliness: Maintain cleanliness in body, clothing, and home.
11. Tranquility. Don’t let trivial matters or accidents disturb your peace.
12. Chastity: exercise sexual self-control.
13. Humility: Franklin’s role models were Jesus and Socrates.
These thirteen virtues combine both personal and social objectives, and the plan to focus on one per week kept the self-improvement program from becoming overwhelming.
However, experts believe that it takes two weeks to develop a practice into a habit, so perhaps it may be more effective to spend two weeks on each virtue, trying to establish permanent habits reflecting each of the virtues.
Of course, you don’t have to copy Franklin’s plan, or even his list of virtues. Perhaps you only want to focus on one or two, or work on one in-depth for several months/ The best self-improvement plan is the one that you tailor to your own needs, objectives and priorities, not someone else’s.
While important people in your life may suggest areas for improvement, the ultimate decision is yours because self-improvement is a process as well as a goal.