“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts” – Aristotle.
I’m going to share with you a Crash Course on how to achieve moral perfection in 13 weeks. This course was created a long time ago by one of the greatest minds of our time: Benjamin Franklin. He used this method throughout his life in order to break his bad habits and make good ones stick.
Benjamin Franklin included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurred to him as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully expressed the extent he gave to its meaning.
These names of virtues, with their precepts were:
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i.e., waste nothing.
Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
How to acquire the habitude of all these virtues?
Don’t distract your attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time, and, when you should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till you should have gone through the thirteen.
Daily examination is necessary => The Benjamin Franklin’s Method
The method used by Benjamin Franklin for conducting that examination proceeds as follows:
- Make a little notebook and allot a page for each of the virtues.
- Rule each page with red ink (or other color, as you wish), so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day.
- Cross these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues.
- On which line, and in its proper column, you might mark, by a little black spot, every fault you found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.
- Give a week’s strict attention to each of the virtues successively. Thus, in the first week, your guard should be to avoid every the least offense against Temperance, leaving the other virtues to their ordinary chance, only marking every evening the faults of the day.
So, as you can see, you have a course complete in thirteen weeks. But it’s really difficult to have a clean notebook (to achieve moral perfection) just after your first course, that is, a thirteen weeks’ daily examination. That’s why he decided to repeat the process of examination as many times as necessary in order to allow those good habits take root, or in other words, until he had a clean notebook.
So, get rid of garden weeds (bad habits) in your garden and let good herbs grow.
Benjamin Franklin tried to lead his life following these virtues because he knew the benefits far outweigh the effort needed to implement them. I will follow suit. From now on, I will try to lead a virtuous life as well because intention without action is useless. I will take this 13 weeks crash course on how to live a balanced life achieving moral perfection, starting from Monday 16th November to Friday 12th February 2010. I will keep you all posted with my results and experiences in late February. I invite all of you to join me in this amazing challenge and, of course, to share your own experiences and results with the community.
I’ve written this post based on a Benjamin Franklin’s book:
- You can read the full excerpt from the book here.
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Now, I’m looking to you for some wisdom:
Use the comments section of this post as a forum to post your own experiences, opinions and thoughts on this subject.
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My Twitter: @DavidCantone
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