A System for Building Character – One Day at a Time

A System for Building Character – One Day at a Time

Ben Franklin has left a great legacy with much for us to learn from his leadership. He was instrumental in the founding and development of many of the institutions we take for granted today, including libraries, insurance companies and hospitals.

An international diplomat, Franklin helped negotiate many famous treaties and was a founding father of the United States of America with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. These were ground-breaking achievements, no matter what your opinion of today’s politics.


Franklin built a simple system that can be used for our own personal development, if we choose. He identified 13 virtues to strive for, then four weeks a year, once per quarter, each virtue became the focus of his daily actions and he tracked his progress on a tally sheet.

I quote here from the website thirteenvirtues.com where, if you use FireFox as your browser, you can adapt and use an online tool to track your own character building habits.

“In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. In his autobiography, Franklin listed his thirteen virtues as:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what you may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all 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; forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation.
  11. Tranquility. 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 injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

In addition to thirteenvirtues.com there is a brief overview of Ben Franklin’s history and achievements at www.pbs.org/benfranklin/


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