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  • Chloe Mastour

Benjamin Franklin’s Book of Virtues: The True Pursuit of Happiness

“We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.”

- Benjamin Franklin,

Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 into a family of modest means in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of ten, Franklin dropped out of school. By the age of 12, Franklin worked as a print shop apprentice: sorting letters, mixing ink, and doing what had to be done to keep the presses running.

Benjamin Franklin emerged from a humble background to become a well-known writer, a scientist, a successful politician, and a diplomat. Eventually, he accumulated enough wealth to effectively retire independently wealthy in his forties. Benjamin Franklin largely devoted the remainder of his life to public service and the pursuit of his individual interests.

A towering figure in the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin is famously referred to as the “first American.” Beyond that of luck, Benjamin Franklin attributes his success to the practicing of 13 key virtues. In living by these 13 virtues, Benjamin Franklin writes, “I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.” Benjamin Franklin wished to improve himself with regard to each virtue, becoming a better person who is greatly adept to life’s opportunities.

These 13 virtues include:

Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquillity, Chastity, Humility

Benjamin Franklin often carried a card in his pocket; he drew a simple table with seven columns and 13 rows on it. Each column on this card represented a day of the week, each row a different virtue. Throughout the day, Benjamin Franklin kept these virtues fresh in his mind. At the end of each day, however, he’d ask himself if he’d actually practiced these virtues and marked his progress. The goal: fill in as many boxes, and begin each week with a fresh chart.

Want to be more like Benjamin Franklin? Start here.

Just like everything else we wish to accomplish, this process requires patience. Though over time, these 13 virtues will become more and more ingrained in your character. Benjamin Franklin found himself naturally practicing them, a healthy part of the success that he found in almost every attribute of life.

While Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues are all worthwhile to master, one might want to choose other virtues or even personal skills to improve upon. It all depends on the goal. However, Benjamin Franklin’s list of 13 virtues will go a long way toward improving your overall character and quality of life.

So what are you waiting for? Shut the computer and get a move on! I forget to whom the quote is attributed to but I know it’s something along the lines of, “well done is better than well said.”

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