How many of us in school, whether in grammar school, junior high school, high school, or college have read and followed the examples set in Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. His simple truth of self-examination is outlined in this book.
Moreover, in His Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin explains through self-examination his desire to design a plan “of arriving at moral perfection.” He then went on and named a list of thirteen virtues that were most important to him in achieving this goal. His desire was to live day to day by these virtues.
“The names of virtues, with their precepts were:
1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order. Let all your 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; waste nothing.
6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unicorn 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; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no unseemliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or a accidents common or unavoidable.
12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Franklin then measured his daily activity and marked in his “little book” each time he violated one of his virtues.
Coming to truths with yourself and being completely honest with yourself is a difficult task at first if you’ve never done it. You must open your mind and see yourself as an independent being and a subject of critical study. You are your guinea pig.
This is an exercise you can do yourself and all it takes is a little thinking on your part. Sometimes thinking is difficult when you haven’t done it for a long time. But the more you think, the easier the act of thinking becomes. Open your mind and use all the creative juices you possess.
Now begin by practicing this exercise; make a list of your virtues and mark down each time you violate your virtues. For further study, you can even write down why you violated a virtue. For a week or longer assess yourself as you would any objective task of study.