“I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.” ~Benjamin Franklin
By: Martin Grunburg
Today’s post involves the big “W” in our ongoing Goal Achievement/Mindset Series, “G.R.O.W.I.N.G.” The “W” stands for Who, as in, Who do you want to BEcome?
It’s important to remember that any BEcoming you do is a result — a byproduct — of your HABITS.
Habit equals character.
Character, of course, is who you are (today, right now). It is the sum total of all your thought and behavior habits to this point. The good news is that if you don’t necessarily like who you’ve become (your character), you can always begin the process of changing it.
“While we cannot change our destiny overnight,” Jim Rohn liked to say, “we can change our destination.”
The process of changing your character — and thereby your destiny — typically involves an awakening, a conscious decision to direct your energy, attention and focus toward the type of person you DO want to become!
So, the natural question is, “Who do you want to BEcome?”
The other option is NOT to decide. To just live a life by default rather than by design.
Is there a process or a model for this?
Incredibly, Benjamin Franklin wrote extensively about his particular process that he used to intentionally craft his own character. He began by identifying and tracking those VIRTUES he thought he must posses in order to grow into the man he wanted to become. He wrote extensively about his process in his autobiography, written when he was 79!
In fact, he thought his transformation was so substantial and significant to his lifetime of achievement that he wrote:
“I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”
Even a young Benjamin Franklin understood that with awareness he could direct his intention and energy into intentional behaviors (habits) and the character— the person he wanted to become. So, he did just that and began with a thorough and “extensive examination of his faults.” Then he challenged himself to “imitate Jesus and Socrates,” and in so doing, identified 13 virtues that he chose to forge by tracking in his journal.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates
Ben begins with…
“My intention being to acquire the habitude (*habits*) of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others…”
Further, he wrote:
“I propos’d to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex’d to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurr’d to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully express’d the extent I gave to its meaning:
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; 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; forbear 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.
Importantly, Franklin wanted to emphasize that religions didn’t have to be part of this process, and indeed the method was open to all (excerpted from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography):
“It will be remark’d that, tho’ my scheme was not wholly without religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguishing tenets of any particular sect. I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable to people in all religions, and intending some time or other to publish it, I would not have anything in it that should prejudice anyone, of any sect, against it.”
More From Ben…
“I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I rul’d each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I cross’d 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, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.”
(Here’s some GOLD!!! How Ben TRACKED)
“I enter’d upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continu’d it with occasional intermissions for some time. I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. To avoid the trouble of renewing now and then my little book, which, by scraping out the marks on the paper of old faults to make room for new ones in a new course, became full of holes, I transferr’d my tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a memorandum book, on which the lines were drawn with red ink, that made a durable stain, and on those lines I mark’d my faults with a black-lead pencil, which marks I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge. After a while I went thro’ one course only in a year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I omitted them entirely, being employ’d in voyages and business abroad, with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little book with me.”
Unfortunately, it seems the majority of people don’t take the time to ask such important questions. Hence, they allow their character to be forged by their daily habits, which are often crafted by default rather than by design.
“The wise man rules his habits and the fool obeys them.”
P.S.: Many of my long-time readers and listeners know this story well. They know that this was, in many ways, the foundation of The Habit Factor® app. In fact, I was so excited to learn about Ben’s success with this process, AFTER I had already started developing The Habit Factor, that we stopped development of the app and decided instead to create and release a different app, the VIRTUES app first.
I thought that sharing Ben’s process via an app would be an instant hit. While it was a huge hit to start, The Habit Factor® app ended up far outselling VIRTUES (to my surprise) and became the cornerstone of our app portfolio. Knowing though, that The Habit Factor® method is, in many ways, validated and echoed by the brilliance of Ben’s process is an enormous affirmation!
To listen to some of that backstory on the app development and Ben’s influence check out these short “Habits 2 Goals” Podcast episodes.
Until next week, Be Like Ben! (time to get tracking!)