Reach Your Goals Like a Man (or Woman)

We recently watched a PBS documentary about Benjamin Franklin.  It was very interesting and I highly recommend it.   One thing that struck me about Franklin was his devotion to the greater good.   He was not just interested in what was best for himself, but wanted to always do what was best for his community and his country.  He was very involved in starting local libraries, hospitals and volunteer fire departments.

ben franklinBenjamin Franklin was also committed to living a life of virtue.  The word virtue is often used when speaking of a woman and her chastity, but the true meaning of the word, which is derived from Latin is manliness.  In order to live a life of virtue, Franklin came up with 13 characteristics that he tried to live by.  When he started on his quest at the age of 20, he wrote down each virtue, creating a calendar.  At the end of each day, he would place a mark next to any virtue he felt that he didn’t live up to that day.  As time progressed and he focused on living up to the standards he created, the dots on the calendar became few and far between.  In addition, each week he would choose one of the virtues to really focus and meditate on.  He would rotate through each virtue, giving extra time and consideration to them one by one, over and over, thus cementing them in his mind and creating positive habits.

Aside from learning to live a virtuous life, we can learn a lot from Ben and his commitment to his goal.

Break bigger goals into smaller steps

Ben didn’t try to follow each virtue perfectly every day.  He chose one to focus on for a week, then he focused on the next on the next week until he had worked through them all and returned back to the first one.  You don’t have to be perfect right out of the gate.  Create small steps inside your larger goal and you are less likely to be overwhelmed.

Come up with a system to track your progress

Franklin created a calendar that worked for him and allowed him to see what areas he was excelling in and also those that might need more work.  He was also able to see his progress as the dots marking areas he did poorly in became less and less.  It’s important to track your progress for many reasons.  You can get encouragement by seeing how far you’ve come and you can also easily recognize areas where you need more work.

End each day by reflecting on what you have accomplished

Every evening, when he sat down and looked back over his accomplishments for that day, Ben took the time to really consider how his actions that day moved him closer toward his goal.  This reflection is an important part of the process of reaching your goals.  It helps to keep you on the right path and continuously moving forward.

No matter what your goal is, if you can follow these steps, you will be well on your way to accomplishing anything you set out to do.

If you are interested, here is the list of Benjamin Franklin’s 13 life virtues:

  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, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. “TRANQUILLITY. 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 the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. “HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
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