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13 Life Changing Principles From Benjamin Franklin

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How do you decide what’s important to you on a day to day basis? How do you decide what principles to stand by and what moral code to uphold?

Today we are constantly bombarded by news and social media messages from all around the world. This 24-hour news cycle has changed the way we absorb information, and it has shifted the way we identify reliable content. In fact, it has even changed the way that we think about what is important and how we envision success.

If you’re like me, you find it difficult to cut through the noise and develop a clear understanding of what is truly important to you. The challenge of cutting through the noise has led me to go back in time to explore the writings of some of the leading thinkers and professionals of the past.

Here are Benjamin Franklin’s 13 principles he believed led to success:

1. Temperance

Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation. Temperance is not a trait that comes easily to many people. We live in a world driven by consumerism and excess, and we are constantly being sold on bottomless brunches or all you can eat buffets. Still, there is a growing movement of temperance and minimalism, especially among young people. The growth of this movement is something to watch out for moving forward.

2. Silence

Speak not what may benefit others or yourself, and avoid trifling conversation. We live in an age of connectivity and “always on” engagement. Too often we’re caught up reading our Facebook News Feed and updating people on our every thought and action. Interestingly, we are seeing a push away from this hyper connectivity towards “digital detoxes” and the growing popularity of silent retreats.

3. Order

Let all your things have their places. With more information comes a greater need for order. If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he would be blown away by the number of organisations, apps, and programs available to people looking to streamline their lives.

4. Resolution

Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve. Goal setting is a top priority for most millennials and young people, yet people still struggle to follow through on their resolutions. Once you make a decision about something you want to accomplish, try your best to stick to it by setting out a definite plan for accomplishing it.

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” – Benjamin Franklin

5. Frugality

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself. For example, waste nothing. Frugality isn’t sexy, but it is seductively addictive. While most people would prefer to live a life of luxury and drive luxury sports cars all day, the skill required to live frugally and within your means translates into an amazing strength of will and character.

Plus, it can actually be fun. Living within (or below) your means during good times is one way to ensure that you can survive when times are tough. There are a number of resources available online that provide advice on how to save money on everything from rent to food to transportation and leisure travel.

6. Industry

Lose no time. Always be employed in something useful, and cut off all unnecessary actions. Being busy for the sake of business is not helpful. Rather, being productive by doing only that which is useful to you or someone else is key to success. Always be looking for ways to cut out unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity

Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly. Being truthful and sincere in your thoughts, words, and deeds is one of the best ways to achieve happiness and develop stronger relationships with those around you. While you may look for ways to avoid telling the truth because it might be hurtful or damaging, consider what affect it will have on you if you constantly have to hide how you truly feel.

8. Justice

Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty. Effectively, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t be rude.

9. Moderation

Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much you think they deserve. Avoid becoming overly obsessive about any one thing or idea. Live a life of balance and moderation and you will be much better at making challenging decisions.

“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” – Benjamin Franklin

10. Cleanliness

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. Pretty straight forward, don’t be a slob.

11. Tranquillity

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. Try your best, then don’t worry, be happy. If you aren’t able to accomplish a goal but you’ve still tried your very best, there is no use worrying.

12. Chastity

Rarely use venery (sex) but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. While this may seem like a rather antiquated principle, the power of chastity is not to be underestimated. There is a growing population of people who are self-diagnosed sex addicts or porn addicts. Addiction to pornography and sex can affect productivity and the ability to focus on long term goals.

13. Humility

Imitate Jesus and Socrates. Again, while this may seem rather dated, there is much to be said for emulating the lives of those who have lived simple and influential lives. Clearly, some of these virtues are more relevant than others, but most of the principles mentioned represent areas of personal development that nearly everyone on earth struggles with in one way or another.

Benjamin Franklin suggests that in order to develop yourself properly, you should focus on improving one quality at a time rather than trying to tackle all thirteen points at once. It is with this in mind that I urge you to take a look at your own habits and areas of interest and to choose one principle to focus on improving over the next week.

Which one of these habits will you implement first into your life and why? Comment below!

McVal Osborne is the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lawrence

    Feb 1, 2018 at 3:35 am

    Hello McVal,

    Living by these principles will live to a happier, more productive life. I know this because I have at one point in time applied one or more of these principles to my life. I have seen the difference in the quality of my life when I live by principles and when I don’t. While I agree with all of the principles here stated by Benjamin, I think discipline should also be here for a disciplined mind can truly adhere to the principles stated here.

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