Everyone knows who Benjamin Franklin is. Better known as an inventor who flew a kite during a terrible storm, he was also one of the founding fathers of the United States.
However, my focus is neither his scientific nor patriotic contributions. Quite the contrary and seemingly insignificant, it is his “life-list” that is of interest.
When he was twenty, Benjamin Franklin developed a plan. He wanted to attain moral perfection and therefore wanted to cultivate 13 different virtues. Each week he focused on working at one virtue.
At the end of the 13 weeks devoted to the 13 virtues, he’d repeated the cycle. Hence, moving closer and closer to his goal of moral perfection.
If you’re trying to change or inculcate new habits. Here’s what I’m trying to illustrate from this tale.
- Focus on a few goals at one time
- Practice Makes Perfect
1. Focus on a few goals at one time
The power to change lies with the amount of focus we give. Usually, we’d take on more goals than can be handled, at one time. Needless to say, the only result is being overwhelmed and feeling smotheringly incompetent.
When we undertake too many enterprises of equal priority, it becomes difficult to focus.
Focus on few goals at a time. Change gradually by breaking each goal into small steps. You will want to do things at a manageable pace; not an overwhelming pace.
2. “Practice makes perfect“
Consider this cliche, because it is true. Eugene had kindly reminded me that an average human takes 14 days to form a habit. 14 days of repetition is what it takes.
Repetition was a key feature in Franklin’s quest for moral perfection. He repeated the cycle of 13 virtues perpetually, just to make it a part of his lifestyle.
It is easy to make change. The question is: can you maintain it? Make use of repetition to form habits, which eventually will handle the job of maintenance.
If you think about it, the Benjamin Franklin model of developing virtues can be used if we seek to change any habits. Weight-loss, for example, seeks to lose weight through (presumably) healthy eating habits and exercising.