How to be More Virtuous by Journaling

How to be More Virtuous by Journaling

Like I said in my first post, journaling is quite the useful habit. Benjamin Franklin, whom I’ll reference throughout the rest of this post, realized that he could not be virtuous by just keeping a mental memory of what he should and should not do. This lead him to write down the virtues he wished to emulate. Like Mr. Franklin, every man should, at one point in his life, attempt the bold and arduous task of achieving moral perfection. Benjamin Franklin was an avid reader and learned of virtues taught by various people. For his journal he compiled a list of originally twelve virtues with a short descriptive precept.


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 extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11. Tranquility

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 (added later)

Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

How to Journal your Virtues

Mr. Franklin did not intend to enact all these virtues at once, instead he tackled these one at a time. He arranged the listed virtues in such a way so that when he acquired mastery of one virtue, it would be easier to master the succeeding virtue. This is why he started with temperance for mastery of this procured a cool and calm head, necessary for constant vigilance, making it easier to break old habits.

In his Journal he made a page like the one you see below. across the top horizontal axis he had the days and on the left vertical axis he had the virtues. What he would do is make a mark every time he made a fault for that virtue. For an entire week he would focus on one virtue specifically, making sure not to have any faults. The virtues he did not focus on for the week he allowed himself to have faults by instinct but still recorded them. On the second week he would try to keep the first two rows free of any marks, and so on and so forth.

Franklin's 13 Virtues


Even though Benjamin Franklin had hopes of achieving moral perfection he said that he could never get down Order no matter how much concentration he had to amend his behavior. That being said, do not overly obsess about achieving moral perfection. Mr. Franklin even stated, “[…] a perfect character might be attended with the inconvenience of being envied and hated; and that a benevolent man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep his friends in countenance.” So remember, even if you fall short in your pursuits for moral perfection, you will be a better and happier man than if you had never even attempted this feat.



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