A Daily Reflection Exercise From Benjamin Franklin

noun_benjamin franklin_1868680

This exercise, and many more, can also be found in The Path co-authored by myself and Nick Slavtcheff.

I have long been a student of history, and not shy about learning from others successes and mistakes. I think this originates from growing up with an older brother a couple of years my senior, and getting to observe his successes and learnings from a detached perspective. 

In was the summer of 2014 when I was working in a kinesiology lab. Working under a microscope for hours tracing the bone formations of mice for a project I was working on: seeing how bone density changed when older mice were exposed to different hormone therapy….anyhow the point is that this particular leg of the project was a mindless task. So I found some free audio books in the public domain to listen to while I was performing this task. 

One book I was fortunate to come across was The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I found the book to be both interesting and wildly inspiring. It was a good blend of history and self-help.

In his autobiography he describes in detail a daily exercise he performed as a young man which he attributed to much of his success. When Franklin was a younger man he developed a list of 13 virtues (put another way, core values) he wanted to live up to. He determined that he would focus on each virtue, one week at a time. He kept a record at the end of every day each time he violated that virtue with a simple tally system. He noticed as the days, weeks, months, and years went by his tallies became less and less until he would go days without having a violation. This exercise is similar to what the stoics would do: putting their day up for review. 

For me, simply defining my set of core values has been tremendously important. Even without the tally system, by defining them and keeping them in a visual place I am reminded that I say I want to live up to these values. Any deviation from that is a cause for action. Just last week I lost my cool on a phone call, which was not living up to my value of being a stoic leader. That evening I reflected on it, and wrote down how I can do a better job in the future. To me, it is all about the small micro steps we take each day that make the big difference in the long run. 

I hope you get a chance to pick up one or both of these books and give this exercise a shot. Let me know what you think!


benjamin franklin by Leonardo Schneider from the Noun Project

 

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