This time of year is exhausting watching the morning talk shows filled with the same New Year’s resolution stories over and over. They should just save some time and energy by replaying last year’s stories. It’s all about eating more healthy, taking more vitamins, drinking more water, losing more weight, changing your appearance, and of course the mother of all resolutions – exercising.
While these resolutions are good, they rarely continue after the first month of the year. Yes, health and appearance can improve and thereby improve self esteem. But what if instead of focusing on improving that, character development is the main emphasis?
Better yet, what if an entire family set a New Year’s resolution of working on one character trait? Just imagine for a moment the difference it would make in personal, family, spiritual, work, community, and social life to focus on improving an aspect of character. A new diet or exercise program doesn’t compare. Instead of another year of disappointing resolutions, try something new or more accurately spoken, something old.
In his autobiography written spanning from 1771 to 1788, Benjamin Franklin outlines thirteen virtues to which he aspires to master and thereby encouraging others to consider the same. Here they are in his words:
- “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.” (Moderation in food and drink.)
- “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.” (Watch what you say.)
- “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.” (Organize all things.)
- “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” (Finish what you start.)
- “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.” (Spend wisely.)
- “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” (Good time management.)
- “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” (Think and speak the best about each other.)
- “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.” (Do no harm to others.)
- “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.” (Consider all points of view.)
- “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.” (Clean living.)
- “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.” (Strive for peace.)
- “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.” (Have sexual morality.)
- “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” (Think of others before yourself.)
These virtues were not to be attempted all at once. Instead he devised a system of concentrating on one at a time, until mastered and then proceeding to the next one. So for this year, pick just one of his virtues and set a goal of mastering it until the end of the year. Then observe the difference it made in all aspects of life.
Better yet ask a spouse, close friend, or parent which of the virtues they believe need to be addressed and tackle that one first. Most likely, that will be the one virtue that will make the greatest difference. Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution that really matters.