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Master Your Personal Goals the Ben Franklin Way

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin has never been accused of being an underachiever. His resume lists such achievements as inventor, writer, publisher, statesman, scientist, traveler, student, philosopher and organizer. Franklin life was as busy and challenging as any parent or professional in the 21st century.

As early as age 20, Ben Franklin understood the value to setting personal goals and tracking the progress toward those goals. His strategy of writing out his goals and documenting his success help lead him to a life created by choice, not by circumstance. In his autobiography, the 79 year old Franklin wrote about the 13 goals he had set his life 59 years earlier:

  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.”Franklin’s Cards for Tracking Goals
  9. “MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. “CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. “TRANQUILLITY. 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. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Each goal was stated as a virtue that Franklin would strive to achieve. In order track his effort, Franklin used a series of cards which listed the days of the week across the top and a row for each of the 13 virtues. Each evening Franklin would review his day and place a mark beside each virtue he failed to keep. Over time, Franklin was encouraged by seeing fewer and fewer marks on his cards.

The simplicity of this system betrays it’s effectiveness. The steps are clear: select your goals, review each day, and document your success. My own recommendation is that, instead of tracking your failures (like Franklin), give yourself marks for your achievements. Work each day to meet your personal goals and review your efforts each evening. You can record your goals and track your progress on paper, with a spreadsheet, or with a simple software program like the free one available online at

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