This time of year is exhausting for me and I strongly dislike watching the morning new shows which are filled with the same New Year’s resolution stories over and over. They should just save some time and energy by replay the last year’s stories because they are virtually the same regardless of the network. 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 are resolutions are good, they rarely continue after the first month of the year and hold little significant value to our overall quality of life. Yes, your health and appearance can improve and thereby improve your self esteem, but what if instead of focusing on improved self esteem you focus on character development instead. Better yet, what if your entire family set a New Year’s resolution of working on one character trait? Just imagine for a moment the different it would make in your personal life, your family life, your spiritual life, your work life, and your social life if your focus was to improve an aspect of your character. I dare say, that no new diet or exercise program can promise the same difference in every area of your life. So instead of setting yourself up for 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, if you picked just one of his virtues and set for yourself a goal of mastering it until the end of the year, imagine the difference in your life and the lives around you.
Better yet and if you are really courageous, ask your spouse, a close friend, or a parent which of the virtues they believe you need to work on and tackle that one first. Most likely, that will be the one virtue that will make the greatest difference in your life. Now, that’s a New Year’s resolution that really matters.