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Ben Franklin's New Years' Resolutions As Relevant Today as They Were 300 Years Ago

Jan. 5, 2006

In the year of his 300th birthday, Ben Franklin's New Years' resolutions seem as relevant today as they did in his lifetime, according to noted Franklin historian Dr. Blaine McCormick of Baylor University.

Franklin pioneered the self-help industry with his Poor Richard's Almanacs and Autobiography. But he didn't just urge others toward self- improvement. He undertook a variety of self-improvement projects himself and made no small number of resolutions during his life, according to McCormick, who wrote Ben Franklin: America's Original Entrepreneur, the only modern translation of Franklin's 18th-century autobiography (Entrepreneur Press).

“Franklin was very honest about his success in achieving his resolutions. He admitted much failure in his autobiography but also noted that he was a much better person for having made the attempt,” McCormick said. “His life and legacy certainly suggest that the effort to keep one's resolutions pays handsome dividends.”

McCormick cites these in particular:

SELF-CONTROL -- Avoid dullness from overeating. Avoid drunkenness from overdrinking.

SILENCE -- Say only those things that benefit others or yourself. Avoid all petty conversation.

ORDER -- Keep all your possessions in their proper place. Give each part of your business its necessary time.

DETERMINATION -- Commit to what you ought to do and always carry out your commitments.

FRUGALITY -- Don't waste your money. Let your only expenses be the doing of good to others or yourself.

PRODUCTIVITY -- Don't waste your time. Spend your time on useful matters and refrain from unnecessary activities.

TRUTHFULNESS -- Avoid lies that harm others. Think without prejudice and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

JUSTICE -- Avoid injuring others by your actions or withholding from them the benefits they deserve.

MODERATION -- Avoid extremes. This applies especially to the holding of grudges against those who have harmed you.

PEACE -- Don't be overtaken by either small irritants or by the larger troubles that are sure to come.

In Poor Richard's Almanac for the year 1738, Franklin advised, “Each year one vicious habit rooted out, in time might make the worst man good throughout.”

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