First you gotta choose your virtue(s). / by Will Ringland

You don't get the things you do not ask for. The journey of a thousand steps begins with one. Just do it. Never half ass two things of you can whole-ass one.

And other motivational idioms.

Starting your own Virtue project is a tall order and not something you should enter into lightly. I believe that there are a bazillion positive outcomes, many of which you won't even realize until you're in the midst of it, that are worth the effort. Franklin said ion his biography that despite not attain moral perfection he was a "better and happier man" than the person he could have been had he not attempted it.

Where to begin?

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I arrived at my desire to do this project after an upset in my life followed by a significant amount of introspection. I felt directly responsible for many of the ills in my life and wanted to remove them or, at least, improve upon the things that I couldn't get rid of entirely.

I do not recommend you start a Virtue Project because of life change. Times of high stress and major transitions do not necessarily set you up for success. Starting something new is less likely to continue if it is much, much easier to spend your nights wallowing in a bowl of ice cream.

And, you know what? Sometimes that is exactly what you need, not an accounting of your moral failings with big Xes laughing at you. Taking care of yourself in the short term may well be the most important.

That said, it's rarely a useful idea to avoid looking ahead and figuring out what all this change stuff can mean. So, set aside major life changes as a reason to start this. I give you permission to wait until you have the mental fortitude to try this.

So. When you're ready....

Ready? Ok.

Choosing your virtues

Co-opting Franklin's virtues

I went with Franklin's virtues because it was easy. In his autobiography he explains his reasoning and it seemed pretty sound to me. Too, I didn't really have any idea what morality or virtue meant aside from a single, ill-fated philosophy class I only passed because two friends re-taught me the class the two weeks before the final (Thank you Sam and Justin).

If you are like me and only have the faintest glimmer of what it mens to be moral or virtuous, it may behoove you to take Franklin's virtues as he intended directly, including his individual precepts for each.

Taking his has a few immediate benefits:

  1. You can start this immediately

If you are effective at creating mental blocks that would keep you from starting this project, removing as much friction to adopting the virtues is a very good idea. This is especially helpful if, despite recommendations above, you are getting into tis project directly after major life change. Why think? Just do it.

  1. 13 virtues fit nicely into a quarter year

Goals work best if you check in on them regularly. People are less likely to achieve a goal if the end is scheduled years or more away. Thirteen virtues, one the focus of a week, offers a natural check in point when you return to the top of your list in week fourteen. At that point, you can assess the last 3 months and decide what is and what is not working. And you can adjust anything problematic.

I'll re-iterate that as it is quite easy to lose that amidst the project: you can change it if pieces aren't working.

Change, not drop. I do not think dropping the project because it is a challenge is s good idea. (It's supposed to be hard.) But if one of the virtues is too easy that you find you have little issue sticking to it, take a look at it. Is it really that easy? Maybe you need to change your precepts. Are you sticking too it as well as you think? Well, if you've been sticking to the whole process you have a log; have you been sticking to it that well? Is it too difficult to keep the precepts in mind? Maybe change how you check in. One of your virtues runs so counter to who you are that you never achieve it without great sacrifice or effort? Maybe you should ditch it.

That first step can pretty daunting, so take care with it.

If those don't blow your skirt up, I've compiled a GIANT LIST of virtues and some possible precepts.

Maybe peruse that and select a few that do, in fact, get some air under there.