I call it The Virtues Project.
Every year in the Early American Literature class that I teach, I assign my students a project for which they emulate Benjamin Franklin’s renowned self-improvement project. In his Autobiography, which we study in my class, Franklin details his attempt to “arrive at moral perfection.” Franklin made a list of 13 virtues and a book of charts to track his efforts to maintain these virtues perfectly.
Franklin’s project went on for many months, but I challenge my students to pick 7 “virtues” that they will track for 7 days. They usually pick bad habits they want to break like biting their nails or cursing or good habits they want to adopt like exercising and eating vegetables. It’s so fun to read about their results!
But I recently realized that I could use a revised version of Franklin’s project to keep myself on track for 2017.
You see, right now I’m all fired up about my goals. You can probably relate. You’re probably fired up about your vision for the year, too. But come March or maybe even February and we might find the thrill is gone. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If we can develop good habits that could bring us closer to achieving our dreams and break the bad habits that could get in our way, we can keep the momentum going all year long.
So I’m challenging myself (and any ladies of the See Jane Write Facebook group who want to join me) to try a virtues project for 21 days, which is how long it takes to form a habit.
If you want to play along, pick 7 good habits you want to adopt, bad habits you want to break and/or practices that will help you accomplish your 2017 goals. Then use a chart to track your progress each week for three weeks.
Here are my 7 virtues and why I chose them:
Fitness: I will exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. This will help me with my goal of losing 30 pounds in 2017.
Wellness: I will drink at least 40 ounces of water daily. I am perpetually dehydrated and my doctor says it’s having a negative impact on my overall wellness. (But I can’t drink too much water because when I do my blood pressure spikes. My body is weird.)
Health: I will floss every night before bed. Healthy teeth are an indication of a healthy body. Plus, I know that I tend to skip flossing when my schedule is getting out of control.
Rest: I will get at least 6 hours of sleep each night. Just because I teach teenagers doesn’t mean I should adopt their sleeping habits. Getting more sleep will also help with my overall wellness.
Faith: I will read my Bible, write in my prayer journal, and share a Scripture on social media every day. In my vision statement for 2017 I wrote about feeling at peace with God. This will help bring this to fruition.
Sophistication: I will not use profane language. “Act like a lady; curse like a sailor” is pretty much my motto, but my potty mouth is getting out of hand. I used to censor myself around most people and only use foul language around my closest friends, but I’m slowly starting to curse around EVERYBODY. I need to get this in check so I won’t appear uncouth (even if I secretly am).
Creativity: I will write in my journal every night before bed. I get so caught up in the business side of See Jane Write that I often forget to take time to see Javacia write. I think a nightly writing ritual will help me actually feel like a writer again.
My virtues project will last from January 8 to January 28. This is when my church will be hosting it’s annual 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. Instead of giving up meat or dessert, I’m doing this instead. To raise the stakes, for each time I mess up (i.e. say a dirty word or skip a workout) I will donate a dollar to my favorite charity, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.
If you plan to play along, share your 7 virtues below.