Creating Positive Thought Loops
Benjamin Franklin was a geek.
"Throughout his life," Walter Isaacson notes in his excellent biography Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, "he loved immersing himself in minutiae and trivia in a manner so obsessive that today it might be described as geeky."73 He points to Franklin's methodical research, unbounded curiosity, and constant inventiveness (note our Analyze, Imagine, and Reprogram framework again!) on topics as diverse as ballooning, education, electricity, eyeglasses, fire safety, heating technology, music, politics, and weather.
Franklin was also a master mind hacker. Hundreds of years before people were using fitness-tracking devices, he came up with a self-improvement experiment that let him track his mind hacking progressin a measureable, scientific way. As described in his autobiography, Franklin gave his experiment the lofty title of the "Moral Perfection Project." He began by laying out a set of thirteen virtues that he wished to develop in himself:74
- Temperance: moderating eating and drinking
- Silence: speaking only when it benefits of others or yourself
- Order: letting everything have its place
- Resolution: resolving to do what you should; doing without fail what you resolve
- Frugality: being careful with money and resources; wasting nothing
- Industry: working hard but efficiently
- Sincerity: meaning what you say; saying what you mean
- Justice: wronging no one, either by what you do or don't do
- Moderation: avoiding extremes and letting go of grudges
- Cleanliness: keeping your body, clothes, home, and workspace clean
- Tranquility: calmly accepting small misfortunes that are common and unavoidable
- Chastity: moderating sexual activity
- Humility: imitating "Jesus and Socrates"
These virtues became Franklin's positive thought loops. His method of reprogramming his mind with these values was both simple and ingenious: in a diary, he made a simple grid with columns representing each day of the week, and rows representing each of the thirteen virtues: