The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Happiness, psychology, and Ben Franklin

with 4 comments

Benjamin Franklin taught me how to to be an American, and how to pursuit happiness. when I first moved to the US, and was desperately trying to fit in and to learn English, I came across an old literature book. In it, I found an excerpt of his autobiography. There was the section where he outlined the thirteen virtues he valued. I was very impressed by this man’s ability to outline, in such a simple form, what he thought was the way he should live his life. I spent most a lot of time trying to figure out how to live by these virtues, but in the end, I found that I had to live by mine. So here is a list of what I’ve found are the things I must do every day in order to remain sane, happy, and well balanced. 


1. Be loving and kind, and connect to people, and give them your full attention

Try to do something kind for a stranger every day, but also do something kind for the people in your life. It is easy to practice random acts of kindness, but it takes lot more effort to do the dishes when it is nt your turn. Find a loving thing to do every day. Connect to people. You’d be surprised how cool it is to listen, and to talk once you understand. 

2. Mind what you eat

If you live in a part of the world where your problem is not how to eat, but what to eat, find a way to eat food that is good for you and for the environment. You will feel better and live longer. Do not skimp or suffer to do this though. Eating is a pleasure, and you should enjoy it as much as you can. Eating a tangerine, however, tends to leave you happy for a longer tome than ice cream. A home made burger is better than a fast food one. Count calories, or simply be mindful of how what you eat affects you. I take a few supplements, but I researched them throughly before I did. 

3. Be creative

In my case, creativity comes out though writing and drawing. I usually end up writing, but I need to do something in order to feel like my life has a sense of continuity and meaning. I have journals from 12 years ago. Most of them are weird and in many cases really embarrassing, but it is always nice to look at them. The few times when I’ve stopped my writing habit, things have fallen out of place. 

4. Exercise

There are so many reasons to take at least at 20 minute walk every day that I don’t want to waste space talking about them. In my case, if I neglect to do at least that, I pay for it emotionally and physically. I love to walk, and to ride my bike. 

5. Keep your house clean

I know this may seem stupid, but if my house is a mess and if things are all over the place, I find it hard to do all the other things I set out to do. I end up spending 20 minutes looking for my keys, instead of writing, or I spend my weekend cleaning, when I could be with my friends or reading a good book. I don’t spend a lot of time cleaning, but doing a little bit every day keeps thing easy and good. 

6. Sleep 

I love dreaming. I try to remember my dreams because some of them are more entertaining and have better special effects than most movies. I also need to sleep in order to function, so I aim for a stable sleep schedule. Some times I sleep in, and others I stay up late, but I aim to sleep 8 hours every day. 

7. Be aware of your money

I have to write down everything I spend money on, and to keep careful track of my finances. I’ve lived outside of my means, and now I’m paying the consequences–mainly in the form of credit card bills–I’ve learned that there are some wants that add more to my life than others, and that there are ways to eliminate them when they are not needed. I’m working on this one still, but great financial stewardship is makes life better. I don’t need everything I want, and some wants are a lot better than others. I don’t mind spending extra money on something that is going to make my life better. 

8. Read

Read every day. Read a chapter of a book, listen to an audio book as you walk, or simply find a good article. There is something about reading that makes life better. Like writing, reading gives rails to the train of your life. Keep your brain busy. If you don’t like to read, puzzles. 

The following two rules are not as easily measurable as the others, which I can always track, but they are as important, though they take a lot of practice. 

9. Discover

I think the scientific method is not only applicable to the established sciences. It is also a way to live your life with flexibility and balance. A way to reflect on what happens around you and to make a connection to the world. By observing life and the Universe–as we are a part of it–we can find out what brings us satisfaction, and we can change what doesn’t. 

10. Flow and Savor

I learned this from Mihaly Csikzentmihaly, and from Sonya Lyubomirsky. They suggest that being in the present doing something worthwhile is a great source of happiness. I agree. To laugh, to eat grapefruits, to walk, and to breath and listen. It is all amazing and beautiful. 

Of course, these virtues are my own. I have derived some of these ideas from reading books like Brain Rules, and Satisfaction!, and I’ve figured some out by myself.  You might find them lacking, or you may even relate to them, but I can tell you that my life is a lot better now than it ever has been. It seems as if though I was lost trying to find a better world, but then I realized that this was the best, and I opened up to it. There was no humbuggy secret, or better life elsewhere.

Mastering these has become the star of my life. They may seem simplistic, but they are not. They are actually very difficult, but oh so very rewarding. They give me an unending goal to follow, and a sense of direction.  

Of course, I can make this claims because I am lucky enough to be part of a society that allows me to concern myself with self-actualization, and so I am grateful to people like Ben Franklin for that.


Written by Hector

October 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Very interesting post! I wanted to mention that in my book (The How of Happiness), I have several chapters that describe scientific evidence supporting the happiness and health-boosting effects of many of these recommendations (including doing acts of kindness for others, physical activity, engagement in your work, pursuit of important goals, etc.

    –Sonja Lyubomirsky

    Sonja Lyubomirsky

    October 5, 2008 at 4:52 am

  2. These are very true indeed!
    I do pretty much all of these things…except for the cleaning one; That doesn’t happen too often. lol
    I think it’s important to have a set of “rules” for yourself to follow.
    It’s a shame more people don’t take the time to do these things…They really do make your life a more fulfilled one!


    October 7, 2008 at 3:27 am

  3. Sadly, on a daily basis, I have very few these as habits. However, I can certainly see why they are habits I should cultivate.


    October 18, 2008 at 3:09 am

  4. Benjamin Franklin had a remarkable impact in so many ways, especially in his memorable aphorisms. A Benjamin Franklin article just received the ‘Top 100 Electricity Blogs’ Award


    November 13, 2009 at 3:17 am

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