Wednesday, March 18, 2020

An “Educated Conscience”: Principle #2 Pray. Ponder. Meditate.

In my last post, I discussed the first of four principles in developing an educated conscience:

Principle #1: Learn From the Best Books

Books are timeless sources of information but our opportunities to learn are greatly expanded thanks to our Age of Information where sources of learning are abundant, varied, and accessible 24/7.  Sometimes we find ourselves consuming so much that we can easily get overwhelmed and not take the time to digest and clearly process the information coming in.  There is a parallel for this with eating.  Have you ever eaten so much at once that you felt sluggish and sick? You know, where the food just sits in your stomach like a rock and makes you super uncomfortable?  I can list a couple of Thanksgiving dinners--especially as a child--where I definitely overate!  This same over glutting can happen with learning: we are so full of information that we can’t break down and absorb what we’ve just gobbled up.  For knowledge to become useful like food is useful, it needs to be transformed into a new energy in our lives, it must be consumed and processed in wisdom and in order.

As a world, we are currently consuming a lot of chaotic and quickly evolving information through what we are reading and hearing, online and in the news via radio and television, especially in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the economic upheavals trailing closely behind.  The flood of information has led to many waves of panic most recently associated with shortages in vital household products, massive market sell-offs, and stymied business transactions.  Just this morning, I was awakened to our house shaking.  At about 7:13 am, we were jolted awake by a 5.7 earthquake approximately 40 miles north of our home.  Nothing was damaged but we definitely felt it. I was having to process a lot of information in a dazed state.  What’s going on?  Is this an earthquake? Is everyone okay? Am I imagining this?!  Will it get worse? All these thoughts swirled in a jumbled mass through my mind in rapid succession.  But I didn’t panic.  Why?  Because I already have a mental process already in place. It works in times of calm but it also kicks in when times of despair, discouragement, danger, and chaos erupt.  It goes like this: I calm my mind and ask myself,
  1. What do I know? 
  2. What matters the most? 
  3. What can I do? 
It almost happens simultaneously now. This centering of the mind, especially when information is superabundant, is accessible through the second principle of developing an educated conscience.  It is how all information is properly digested so that it can become sustaining, life-giving knowledge. It’s very simple: Pray. Ponder. Meditate.

Principle #2: Pray. Ponder. Meditate. 

The acts of praying, pondering, and meditating are all opportunities to:
  1. Analyze (What do I know?)
  2. Prioritize (What matters most?), and 
  3. Prepare to Choose (What can I do?)
It is during these times of prayer, pondering, and meditation that we can think, be still, and use our imaginations to apply what we have learned to our unique and changing situations.

The noted physicist Fritjof Capra discusses the benefits of pausing to process information in Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way.  Capra says, "During these periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight."

When are your best times for these activities?  How often do you find yourself processing experiences, events, stories, or ideas in these ways?  Where are the best places for you to do this?

Let's go in order.  Prayer is first in line.  With prayer, I find that I'm a bit of an impatient person.  My formal prayer style definitely reflects this.  They are often marked by private kneeling, reporting in, saying thank you, and asking for the list of immediate needs sometimes for myself, my family, or neighbors and other loved ones.  But I find that I get up right after my prayer and run to my regularly scheduled duties or hop into bed and let it be, content to have it off my plate so to speak.  There are a few instances where I wait in prayer before, during, or after but these are, I’m embarrassed to admit publicly, rare.  What can I say?  I'm a professional mom!  I have a darling cottage, a husband, five busy, quickly-growing-up children, and dreams of my own to act for the benefit of.

Most of the time my prayers are extremely unofficial--meaning, I’m not on my knees in solitude.  I believe in a God who knows all the thoughts and feelings of my heart.  I am aware that nothing is hidden from Him.  And I trust Him.  So, I often express my gratitude, my fears and frustrations, my hopes and distresses, and everything else in my heart and mind in real-time.  Sometimes I say it out loud quietly when no one else is around or I just say it in my head.  The point is, I like to keep myself close to Him.  I think that’s what He wants, too.  And then, I listen to my thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes, I feel inspired to do something.  Sometimes I feel reprimanded or corrected. Most recently I’ve felt comforted and calmed. But above all, I feel centered and at peace.

Next, there’s pondering. For me, road trips are the ultimate in pondering indulgence!  It's the only place I have to literally sit still for an extended period of time without prepping food for a meal, picking up children from school, taking phone calls, answering texts, cruising through traffic or other daily tasks that require immediate concentration and focus.  It's no wonder then that many students who graduate from high school (and can afford to) take a year break to travel.  They need time to ponder their direction before they go at it again in college full-blast!

John Steinbeck felt the pull of the open road when he decided to write Travels With Charley, published in 1962.  He wasn't healthy but he wanted to get on the road, to drink it all in and make sense of it one last time, before he would pass away, which he did only six years later in 1968.  He said of his urge to road trip around the continental United States:
When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.... A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
Trips are the perfect opportunity to both observe and reflect, to dream and to wonder, as we wander. But trips can cost money and require time away.  Therefore, they aren't always practical.  There have to be other avenues for reflection!

Another place I like to ponder is in my study journals.  I was inspired by Thomas Jefferson who kept what was called a commonplace book.  He was not unique in this.  Students who were classically educated in Colonial and early Post-Colonial America kept a record of their school lessons, favorite quotes, and private thoughts in their notebooks.  The Library of Congress has Jefferson's commonplace books now.  They describe what the commonplace book is:
A commonplace book is not what you might expect from the name. Rather than something ordinary, a commonplace book is a journal or notebook in which a student, reader, or writer compiles quotations, poems, letters, and information, along with the compiler’s notes and reactions. Students from the 1600s through the 1800s were required to keep commonplace books as learning tools. The Commonplace Books series contains two books compiled by Jefferson in his student years. One was a legal commonplace book, compiled while he was studying the law and containing abstracts of important cases. The second was a literary commonplace book, started as a student and maintained until his marriage. In the literary commonplace book, Jefferson included quotations from a wide array of books he read. Entries are in English, Latin, and Greek.
Often, Jefferson would write a quote or an idea that impressed him at the top of a page in his commonplace book and then he wrote his own thoughts under the quote.  Writing, especially in response to another's thoughts, is an important tool for self-discovery. As a teacher, I encouraged all my students to keep a commonplace book to keep track of what they were learning as they read and I kept one myself.  I also had students occasionally write brief journal entries on an online platform in class before having book discussions in order to help them organize and clarify their thoughts.  Writing helped them be accountable for what they were reading.  It works for you and me in the same way.  Get a notebook that you will treasure and that will last for a while.  Keep it close to you as you read.  Record your favorite quotes or ideas.  Respond to them in writing.  Over time, you will be able to see your growth.  You will even be able to flip through it later and find that you are relearning what you may have forgotten you already knew! Look how smart you are!

Interestingly enough, my last (but not least) favorite place to process ideas and listen for inspiration while pondering is when I'm doing the most mundane, non-brain-engaging chores around the house.  I've been a mom for over 23 years and have been doing chores since long before that, so I don't have to really focus on the skills needed to get the job done--it's already in my muscle memory.  Therefore, my mind can wander, browse, and relax enough to make new connections, consider an idea, and develop what's already rattling around up there.  Can I ponder the correct teaching techniques I recently read about and then envision myself applying them appropriately with my children? Yeah! Can I use my creativity to brainstorm ways of making our budget stretch further or brainstorm the next steps of my business? Sure!  Can I make sense of the book chapters I just listened to or the scriptures I just read?  Of course!  As a sidebar, I'm also burning calories while I work and think.  I don't see a downside!

Fortunately, my children are all old enough now so that I can indulge in thinking and pondering while cleaning instead of wondering what destruction is happening in the pantry, or whether or not I put the finger paints and crayons high enough to avoid messy walls, or why it is so quiet in the bathroom when no toilet training has even necessitated its use by that particular child.  I could tell you some stories! But, since those times have passed, I find mundane housework oddly relaxing and useful in gathering understanding and inspiration, of dreaming, and of creating in my mind before I am set to create in the real world.

Finally, there’s the art of meditation.  This is my very weakest skill of the three.  Pray? Absolutely. Ponder? Always. Meditate?  Ummm….  Isn’t that just a fancy word for pondering or for praying?!  I’m not so sure. On January 2, 2018, the Pew researchers David Masci and Conrad Hackett presented their findings of how often Americans meditate in their article, “Meditation is Common Across Many Religious Groups in the U.S.” at  They summarize their findings here:

Masci’s and Hackett’s research indicates that although meditation is practiced primarily by those who claim religious affiliations, it is also enjoyed by Atheist and Agnostic identifiers. Meditation is a tool enjoyed across a wide variety of cultural and religious preferences for practisers to feel centered, still, calm and in many instances to find meaning.

My young adult son, Mason, has learned how to meditate and practices it nightly before going to bed.  It helps him to control his thoughts, realign his priorities, and calm his feelings.  I interviewed him and here’s what he does: (He promises that it’s simple and just takes a little practice to get started! Wink. Wink.)
  1. Find a place where you can be alone.
  2. Close your eyes. (Turning off the lights can help.)
  3. Focus on your breathing. It should be steady and relaxed.
  4. Neither discourage nor encourage any particular thoughts.  You simply watch them pass like you are a mountain and they are passing clouds.  This allows your thoughts to become detached creating emotional distancing from any problems in your life while also helping you feel peaceful. (This lasts for about 10 minutes for him.)
  5. To end his meditation, he reads inspiring quotes for an additional minute or two and tries to preserve that feeling of peace and centeredness.  
  6. Then he goes to sleep!
For him, prayer is like a conversation where he is communing back and forth with God whereas meditation, to him, is solitary.  In meditation, he envisions his place or context in relation to the world and the forces at play in his life. He shared a personal experience with me while meditating followed by prayer and gave me permission to include it here:
About a year ago, as a student, I went to a meditation room at UVU [Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah].  I didn't realize they had one and when I stumbled into it I found that it was empty and I entered.  The clock was ticking and I found myself able to to sync my breath with the ticking of the clock.  During the meditation, it felt like I was going down into the meditation like I was walking into deepening water.  It was one of the most relaxed points of my life.  I was there for about 25 minutes and felt completely still and at peace like when you walk out of a movie theater with a friend after seeing a great movie together, or like being on a beach after a rainstorm, or the feeling I get when hiking up a mountain and then reaching the top. Adjacent to the meditation room is an outloud-prayer room.  There were prayer rugs and slits of natural lighting. It was a small enough room that it felt cozy, intimate, and inviting. It felt familiar and peaceful--a safe, happy place.  In the outloud prayer room I was also able to be alone and had a chance to pray to God out loud after I had been able to center my mind in the meditation room.  Unlike my meditation experience where I could observe my thoughts and feelings as they exist in a detached way, in the prayer room I could talk to someone about those feelings, to a God who perfectly understands me, cares about me, and knows my name. During the prayer, I felt like all my fears and my problems were seen, understood, and being taken care of.  I also felt that those problems were going to be finite--I would be able to deal with them, they wouldn’t go on indefinitely, and they were not too big for God.  It was very personal.  I felt like I was talking to someone I knew and who loved me.  Tears ran down my face.  But the cool thing was that it happened in an instant and all the emotions flooded over me in a flash. I was completely covered. I felt an infinite love that I couldn’t understand like I could never find the edges of it; there was always more.  Mediation was the perfect segway to the most purposeful prayer I had experienced in a very long time.  Both were spiritual experiences but in different ways. In my most painful moments, when I’m processing the information of life, I remember that it will ebb away.  I’ve also learned that often, the more intense the emotion, the faster it tends to fade away.  It felt surprising to me. Usually, with strong emotions, they feel like they are going to take over but once you can observe your emotions without fear, they just fade. 
Thanks, Mason!  I know this is a personal story but it has given me insight into a new method to still my mind and find an inner balance that can help my prayers and my ability to ponder improve.  Thank you for trusting us with it!

Prayer, pondering, and mediation are private and personal but they are also foundational to growing an educated conscience.  They are important ways for us to process, analyze, and prioritize the flood of information that comes to each of us daily.  Some of that information we need to be actively seeking through the very best books.  Other information will come from living and will be beautiful, uplifting, and orderly, or may also be chaotic, unwanted, or unwelcome.  Principle #2 is about how we digest the information we receive through prayer, pondering, and mediation.  As you pray, ponder, and meditate, remember the purpose of these steps is to apply your new knowledge to your own life.  They are tools to help you:
  1. Analyze: What do you know? 
  2. Prioritize: What matters the most to you? 
  3. Prepare to Act: What can you do? 
What are your experiences with prayer, pondering, and/or mediation?  How has it helped you to think more clearly, make important decisions, or change negative or unhealthy behavior?  If you’d like, please share your own story in the comment section below.  I’d love to share your stories with my ever-growing list of readers. You never know who you may help or encourage!

While many of you, like me, are choosing (or are having) to stay in seclusion during the pandemic, I hope you’ll take the opportunity when it presents itself to avoid the prevalent despair that comes with panic, by using prayer, pondering, and meditation.  Until next time, stay healthy, stay safe, and…

Live Beautifully!

Heather Butler
Founder and CEO of Beautiful Living Systems, Inc.

Monday, March 9, 2020

An "Educated Conscience": Principle #1 Learn From the Best Books (Resources)

As I was studying and collecting ideas and information for some of my recent blog posts about the basic principles that underpin all Beautiful Living Systems, I came across a speech given in 1975 by Dr. Stephen R. Covey when he taught as a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  Yes!  This is the same Covey who sold over 25 million copies world-wide of the groundbreaking book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change," originally published August 15, 1989.

P.S. Did you know the original title Covey had planned to give the book was actually, "Restoring the Character Ethic"?!  He ultimately changed the title to focus on habits. In his book, he makes the case that habits are a true reflection of character--the window into our thoughts, beliefs, desires, and understanding. So true! His highly popular book takes a deep dive into the principles that lead to a virtue-based character steeped in habits.  If you haven't read this book recently (or at all), pick up a copy or get it on audible.  It's extremely insightful into the behavioral sciences.

That being said, the foundation of this blog post is based on the principles Covey discusses years before he publishes his more famous book. In his speech, Covey gives insights and recommendations for developing what he calls an "educated conscience" (Source:  The speech was given to a primarily religious audience at Brigham Young University, which is a private university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Covey was an actively believing and practicing member all his life. I've adapted the titles to reflect a more secular, but completely parallel, perspective of the same principles.  I've also added examples and illustrations to help develop and clarify each principle.

Principle #1: Learn From the Best Books 

I first stumbled onto the process of how to choose good literature when I read "A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century" published in 2000 by Oliver DeMille.  As a mother who loves education and a teacher of high school students, I wanted to increase my ability to both discern and discuss literature that would bring understanding and enlightenment to my home and classroom.  DeMille's book was unexpectedly helpful in leading me to learn a qualifying system of book selection that he had learned from a professor named Dr. Daniel Taylor.  (See?! We all inspire and teach each other with rippling effects we can neither see nor predict!) DeMille found this system outlined by Dr. Daniel Taylor in Taylor's book, "The Healing Power of Stories," published in 1996. According to Dr. Taylor, there are four classifications of stories: Whole, Bent, Broken, and Healing.  In an article written by Kim McCloskey on May 16, 2018 at the Timpanogas Storytelling Festival website,, McCloskey summarizes Dr. Taylor's four categories perfectly and succinctly:
Whole stories portray good as good, evil as evil, and good wins. Most of the classics are in this category and most storytellers spend their time with these types of stories.
Bent stories portray evil as good, good as evil, and evil wins. Examples include many horror stories, pornography, and even Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Bent stories can trap us and make us feel hopeless about the world in general.
Broken stories portray good as good, and evil as evil, but evil wins. Something is broken, not right, and needs to be fixed. Examples include Lord of the Flies and 1984. These stories, while not uplifting, have the potential to motivate us to heal something broken in the real world.
Healing stories portray good as good, bad as bad and can be either whole or broken stories. In a healing story the listener is profoundly moved, changed, or healed by the experience of hearing or reading the story. The answer to the problem is offered within the story itself, often in the ending.(Source:
Have you experienced any or all of these four types of literature?  How do they affect you?  What types do you lean toward, and why?  I love Healing stories but I also find Broken stories particularly fascinating.  I believe that 'the nightmare' or 'an opposite' can reveal as much about truth as the prime or ideal. Broken stories have the tendency to shake the reader out of sleepy apathy or genuine ignorance.

Interestingly, Broken stories gained immense popularity after WWI: One of Ours by Will Cather (1922), The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925), A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929), Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932); after the Great Depression, like Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939); a response to prejudice like Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945); and on into the post-WWII era like the short stories in A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor (1955), and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957), just to name a few.  There is still a concerted push by authors to explore why bad--or rather, unjust--things happen and to show the spiritual, emotional, physical, and/or mental damage that follows in its wake.  Additionally, Broken stories, that don’t give all the answers to the challenge at hand, often allow the reader to engage their own empathy and energize creativity in the problem-solving process.  But there is also a danger inherent in those same Broken stories: if the reader throws up their hands, relinquishes accountability, or becomes cynical in the process, a Broken story can further damage the social fabric already shown to be ragged.

Some authors have made the case more directly for Healing stories. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), in particular, wanted fiction literature to be more healing in nature: to inspire and uplift him.  His poem "An Expostulation" expresses this wish:
An Expostulation
Against too many writers of science fiction 

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey's end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one's heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason's grasp had just gone by?
--Clive Staples Lewis
An "Expostulation" is: "an expression of protest, not a rant exactly, but often lengthy; an exclamation of protest, opposition, or criticism" (Source:  Lewis describes the power of good literature as a "finger-tip" which stirs "Strangeness" meaning the search for the undiscovered, "Beauty" in all its varieties both aesthetic (physical) and esoteric (spiritual), and "Wonder" which can be understood to mean divine curiosity or awe.

Charles Dickens is a textbook example of using fictional characters to create Healing stories.  While determined to show the seedy underbelly of Industrial England, Dickens was not content to wallow in it.  His primary characters heroically struggle against social, moral, and mental corruption to choose the better path.  I think the most iconic of any of Dickens' heroes is, of course, Mr. Scrooge of A Christmas Carol, published days before Christmas on December 19, 1843. After a tumultuous and educating night spent with three ghosts, Scrooge vows to change: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” (134).  Determined to prove to the reader that Scrooge’s turn-around was not temporary, but lasting and deep, Dickens writes, “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more…” and leaves the reader with the invitation to live as gracious and changed beings: “May that be truly said of us, and all of us!” (147).  (Source: Dickens, throughout A Christmas Carol, illustrates the process of personal restoration from greed to generosity, from cruelty to compassion.  He leaves no doubt as to how to be healed and how one man’s healing affects his society.  This is truly a Healing story.

Healing stories are also found in modern case studies often used in career training associated with business, law, and the social sciences.  These studies explore real-life precedents. While there isn't a direct indication of 'good equals good', or 'bad equals bad', case studies are organized and studied for this exact purpose: to understand what went right in cases of success and what went wrong in cases of failure.  But for what purpose?  What is the value? Case studies enable the reader/observer to first study potential success patterns or missteps experienced by someone else and second to correctly apply the principles to their own situation in order to, hopefully, make better decisions.  In addition to studies associated with business, law, and the social sciences, I have found the scriptures to be a rich and abundant resource of case studies both whole, broken, and healing.  Love them!

Stephen Covey, in his chapter "The Seven Habits--An Overview" in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says: "One of the immensely valuable aspects of any correct principle is that it is valid and applicable in a wide variety of circumstances." In other words, if you can identify the gist of another's experiences and decisions, you can make better decisions for yourself when in parallel, though not exact, circumstances.  Very cool!  To learn from other's successes and failures helps inform our pre-decision making processes and can steer us away from the full effects of ignorance or deception which include regret, horror, shame, isolation, failure, and/or fear.

The invitation of this first principle in your Beautiful Living System is to fill your mind with true principles based on books that contain examples of true principles.  You can access the past and present in your studies and observations.  Learn through your own story: your behavior and actions, including your personal thoughts and experiences.  Learn through the stories of others: their experiences, behavior, and actions.  Look for roots causes and effects.  Search a myriad of reputable sources as your judgment increases.  Look for and learn the natural laws that govern all things--the systems of truth--that permeate all aspects of living and which is my life goal to organize and encapsulate in The 7 Pillars of Beautiful Living Systems:

Now, is that too much to ask?! (Wink. Wink.)

There are a total of 4 principles in this series An "Educated Conscience".  This post covers the need to search out, study, and learn from the best books.  What is one of your favorite books?  Would you say it is Whole, Bent, Broken, or Healing?  Why is it your favorite?  How has it influenced you?  I'd love to hear your stories.  Simply post in the comment section below.

Thank you for tuning in to this blog!  It has been viewed over 500 times and has been read in 15 countries in just the two and a half months since its creation.  Wow, thank you so much!  Please feel free to share my blog with your friends and other loved ones.  Until next time...

Live Beautifully!

Heather Butler
Founder and CEO of Beautiful Living Systems

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Core Principles of Beautiful Living (Part III): The Virtue of America’s Founders

The Founding Fathers (and Mothers)

The Founding Fathers and Mothers of American Independence were taught both according to the religious principles of the Bible's Old and New Testaments and according to the Greco-Roman ideologies of classical education which included the idea that a virtuous life was the end goal of a fully developed and highly functioning human. A few examples of those who pursued and encouraged the pursuit of virtue were Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Abigail Adams. There are so many more, but this is a good beginning place:

Benjamin Franklin

Franklin developed his own list of personal virtues when he turned 20 in 1726. It was intended to be a system that would develop his moral character. In his autobiography, "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," Franklin listed his thirteen virtues as:
  • Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  • Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloth[e]s, or habitation.
  • Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
He wrote the qualities in a journal, attached it to his weekly calendar, and kept track of his progress. Even though he found his progress was much slower than he expected, he did not regret his objective: conscious self-reflection and improvement based on a system of order.  Have you thought about your own system of personal improvement?  What has worked for you?

George Washington

As a teenager, George Washington researched and organized a handwritten booklet of manners which he titled, "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." Ultimately, he recorded 110 rules of etiquette so he would be prepared to enter not only the social circles of his beloved, older, half-brother Lawrence but the business circles he also hoped to enter in the future. An example of some of these personal standards include:
#1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present.

#5. If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.

#6. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.

#7. Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half-dressed.

#22. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

#56. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'is better to be alone than in bad company.

#67. Detract not from others neither be excessive in commanding [attention to yourself].

#108. When you speak of God or his attributes let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they are poor.

#109. Let your recreations be manful, not sinful.

#110. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
He's so cool! You can find the entire list by clicking on this link: George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior. As Washington aged, and had opportunities to influence many others, he continued to learn and value all virtues in multiple arenas, both private and public. As an aging public servant, Washington was nicknamed 'Cincinnatus' based on the story of a Roman of the same name who was honorable and admired by his countrymen in previous military roles, but who had since retired to his country home in order to farm. When his country's safety was again jeopardized, Cincinnatus left his plow in the field and answered the call to serve, despite his old age. Roman virtue teaches to put God, country, and family over self--always. Washington lived this way.

Abigail Adams

Seven years before the first U.S. Constitutional Convention even met, three years before the Revolutionary War ended, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her son, John Quincy Adams dated January 12, 1780. At the time of this writing, John Quincy Adams was traveling with his father, John Adams, and younger brother on a leaky ship across the ocean during a time of war, to Paris. His father was tasked to negotiate peace with England. John Quincy was only 12 years old at the time. After encouraging him to take full advantage of his opportunities to learn from his travels with his father and counseling him to be diligent and steady, Adams wrote this:
These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator if he had not been roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Verres, and Mark Anthony? The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities, which would otherwise lie dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman. (Source:
Clearly, Abigail Adams is acquainted with the characters of the Roman Empire as it faced decay and dissolution in its time. She calls upon her son to embrace the virtues of Cicero, who, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica was the “Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who vainly tried to uphold republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic” (Source: She teaches him that virtue, an expression of a great character, is called upon in times of distress. She is a pillar of this principle having endured the quarantine and persecution of Boston’s citizens under British forces prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776, and having stood behind and counseled her husband as he defended British soldiers associated with the Boston Massacre. I deeply admire her. She is deeply loyal to her family, her faith. She is self-educated, having had no formal education, but studies from her family’s home library as a girl. She loves knowledge and she turns it into wisdom by applying it to herself and to the circumstances of her world.

The pursuit of virtue is not about having to be perfect or waiting for perfect people to lead. It’s about seeking the ideal and practicing it to the best of one’s ability according to one’s best knowledge and understanding. Ability, knowledge, and understanding are not static. They can increase and decrease. Virtue acquisition shares the same organic nature. It is a regular choice that needs to be made as consciously and as regularly as needed. It needs to be protected, defended, fed, and nurtured like all living things.

Recommended Reading
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

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Free Source Link:

The Real George Washington (American Classic Series) Reprint Edition by Jay A. Parry

Amazon Source Link to Buy:

My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor

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Principles of Virtue (Thank you, Cicero!)

Here are a few principles associated with virtue that I found when searching for quotes about virtue. They are all written by the great Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero who spent a great deal of his adult life trying to teach ideals to his decaying society. Enjoy!

Virtue Comprises all Noble and Honorable Actions

"Since an intelligence common to us all makes things known to us and formulates them in our minds, honorable actions are ascribed by us to virtue, and dishonorable actions to vice; and only a madman would conclude that these judgments are matters of opinion, and not fixed by nature." 

Virtue Begins in Our Thoughts
"Virtue is a habit of the mind, consistent with nature and moderation and reason." 

Behavior Reveals Virtue (or its Absence)
"We should not be so taken up in the search for truth, as to neglect the needful duties of active life; for it is only action [what we act on or do] that gives a true value and commendation to virtue." 

Virtue is the Foundation of all Healthy Social Connections: Family, Friends, and Civic
"It is virtue, virtue, which both creates and preserves friendship. On it depends harmony of interest, permanence, fidelity." 

"It is virtue itself that produces and sustains friendship, not without virtue can friendship by any possibility exist." 

Virtuous Living Brings Peace of Conscience in Old Age
"The best Armour of Old Age is a well-spent life preceding it; a Life employed in the Pursuit of useful Knowledge, in honorable Actions and the Practice of Virtue; in which he who labors to improve himself from his Youth, will in Age reap the happiest Fruits of them; not only because these never leave a Man, not even in the extremest Old Age; but because a Conscience bearing Witness that our Life was well-spent, together with the Remembrance of past good Actions, yields an unspeakable Comfort to the Soul." 

I'll end this three-part post on the core principles of Beautiful Living Systems with the quote I began it all with:
"...If there is anything virtuous, lovely, 
or of good report or praiseworthy, 
we seek after these things."
--The Wentworth Letter, Joseph Smith Jr.

What we seek we will find.  What we find will occupy our lives, our thoughts, our perspectives, our action, our relationships, our quality of living.  Seek the best.

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Live Beautifully!

Heather Butler
Founder and CEO of Beautiful Living Systems