Benjamin Franklin did it in his twenties. Stephen Covey advised it. I think it is a good idea, so here it is: a list of habits I wish to keep and develop, or wish to learn. Some require “constant vigilance… to guard against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits… (and) force of perpetual temptation” (to quote Benjamin Franklin). Some require me to unlearn what I have learned (to rephrase Yoda, the Jedi master).

With self

Proactivity: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose that response. In those choices lie our growth and happiness.” (Viktor Frankl)  Visualize that space, and practice looking at yourself from a distance, high and above.

Discipline: Discipline the body and the mind. “The body is a good servant but a bad master.” Rest frequently. Strive for full alertness of senses and tranquility of the mind at all time. Watch for your temper.

Patience and Persistence: Be patient and persistent in building skills and refining your work. “Rome is not built in one day”, but it has to be built.

With others

Win-win or no deal: Remove or keep in check win-lose or lose-win mentalities, both of which are rooted in the habit of comparing and competing, and neither of which will last long in any healthy long-term relationships. When win-win is not possible, seek no deal.

Trustworthiness: Being trusted is more important than being liked. Trustworthiness necessitates character and competence.

Silence: “Speak not but what benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations”. (Benjamin Franklin) Get rid of the habit of being argumentative, and avoid the tendency to show off. Persuasion is seldom achieved by reason alone, and pride is as troublesome as complacency.


Truth: Theory, however elegant, has to be congruent with facts. Truth necessitates integrity and honesty.

Progress: My research should always aim to advance human knowledge and/or to make something useful.

Refinement: Work of science is work of art, and vice versa.

With the world

Well-rounded: Develop appreciations for arts, literature, music, language, and other creative endeavors of all human cultures.

Informed: Keep up-to-date on important events around the world, but filter out the noise.

Concerned: No need to suffer unnecessarily, but be aware of all sufferings.

PS. Written mostly on trains

PPS. Some thoughts are better completed on the road, at a distance from daily routines.

Published by

Wendong Wang

A chemist who blogs

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