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Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD

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How to Fine-Tune Your Moral Compass

Posted: 10/15/11 01:00 PM ET

All of us have the foundation for building a strong moral compass and there are many benefits to having this. It gives people a sense of integrity, which is a tool for having a sense of self worth and self confidence. A sense of self confidence that is not dependant on the outside world but an internal feeling.

Evidence suggests that people who have a healthy functioning moral compass are more grounded, focused, content with life and productive. They also seem to have more nurturing and positive relationships with people around them and their environment. They minimize harm to this world and maximize their contributions. In other words, they give back as much as they take in or maybe even more. They also have a healthier sense of individualistic self, while concentrating on a good for all.

A few things you may want to consider while you are activating your moral compass:

1. You have to have an individual sense of what it means to you to be moral. This cannot be emulated. You can learn from others if it makes sense, but you have to build one for yourself. Some questions you may ask yourself while doing this: Am I following a set of outdated beliefs that are counterproductive? If so, why? How do I modify them? What beliefs can I follow? Do I know myself enough to know how my beliefs can be shaped to serve my fully functioning individuality and make me a positive part of this world?

2. You have to learn to focus on more than the outer appearance of things. Use a soft focus on the senses, and pay attention to what else may be going on besides this surface part. There is always much more to the story than meets the eye and ear. To develop this skill, you can practice by spending time in nature for several minutes and be still. Pay attention to your breathing and heartbeat, and then become aware of the rhythms around you.

I first learned this from Dr. Steven Farmer, and then started using it on myself and teaching it to my students, my clients and people who came to my seminars. This can then be developed into paying attention to what you see and hear without any form of judgment. Just observing. This practice will strengthen your senses to the deeper truth of things. Then mix this with a thirst for knowledge and a curious mind, and it can help with building your compass.

3. Check to make sure your values are congruent with your behavior. As you grow, you may expand and deepen your value system. It is important to self monitor to make sure your values are congruent with your behavior and your thinking pattern. If not, it will create conflict, confusion and maybe even anxiety and depression. Clarify your values; write a list of what they are, then modify your behavior to work with your values rather than against them. This will get you to your destination faster. For example, if your value is to have more acceptance, but you find yourself judging others on a regular base, then you may need to do cognitive and behavioral modification. Or, if your value is to be a loyal lover, but you are continuously being inappropriate with other people, then you may want to check that.

4. Don't step over other people's values. There is no moral compass in place if you're stepping on others people's boundaries. If you have a compass, it may need some repairing before moving forward.

5. You have to make sure you don't self betray. Never sell your integrity for anything. Know your ground, make it solid and stay true to yourself. Have a clear boundary for protecting your integrity, and this will help activate your moral compass. People lose touch with their morality because they lose touch with their sense of integrity. You build a strong integrity by being consistent with your actions, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes.

6. Expand your horizon. Having a compass that only guides you a few miles is limiting. Expand it and make it a global compass where it directs you toward caring for the good of all. Look at the world as an inner related system that is more and more connected. Try not to add negativity to it by hating, judging unfairly, being superficial, resenting, being self centered and taking advantage.

7. Commit and you will get there. Be aware that no quick results can be expected. You can't wake up and expect to have a clear sense of morality that you can automatically follow. There are stages to everything in life and there are no escapes from these; in other words, no short cuts. If you want to build a fully functioning compass, you have to walk the steps, and work the work. The full cycle has to come to end before the harvest. Prepare the ground, plant the seed and then cultivate with care. As Ralph H. Blum may say, "there is no way to push the river."

8. Defeat irrationality -- the enemy within. Some of your worst enemies are not outside of you, but within you. You create an enemy when you ignore a power you hold within. In this case, the power to be a rational human being. To be rational means to be able to respond with care, to not over react, to be patient, to look for the depth of truth before making a judgment, to be critical thinkers, to focus on the solution and to not be an emotionally impulsive human being. In addition, it means to build a curious mind. Bring that scientist mind out and evaluate before acting or judging. This will minimize your damage and maximize your productivity.

9. Be like a hummingbird. Dr. Farmer encourages us not to take things too seriously. Have a little laugh at your imperfections, then try to fix them if you can. Don't take things as black and white; don't get fixated; open your mind to the variety and the beauty of life. Get yourself excited. If you lose something of value to you, give yourself time to grieve, process and release the feeling, and bring the memory of love and joy to replace the pain. Make every moment count. And this will help keep the compass clean.

At the end, be flexible with the process. Be sensitive to your heart's needs and that of others. Plan your life so that you vibrate and are full of life. Don't have unreasonable expectations. Focus on the process not the outcome; and get excited.

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD
Self Knowledge Base & Foundation
A non-profit dedicated to public education
www.SelfKnowledgeBase.com