Some people call it your True North. No matter; the questions are:
- Do you have one?
- If you have one, what is it?
- Why is that your True North/Moral Compass?
- Do you follow it?
If you don’t have a solid Moral Compass (MC) that you follow, then nothing else matters. Nothing. You will simply be a cork on the ocean of life, following the changing paths of the tides, currents and waves. I know; I have been there. And I still have to fight to stay with and strengthen my adherence to my True North.
“I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.” Frank Sinatra. So, what gets you through the night? And is that the same as a True North? Finding and following your True North will get you through the day and night in far better shape than pills and booze. And will set you up for continuing, healthy success.
What are some examples of an effective MC? And how do you know? Two things: 1. Your North has to be something born and fueled outside of you–with externally inspired values, goals and checkpoints. The danger is that our own internally generated principles may lull us into a false sense of commitment. There must be an outside entity to learn from, and to act as a touchstone–a place to check in to see how we are handling ourselves. This does not mean that you don’t need to internalize the external teachings and examples; all is certainly lost if you don’t. But it is equally certain that it cannot be just you. 2. That outside entity must be powerful enough to keep you on track even when it is hard. If your North’s power and influence in your life is weak, so will be your adherence to it.
What are some examples where both criteria are met? God comes immediately to mind. Whatever your definition, God meets both criteria–external and powerful. Depending upon your path to God, the external writings, religious leaders, ceremonies, legacies, etc., will be different, but each path has its external–and powerful–teachings, values and inspirations.
Teachers, whether more well-known masters like Confucius and Buddha, or somewhat lesser lights like Rumi and Lao Tsu, qualify as external and, if taken seriously, powerful. As do more modern leaders like Rick Warren or Tony Robbins. Philosophers such as Aristotle can also be a solid foundation for a True North. Look no further than his Nicomachean Ethics for support for this claim.
Are there some examples of wrong places to seek help to form and maintain your MC? Well, Snapple bottle caps are one example (no laughing here–I have seen worse). And Satan worship would be out. Better the Snapple cap.
Even harder than developing a MC is staying true to it. You will be besieged by teachings and cliches like, “You have to get along to go along.” and “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t trying.” Perhaps the most diabolically tempting is, “Just this once. You will have plenty of time to correct things later.” The “just this once” part is bad enough; there really are slippery slopes out there. And “later” is always now. Always.
How do I make sure that I will never fall off the path? A. You can’t. That would be like a child shedding their bicycle training wheels for the first time asking, “How do I make sure that I won’t fall while riding my bike?” The answer is to be careful, and get right back on when you fall. Have you ever seen a child learning to walk? Don’t they fall over and over, just to get up again and again? That’s how they learn. And that’s what we need to do. When we drift away from our True North, course adjust, recommit, and go back at it.
What is your Moral Compass, and what does it mean to you? Please respond in the comments; I am interested. As are others.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.