One of the problems with a compass is that it can be temporarily thrown off by surrounding electrical and magnetic forces. As a young Boy Scout I learned to orienteer using a compass and map. When you do this in the woods knowing which way is north is critical.
I remember as a kid playing with my compass and putting it near objects to see what kinds of things would shift the needle away from magnetic north.
I think the same thing can happen with each of our moral compasses – our true moral north direction can be thrown-off by political, social, and public relations forces around us – and people with big personalities. With so many of our leaders today lacking positive moral codes, it is even more important that you and I recalibrate our moral compasses and make sure we are staying true to our values.
A Moral Compass. A moral compass is a mental device that guides your action. It contains four to six values or principles that mean the most to you and that you can easily remember. I first learned about having values when as a young Scout I memorized the 12 Boy Scout Laws and I do remember thinking about my behavior against these laws, especially the first six:
A Scout is — Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind – obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
This week 43 years ago I joined my first Rotary Club and I have been a member ever since. One of the major attractions for me is Rotary’s Four Way Test. These are four simple questions each Rotarian is asked to think about as each of us speaks or takes action. If we can’t answer “yes” to all four, we should change our behavior or action in such a way as to be able to answer “yes.”
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Today I find this Four Way Test a very easy way to recalibrate my moral compass every day. You can do something similar for yourself.
How to Recalibrate Your Moral Compass. When I first wrote about Using Your Moral Compass over seven years ago little did I know it would be my most “hit” article. I find it very interesting that it continues to be heavily viewed today, which seems to me could confirm our human need for a more civil and ethical society.
Here are four tips for recalibrating –
- Evaluate the leaders you follow – do they have a moral code that is consistent with your values? If they don’t, stop supporting them. Peter Drucker wrote that he would assess a leader’s moral code by simply asking “Do they knowingly do harm?” If they do, they should be removed from their role. This was because these leaders were basically wired for deviance, which undermines the long-term success of any organization or government they are leading.
- Evaluate a few of your most recent decisions – apply either the Rotary Four-Way Test to the decision or another test that works for you. Pay close attention to the side-effects of your decision and consider soliciting outside feedback.
- If that decision failed to pass your test, ask yourself why – Explore what you were thinking along the way and if you wrestled with a particular value. If you ignored the value, how will you not do so next time.
- If you are faced with decisions that challenge your values consider using these three steps from the “Character-Based Decision-Making Model”, developed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics –
- All decisions must take into account and reflect a concern for the interests and well being of all affected individuals (“stakeholders”).
- Ethical values and principles always take precedence over non-ethical ones.
- It is ethically proper to violate an ethical principle only when it is clearly necessary to advance another true ethical principle, which, according to the decision-maker’s conscience, will produce the greatest balance of good in the long run.
Thank you for reading this article and if you are like me and need to recalibrate your moral compass sometimes, I am very hopeful that you will help the people around you live a happier and generous life.