Self-Improvement How to Develop a Strong Moral Compass By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 20, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Jeff Mccollough / EyeEm / Getty Images. Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Makes Up Your Moral Compass? Signs of a Strong Moral Compass Benefits What Does It Mean to Lack a Moral Compass? Tips Just like ships are guided by a magnetic compass, humans are guided by a moral compass. Also known as your conscience or your ethical principles, your moral compass is an innate set of values that guides your behavior and decisions. Your moral compass essentially helps you distinguish between what’s right and wrong, says Kristin Wilson, LPC, CCTP, Chief Experience Officer at Newport Healthcare. Your moral compass plays a significant role in your life. It can guide the way you work, the way you respond when you’re asked a question, the way you react to a situation, or simply the way you go about your day-to-day life. For example: Do you leave your campground clean or littered with trash? Do you lend your neighbor your footstool or claim you don’t have one? Do you blame a mistake you made at work on your colleague or take responsibility for it? This article explores the signs and benefits of a moral compass, factors that influence your moral compass, and strategies to help you develop a strong moral compass. What Makes Up Your Moral Compass? These are some factors that can influence your moral compass, according to Wilson: Education Family values Parental styles Life experiences Role models Religious beliefs Cultural norms Social influences Political climate Economic environment Media Social media Kristin Wilson, LPC, CCTP Moral compasses aren't fixed constructs—they may change as we face new experiences in life, gain knowledge, or cope with hardships. Therefore, everyone's moral compass is unique. — Kristin Wilson, LPC, CCTP Signs of a Strong Moral Compass These are some of the signs of a strong moral compass, according to Wilson: Honesty: Being truthful and not lying to people or deceiving them for your own gain. Respect: Treating others with respect, even if they have a different background or belief system from yours. Humility: Not being arrogant and avoiding boasting. Reliability: Keeping your word and being dependable to those who count on you. Accountability: Taking responsibility for your actions and mistakes. Loyalty: Being faithful and supportive of the people in your life. Kindness: Being kind to others and helping out as much as possible. Thoughtfulness: Being considerate toward other people. Selflessness: Being quick to help and putting others’ needs before your own. Trustworthiness: Being honest and not stealing, cheating on, or manipulating others. Compassion: Being empathetic toward the plight of others. 6 Ways to Become a Nicer Person Benefits of Having a Strong Moral Compass These are some of the benefits of having a strong moral compass: Stronger identity: Having a strong moral compass can lead to a strong sense of integrity, self-worth, and self-confidence, says Wilson. Increased happiness: Acting in accordance with your values can help you feel happy and at peace with yourself. A 2014 study notes that having a clear conscience helps promote inner peace. The authors of the study notes that this even applies during stressful situations, because you know you’ve done your best. Better relationships: People with a strong moral compass are able to foster better relationships with others because they value others’ needs and view themselves as part of a greater good, says Wilson. Greater success: Research shows that ethical behavior is linked to better performance and greater success. 7 Habits of Emotionally Intelligent People What Does It Mean to Lack a Moral Compass? Without a moral compass, you may simply act per your own convenience, without taking into consideration what’s better for others or society as a whole. People who lack moral compasses can be difficult to deal with because they often make decisions that will negatively impact those around them, says Wilson. Research also shows that psychopathic people, who often have antisocial or criminal tendencies, tend to lack a moral compass. Tips to Strengthen Your Moral Compass These are some strategies that can help you strengthen your moral compass. Review Your Beliefs Your moral compass is comprised of your beliefs, principles, and values. It can be helpful to reflect upon them and evaluate them from time to time, to ensure your moral compass stays strong. You can do this by reflecting on day-to-day situations in your life or current events in the news. Ask yourself how you feel about the situation and why. If you like, you can even discuss your thoughts with others, to see how they feel about them. Seek Out Diverse Perspectives Often, we rely only on what we know to guide us. However, our perspective can sometimes be limiting. It’s important to broaden your horizons by considering different cultures, religions, social practices, and economic backgrounds. The best way to do this is by talking to lots of different people. You can also read books and articles, and watch diverse content. Developing a more diverse, inclusive, and holistic worldview can help you be more compassionate and strengthen your moral compass. Practice Empathy While we always consider how our actions will affect us, it’s equally important to consider how they affect others. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective can help you understand how your actions might affect them. This can help you be more empathetic toward them and guide your behavior toward them. Act Upon Your Intentions While your moral compass is a guiding light, it’s important to follow through and act upon your intentions. For instance, even though you might be tempted to turn in an assignment late and make an excuse to your manager, it’s important to get it done on time if you value punctuality, reliability, and trustworthiness. The satisfaction you get by acting upon your values is motivating and rewarding in itself and will help strengthen your moral compass. Correct Your Mistakes Your moral compass evolves over time, as you encounter new information and experiences. If you find something you once believed was mistaken or misguided, don’t be afraid to correct yourself. Admit your mistakes, apologize to people you’ve hurt, and learn from the situation. Even if you were mistaken before, correcting yourself can help you strengthen your moral compass and feel at peace with yourself. Being stubborn and refusing to accept that you might have been wrong can be as harmful to your mental well-being as it is to others’. 10 Tips for Becoming a Better Leader 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. 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A meta-analytic examination of psychopathy's relations with moral judgment. Personal Disord. 2018;9(1):40-50. doi:10.1037/per0000226 By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.