Your Inner Compass

Finding Your True Self

Give your kids an inner compass so they know where to turn when life feels overwhelming.

Table of Contents

Preparation Guide (Optional)

Personal Devotional

Use these questions for personal reflection or journaling.

  • Are there any moments over the course of your life when you’ve felt a sense of inner guidance? If so, are there any moments that would be worth sharing with your kids?
  • What word(s) do you prefer to talk about this inner guidance?
  • What can you do to tune into your inner voice more often?

What the Wisdom Says

Use these passages for personal reflection.

“Dig within. Within is the wellspring of good, and it is always ready to bubble up if you just dig.”
— Marcus Aurelius (Stoicism)

“To me, faith is not a public allegiance to a set of outer beliefs, but a private surrender to the inner knowing.”
— Glennon Doyle, author

“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is still a sureness in you, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and a tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner sanctuary.”
— John O’Donohue, poet

Suggested Resources

Use these resources if you want to dive deeper as you prepare.

  • “Why Kids Need Spirituality” (6-min article) from The Cut presents an overview of the book The Spiritual Child by Lisa Miller, professor of psychology at Columbia University.
  • “How To Teach Kids Social and Emotional Intuition” (2-min video) from Dan Siegel clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine
  • Quote from Gabor Mate, physician and addiction recovery specialist: “When I neglect that which is eternal within me, I detach from the authentic source of my strength and lose my voice. … In a state of spiritual poverty, we will be seduced by whatever it is that makes us insensate to our dread. That, ultimately, is the origin of the addiction process, since the very essence of that process is the drive to take in from the outside that which properly arises from within. … The sparser the innate joy that springs from being alive, the more fervently we seek joy’s pale substitute, pleasure; the less our inner strength, the greater our craving for power; the feebler our awareness of truth, the more desperate our search for certainty outside of ourselves.”

What the Science Says

Read an insight from an expert in psychology.

“Spiritual development through the early years prepares the adolescent to grapple more successfully with the predictably difficult and potentially disorienting existential questions that make adolescence so deeply challenging for teens (and their parents). It also provides a protective health benefit, reducing the risk of depression, substance abuse, aggression, and high-risk behaviors, including physical risk taking and a sexuality devoid of emotional intimacy.”

— Lisa Miller, professor of psychology at Columbia University

Consider starting with a simple ritual that fits your family: light a candle, meditate, pray, sing, etc.

Opening Activity

Watch “How the Compass Unlocked the World” (3-min video) from TED. It explains the basics of the compass and where the idea came from.

Key concepts:

  • A map requires a compass to show which direction you’re facing. Otherwise, a map is nearly worthless if you’re lost.
  • The invention of the compass gave explorers the tool they needed to safely venture into the wilderness.

From the video: “The compass is everywhere because it’s literally how we find our way across the face of the earth. You can go off and explore and find out what is over that next hill or that next horizon, but you can also reliably find your way home.”

In other words, a compass helps you explore new terrain, and it also can help you find your way back to where you came from.

Optional activity: If you have a compass handy (likely on your phone), you might demonstrate how you can always use it to find North no matter where you are.

The Inner Compass

Explain that just as a physical compass shows the way to go so we don’t get lost, we all have access to an inner compass, which is similar to the word conscience: an inner feeling or voice that guides you toward what is right for you and others.

Wisdom traditions from around the world have spoken about the inner compass:

  • Judaism talks about a “still, small voice” that guides us.
  • Hinduism talks about “the golden city of the heart.”
  • Christianity talks about a “Kingdom of God” that is “within you.”
  • The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius writes that you should, “Dig within. Within is the wellspring of good, and it is always ready to bubble up if you just dig.”
  • Sikhism says, “God dwells inside everything; Seek the divine, therefore, in your heart.”
  • Islam talks about God being nearer than your jugular vein.

In each case, there’s a belief that you can access inner guidance that will point you in the right direction. The concept is real, but it is impossible to fully convey in words. We each have to experience it for ourselves.


  • In our family, what names might we use for this inner guidance?

A few possibilities:

  • Inner compass
  • Your true self
  • Your best self
  • Intuition
  • Conscience
  • Heart knowing
  • Love
  • Spirit
  • God
  • Inner light
  • Inspiration
  • Revelation
  • Pure awareness

Share that there are some outside voices worth listening to — trusted adults, friends, and siblings. But none of them should eclipse our inner knowing of what is most generous and loving.

The following three sections — Uplift Teens, Uplift Kids, and Uplift Littles — are written to each respective age group. The activities can be done with the parent and child or by the child alone.

Uplift Teens

When you feel lost inside, where do you turn?

One place to turn is toward your inner voice.

Florence Nightingale is an example of someone who listened to her inner compass. Born in 1820, she became a nurse and created hygiene practices that saved thousands of lives by changing the way patients were taken care of.

She almost didn’t become a nurse because she was from a wealthy family and her family believed that nursing was not a respectable choice. But Nightingale followed her inner compass and stayed true to her vision of the world. As a nurse, she created new ways to take care of patients and was a trailblazer who made changes we still use in hospitals today.

Florence Nightingale also studied and wrote about wisdom from around the world — and even wrote on the topic of an inner compass. “Where shall I find God?” She wrote. “In myself. That is the true mystical doctrine. But then I myself must be in a state for God to come and dwell in me. This is the whole aim of the mystical life; and all mystical rules in all times and countries have been laid down for putting the soul into such a state.”

Nightingale stayed true to her inner voice and lived a generous life.

To explore the concept of an inner compass more fully, reflect on the following passages:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
— Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is still a sureness in you, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and a tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner sanctuary.”
— John O’Donohue, poet

How do you pay attention to your true self, the version of yourself that “somehow already knows what you truly want to become”?

One way is to ask yourself introspective questions and follow your inner compass to find answers, especially in difficult situations. You might ask what option energizes you the most and makes you feel fully alive rather than numb.

By listening closely to the “still, small voice” inside you (coupled with a healthy dose of sound reason), you can become who you’re meant to become: Your best self.

Additional activity: “Your Inner Compass — Secular Buddhism Podcast” (20-min episode)

“Your first task is to find the place where your soul is at home.”

Uplift Kids

Finding Your Inner Compass

What does the best version of yourself want?

What does your heart know is right?

What does your inner compass point to?

Asking yourself these questions can help you find peace. For instance, if you’ve been watching TV or playing a video game, your inner compass can help you know when it would be best to take a break. Or your inner compass might nudge you to be with someone who seems lonely at school. Or your it might help you discover what you love to do in life.

To find your inner compass, take a moment to tune into your heart and reflect on what the best version of yourself would do in a situation.

Try this:

  • Breathe out slowly three times.
  • Put your hand on your heart.
  • Let your mind become still.
  • Notice how you feel in your body.
  • Ask yourself what you feel in your heart about what would be a good thing to do right now.

Sometimes the answer is to not change anything. (Keep doing what you’re doing!)

And sometimes the answer is to change what you’re doing and do something brave, kind, or difficult — something that helps you grow inside.

And sometimes there’s no answer at all. That’s fine too.

Just like a physical compass shows the way to go so you don’t get lost, you always have access to your inner compass. It guides you toward what is right for you and others.

Uplift Littles

What does your heart say about how to treat others? You have an inner compass that can guide you to be your best self.

Use the template below and follow the instructions.

Download the PDF.

Optional Activity: Make a Compass

If you’re looking for something even more hands-on, consider making your own compass craft.

Materials needed:

  • Paper plate
  • Push pin or metal brad pin
  • Pipe cleaner

  1. Write North (top), East (right), South (bottom), West (left)
  2. Push the pin through the middle of the plate
  3. Attach the pipe cleaner to the push pin, so you can point it to the directions on the plate
You can now move the “needle” to different directions like a compass.

For a more scientifically accurate home-made compass, see “How to Make a Compass” on WikiHow.

Closing Activity


  • What are the things we can do to be still and listen to our inner compass or inner voice?
Ideas may include:
  • Create times of quiet and stillness
  • Set aside some time to be away from technology
  • Be in nature
  • Express gratitude to each other
  • Say one kind thing (from the heart!) to each other
  • Pray or meditate
  • Read wisdom literature or poetry
  • Watch inspiring films
  • Openly share experiences you’ve had following your inner compass

Optional Activity: Chant

Sing “Listen, Listen, Listen” (6-min video), which is a chant that can help you center on your heart.

“Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song.
Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song.
I will never never forget you.
I will never forsake you.”

This simple chant can be repeated until a break feels natural.

Consider closing with a simple ritual that fits your family: blow out the candle, meditate, pray, sing, etc.

How was your experience with this lesson? Let us know by filling out the form below. We read and welcome all feedback as we work to improve Uplift.

Thank you! White Heart on Twitter