Creating inspiration, part 5: Define the future you want to create

Sunrise over the ocean The fifth ingredient for creating inspiration and emotional engagement in a time of change is to paint a picture of the future you want to create.

There are several ways you can do this.

One is to define a specific, measurable, and time-bound goal. This was the approach John F Kennedy took when he announced America’s intention to go to the moon:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

But being vague and metaphorical can work just as well.

Moses promised his people:

“A land flowing with milk and honey.”

They followed him through the wilderness for 40 years.

Donald Trump promised to:

“Drain the swamp”


“Make America great again.”

These were equally undefined goals but they inspired enough people to vote for him to become President of the United States.

Defining the inspiring future you want to create isn’t about whether you are specific or vague: it’s about articulating the outcome you want to create in a way that inspires your audience.

Usually this involves painting a positive picture.

Martin Luther King Junior didn’t say, “I have a problem I need to be fixed,” he said:

“I have a dream… I have a dream… I have a dream…”

But you can also inspire people by describing a future filled with toil and struggle. In the bleak beginnings of World War Two, the British people needed to keep going. ‘Inspiration’ for them at that stage meant not giving up. So Winston Churchill gave them the inspiration they needed when he said:

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets… We shall never surrender.”

These apparently opposite approaches worked because they were appropriate for their audiences and for their times. Both speakers used repetition for effect.

Specific or vague, practical or aspirational — it doesn’t really matter. What matters, as Napoleon Bonaparte said, is that:

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Your job, with this building block, is to create that hope — to paint a picture of the future you want to create, in a way that is relevant to this particular audience.

Do you have a clear vision of the future you are working to create? In your work life? And in your personal life? Are you and the people around you longing to make it happen? What would happen if you described a more inspiring vision of a shared future?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By S. Bhaskara Rao via

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