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 might do this.

One is to define a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goal. This was the approach John F Kennedy followed 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 to lead his people to:

“A land flowing with milk and honey.”

and they followed him through the wilderness for 40 years.

Donald Trump promised to:

“Drain the swamp”


“Make America great again.”

Equally undefined, but inspiring enough to make him US president.

Achieving this building block isn’t about whether you are specific or vague. It’s about knowing the outcome you want to create and articulating it in a way that inspires your audience.

As Martin Luther King Jr knew, this usually involves painting a positive picture:

“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 meant not giving up. So Winston Churchill gave them that inspiration 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.”

Both speakers’ approaches worked because they were appropriate for their times. Both speakers used repetition for effect.

As Napoleon Bonaparte said,

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Your job, with this building block, is to create that hope — by painting a picture of the future you want to create.

In your work (and in your life) do you have a clear vision of the future you are working to create? Does it inspire you and the people around you to do more? Would it be useful to update the vision or tailor it for different people?

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

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Photo By S. Bhaskara Rao via

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