When John F Kennedy announced that America would go to the moon, he not only described what they were going to do (“land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth”) by when (“before this decade is out”), he also explained why it mattered.
“We choose to go to the Moon … and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
Two hundred years earlier, in 1771, the Boston Tea Party was triggered by a disagreement over tax. But what sustained America’s War of Independence, and then enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, was not the rates of tax but the principles the new republic stood for:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
It was principles that inspired the French Revolution:
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
It was principles that led Britain’s barons to stand up against their bully king and demand the laws of Magna Carta, including the radical new proposal that:
“No person may be held indefinitely without trial”
This Magna Carta then became the basis for the laws of many other nations around the world.
People take great actions to uphold great principles: they go to the Moon for them, they fight revolutions for them, they change the law to uphold them.
So if you want to create inspiration in a time of change, tell your audience why what you want to do matters: the principles it stands for, the ideals it upholds.
What are the principles that drive and underpin the work you do? Does that inspire you? What would inspire you even more?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)