Creating inspiration, part 6: Call upon higher principles, values, ideals

Call upon hhApollo 15 Moon Landing - James Irwin

The fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing last year is a good reminder of the sixth key ingredient for creating inspiration: as well as describing what you want to do it is also it is important to explain why it matters.

When John F Kennedy announced that America would go to the moon, he not only described what they were going to do, by when (“landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth … 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, what triggered the Boston Tea Party was a disagreement over tax. But what sustained America’s War of Independence, and what was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, was not new tax rules 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.”

Principles inspired the French Revolution:

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Principles led Britain’s barons to stand up against their bullying king and demand the incredible new laws of Magna Carta, including the radical proposal that:

“No person may be held indefinitely without trial”

People take great actions to uphold great principles: they go to the Moon for them, they fight for revolutions for them, and they stand up against to bullies for them.

So as well as telling your audience what you want them to do, tell them why it matters: the principles it stands for, the ideals it upholds.

What are the deeper principles that drive and underpin the work you do? How inspired do you feel in your work? Is there a connection between the two?

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

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