Creating inspiration, part 6: Higher principles, values, ideals

Apollo 15 Moon Landing - James IrwinThe fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing this year is an important reminder of the sixth key ingredient for creating inspiration: as well as describing what you want to create it is also 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, it was a disagreement over tax that triggered the Boston Tea Party. But it was the principle of whether or not Britain had the right to tax its colonies that sustained America’s War of Independence. And it was principles (not tax rates) that were ultimately enshrined in the Declaration of Independence:

“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 incredible new laws of Magna Carta, including the radical proposal that:

“No person may be held indefinitely without trial”

These new principles of Magna Carta were seen as so important that they were copied to become the blueprint and foundation of many legal systems around the world.

People take great actions to uphold great principles: they go to the Moon for them, fight for independence for them, and stand up against a bullying king 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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