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

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

There are several ways that you can 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 his people:

“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.”

These were equally undefined, and he hasn’t achieved either. But they were inspiring enough to enough people to make him President of the United States and they might well be so again.

‘Defining the future you want to create’ isn’t necessarily about being specific or vague: it’s about knowing the outcome you want to create and articulating it in a way that inspires your audience.

Martin Luther King Jr knew this usually involves painting a positive picture. He didn’t say, “I have a problem I need fixing,” 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 simply meant not giving up.

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.”

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

Specific or vague, inspiring or practical — 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 — by painting a picture of the future you want to create, that is relevant to each particular audience.

Do you have a clear vision of the future you are working to create? In your work life? In your personal life? Does it inspire you and the people around you as much as you want? Would it be useful to update your vision or tailor it better for different audiences?

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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