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

The fifth ingredient for creating inspiration in a time of change is your ability to paint a vivid picture of the future you want to create.

There are several ways you can do this.

One is to define a specific, measurable, and time-bound goal. This was the approach John F Kennedy used 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 take 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.”

both of which were equally vague goals. But they inspired enough people to vote for him that he became president of the United States.

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

Usually this involves painting a positive picture. This is what Martin Luther King Jr did when he said:

“I have a dream… I have a dream… I have a dream…”

He didn’t say,

“I have a problem that needs to be fixed.”

But you can equally inspire people by describing a future filled with toil and struggle.

In the bleak beginnings of World War Two, the British people didn’t need a “dream” — they just needed to keep going. For them, at that time, ‘inspiration’ simply meant not giving up. And 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 fight…, we shall fight… We shall never surrender.”

These two speeches might seem to be opposites. But they both gave their audiences exactly what they needed: hope. And as Napoleon Bonaparte said:

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Your job, with this building block, is to create hope — to paint a picture of the future you want to create, in a way that inspires your audience to long to make it happen.

The better you can do this — first with yourself, then with other people — the more antifragile you will  become.

What is the future you are working to create? Is your description of that future clear and specific or vague and fuzzy? Is it bringing you and the people around you the hope and the inspiration that you and they need each day?

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

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(And remember: you can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

Photo By S. Bhaskara Rao via

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