Inspiring vision, part 5: Define the future you want to create

SunriseThe fifth ingredient for creating an inspiring vision is to paint a picture of the future you want to create.

There are several ways to do this.

One way is by laying out a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goal. This is 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 equally well. Moses promised to lead his people to:

“A land flowing with milk and honey.”

and they followed him through the wilderness for 40 years.

Donald Trump promised, equally vaguely and metaphorically, to:

“Drain the swamp”


“Make America great again.”

That was enough to help him become US president.

So achieving this building block isn’t necessarily about being specific or vague. It’s about knowing the outcome you want to create and articulating that in a way that inspires other people.

Usually this involves painting a positive picture. Martin Luther King said:

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

He did not say, “I have a problem I need to solve.”

But you can also inspire people by describing a future filled with toil and struggle. In the bleak beginnings of World War Two, Winston Churchill’s people needed to keep going. ‘Inspiration’ for them at that time meant simply not giving up. Churchill gave them this 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.”

Both speakers’ approaches worked because both were appropriate for their time. And both speakers used repetition for effect.

Napoleon Bonaparte said that,

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Your job, with this building block, is to bring people that hope. By painting a picture of the future you want to create in a way that makes sense to them.

In your work (and in your life) do you have a clear vision of the future you are working to create? Does it inspire you and the people around you? Would it be useful to describe a vision that inspires you and the people around you to want to make it happen?

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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