Inspiring vision, part 6: Call on higher principles, values, or ideals

Apollo 15 Moon Landing - James IrwinThe 49th anniversary of the first moon landings, last week, are a timely reminder that when you want to inspire people support you, then as well as describing what you want to create, it is also important to explain why it matters. This is the sixth ingredient for creating an inspiring vision.

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 in this decade 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 what sustained people to fight America’s War of Independence was the underlying principle — of whether or not Britain had the right to tax its colonies. And ultimately it was principles, not tax rates, that were 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 to their bully king and demand the historic new laws of Magna Carta — principles that later became the blueprint for legal systems around the world, including “No person may be held indefinitely without trial.”

People take great actions to uphold great principles.

People take great actions to uphold great principles.

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.

Then they will help you build your vision, because in doing so they are also building themselves, through the principles they believe in.

What are the deeper principles that drive and underpin the work you do each day? What do you serve that is larger than yourself? What kind of a world are you creating? Is that how you want to spend your one wild and precious life?

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

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