January 19th, 2015
The third Monday of January is the observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., an American minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and civil rights leader dedicated to non-violence. This is a day to honor King’s principles and visions, perhaps best exemplified by his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.
When I look at the essence of his words, I see why his speech had and is of such significant influence. His “I Have a Dream Speech” serves as a powerful example of how we can inspire ourselves and others to effect profound change and be our highest vision of ourselves as individuals and as organizations.
He focused on what he wanted, not what he didn’t want.
What I feel and what I experience depends on what I am focused on in each moment. The direction I take and the decisions I make also depend on what I am focused on in each moment. When I am focused on what I want, on what matters, on what has meaning and purpose, I become inspired and I inspire others.
When I am focused on what I don’t want, what I did wrong, what could be better, what is irritating, angering, frustrating, sad, what holds me back, what I don’t have, can’t do, what isn’t fair, or is overwhelming, I am not inspired.
It is when we are inspired that we achieve significant results.
He inspired others vs. motivated.
We often think that when we’re leading or selling, we have to persuade, convince, and motivate others to achieve results.
Motivation does not work–not in the long run. And neither does persuading or convincing. That’s the reason we find ourselves continually needing to persuade, convince, and motivate ourselves and others.
When I am trying to motivate myself or others, I am actually in a state of force; and in the long run, there is no power in force. Often, it brings about an equal and opposite reaction.
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t tell others what they should or shouldn’t do. Or what we needed to make happen or better.
He said, “I have a dream” and shared his highest vision — authentically, sincerely.
Inspiration is power.
Inspiration, which means to be infused with spirit, ignites a power within. When I am inspired, there is no stopping me, and remarkable things start to happen. When I am inspired, I am in touch with my highest awareness and creativity. I get all kinds of ideas on how to create and expand what I have envisioned.
And others want to help.
Vision, purpose, hope, thankfulness, wonder, and possibility all bring about inspiration.
He shared his dream.
When I work with business owners and managers, I ask them to tell me what their dream is for their organization. Nine times out of ten, they don’t have one. They wax on and on about providing value to their customers, being an employer of choice, and maximizing returns for their investors.
When they finish, I tell them I am not inspired. Because I am not inspired. They weren’t inspired, so they weren’t inspiring, and I wasn’t inspired.
When I ask them to tell me their dream for their life, they look at me with a blank stare because they don’t have one. They haven’t thought about it.
Their first assignment, then, is to write their “I have a dream” speech.
Sometimes it’s hard to get started. Once they start, they can’t stop. They write their dream for their organization, their employees, their customers, their suppliers, their investors, the community.
They see and feel the difference they are making, and they become inspired–mightily.
When they share that vision with their teams, their customers, suppliers, and investors, they too become inspired. And they write their dream speech for their role and contribution to creating that vision.
Remarkable things start to happen.
They can’t wait to get together with their partners and families and write the dream speech for their life, their career, their marriage, their family, their retirement….
What’s Your Dream?
I invite you to listen to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech again. And then write your “I Have a Dream” speech for your life, your work, and every role you play.
See what happens.