”There is one thing stronger, than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo
I went to the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Hobart last week and found it stimulating. I was able to share something and it seemed well received. I was impressed by the mixture of people all of whom seemed to have a powerful but vague sense that we in the West have lost our way.
Research released at the weekend indicates only 12 % of voters believe the Labor Party is clear about its goals and objectives. If truth be told, Tony and the Opposition only have the short term objective of winning the next election. We know what he’s against, but what is he really for?
Is there an incorporating story anywhere?
Parker J. Palmer in his book ‘Let Your Life Speak’ said that people who have a life vision choose to live a life “divided no more,” because they have found a cause that unites heart and mind. As the Bible says “Without a vision the people perish”.
Movements that change the world have people who care enough to change their priorities.
Steve Addison in his book on movements said, ”Movements that change the world deal with the ultimate issues.” He went on to say, ”Change takes place because people care enough to act on their deeply held beliefs.”
We are often living pale grey lives, not really good enough to be good, or game enough to be bad. As a result we carry a low-level sadness around with us much of the time. This is because our spirit with its high and holy yearnings, goes unrecognised.
What is a ‘smart’ objective? It’s usually a three sentence statement that is –
• Simple : easy to say and remember.
• Motivating : it lifts your spirit and calls you out.
• Achievable : it’s plausible and with God’s help doable.
• Relevant : it is immediately recognisable as an important thing to do.
• Timely: there is a time for every purpose and this is clearly an idea whose time has come.
When we hear an inspired objective it calls us out of our ego’s convenient apathy. It reminds us that have been placed on earth not simply to make a buck but to make a difference.
How does it work? What is the role of an inspired objective?
Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova decided to take on board the mission of achieving three grand slam victories in a given year. She won her three grand slam tournaments, but then she burnt out. Why ?
Because she had a ‘mission’ that focused her, but her mission did not have a ‘timeless vision’ to tell her why she should reach it, or how the world would be changed after she’d done it.
Once you know the ‘why’ of doing something and are deeply committed to it, you will then be motivated to work out the ‘how’ and the ‘what next. It is all about the spirit becoming focused around ultimate values that then shape priorities.
An inspiring objective will constantly remind you why you are doing what you are doing.
If there is a timeless vision at the core of the objective there will be a ‘telos’ or a timeless dynamic that draws you and others ever forward on a journey of discovery. It will give what is called object permanence, which in turn produces persevering commitment which is what an embryonic movement needs in its early stages. Prayer and research will refine and fuel the focus and help you get over inhibiting self doubt.
The need to get over yourself if you are going to build a core that attracts and inspires.
As you transcend your ego with its anxieties, and share deeply with others what prayer and research are bringing to the surface, you will eventually find a series of universal strategies will begin to take shape that answer the need of the moment.
What marks them out as ‘inspiring’ and ‘universal’ is that the objective should be able to be applied anywhere in similar circumstances. When it is well communicated the objective will create the kind of identification that will build a sense of community with a shared common purpose. It will select out from the crowd those most likely to be your committed constituents.
My story: How I learned about the need for inspired objectives.
I had left Fusion, the movement I founded, for two years in 1978 to help deliver Sydney’s first Christian FM radio station.(now Hope 103)
I was invited by Brian Willersdorf to speak at his ‘Explo 80’ conference Queensland. I’d been asked to put together a strategy for reaching Australia and this is what I shared with a packed grandstand at the Gabba cricket ground. It entailed training a small group of inspired people to understand the Aussie culture and become effective in building a network across the nation that would work on the same objectives in every state. Many were inspired.
How a clear objective produced the rebirth of the Fusion Movement.
On hearing of the impact of what I had to say in Queensland, Fusion Australia invited me to speak at their conference in Tassie. They were a tiny exhausted group, many ready to give up. I shared with them an objective that made sense of the previous 20 years and focused the meaning of that period of Australian history, then inspired them by showing a new way forward. I also recommended a training program and a clear and measurable strategy for growth. I was invited to become National Director and implement it all.
They ceased to be simply a federation and became a national movement: the program was put in place (and I prayed hard.)
Fusion then doubled their numbers every two years, with hundreds of young people from all backgrounds discovering faith. It continued to grow right up until 1985 which was the International Year of Youth. In that year we wrote White Papers on youth issues, sent a performing troupe on tour around the nation and rallied in the nation’s capital, Canberra.
We had by then spread throughout Australia, and by recognising the opportunities presented by certain catalytic moments then spread throughout the world. That is right up until 1999, the year of my retirement in which an incident took place that in my opinion had them turning in on themselves and losing sight of the objective.
The catalytic moment that produced Australia’s largest ever prayer meeting.
There were going to be no Christian prayers at the official opening of new Parliament House. It was another moment! On sharing another ‘smart’ objective that most church leaders and Christians could identify with, we used the catalytic moment to once again build momentum. In May 1988 50,000 people surrounded New Parliament House in prayer which in turn gave birth to an annual prayer breakfast that sees hundreds gather in the Great Hall of Parliament House
The birth of the Aussie Awakening, which in turn reached every capital city. The Canberra Gathering as it was called gave birth to ‘The Aussie Awakening’ which brought hundreds of people together from all kinds of backgrounds to celebrate Easter in every capital city and gave people a chance to make a difference in their local communities. It would connect with one out of six Australians.
We took the same approach around the world, when we recognised certain catalytic moments.
In the lead up to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa I once again prepared a statement of objectives after prayer and research. I gathered 20 respected community leaders from the 4 corners of South Africa and had an intense training period in Germany. We were about to use the catalytic moment of the World Cup to start a movement that would begin to build spirit informed social capital.
We were about were about to see this approach released into 100 needy South African cities and towns, bringing people together to build an ongoing movement. Sadly though, the Australian leadership at the time of my retirement seemed to lose sight of the ‘timeless vision.’ In the dramas that attended my transition they lost sight of that and the significance of 3 other national events. This not intended to criticize as I wish them well, but to remind all who want to make a difference it is the clear objectives that focus the future that matters, not the roles. Roles focus on status and power, and always mess things up. This is why there must be ‘strategy before structure.’ It is why we must know where we are going before we allocate roles.
The power of an objective that carries a timeless vision.When an objective with a timeless vision is received deeply into a group’s collective heart they become spiritually contagious and growth becomes normal. They may not have a perfectly formed strategy but as they are committed, open and prayerful, answers will be discovered as to how things can work. It will in fact become shared good news that builds the culture. As they say, if you want to do a thing badly enough you will find a way, if you don’t want to do it you will find an excuse. The future belongs to those who really want to make a difference.
This makes it ‘fractal;’ in other words self replicating .What makes an objective compelling is that it reminds each and every one of us what we and our world are meant to be, but not in some distant and abstract way. It is a deep call to the innermost self that wants to get over its ego and make a difference.
A compelling objective calls forth and facilitates the lifting of the spirit and the focusing of the mind.