Opinion: Aspiration exasperation

inspiration - Some rights reserved by h.koppdelaneyI love Friday nights. They keep me grounded and motivated simultaneously, they’re the week’s reset button. The fact they usually involve the pub and a reasonable amount of alcohol is completely coincidental.

I’ve been um-ming and ah-ing for ages over an article for LibDem Voice along the lines of “Aspiration Exasperation”. Politicians talk about aspiration easily enough but it bothers me. Aspiration for what? What I take from it – and I would be delighted to hear I’m wrong on this – is that they mean aspiration to achieve a higher income and therefore be able to buy more stuff with impunity. That’s not what they actually say, as they don’t define it in any way, so I have no real justification for my prejudice on this. But still, I want them to define aspiration. I want them to say “and your aspiration may be to make the world a better place, it may be to become a Nobel Prize winning physicist or an artist, or to take care of your granny, or be a good mum or a really good friend, to minimise your carbon footprint or be a super-model or to reach level gazillion on your x-box game. Or – perhaps best of all – aspire to be yourself, unencumbered by other’s expectations.”

(Incidentally, it is quite easy at midnight on a Friday to write of people’s aspiration to be unencucumbered, which is a whole different image.)

Interesting conversations this evening about Mastermind with a recent contestant and inset day training with a teaching assistant have led me to ruminate further on inspiration rather than aspiration. I love inspiration. It inspires me. Seeing other people inspired, as I did tonight, inspires me. Inspiration is contagious. Not so aspiration I think. Sometimes, yes – if your aspire to make sports coaching accessible to all children at our school, I’m happy to share that. Other times, well… you know. good luck to you – honestly – but actually what difference does it make to me if you aspire to a larger house and a promotion?

So I looked them up on Roget:

Aspiration: goal, hope

Synonyms: aim, ambition, ambitiousness, craving, desire,direction, dream, eagerness, endeavor, fire in the belly, hankering, inclination, longing, object,objective, passion, pursuit, push, right stuff,urge, vocation, wish, work, yearning

Inspiration: Idea, stimulus

Synonyms: afflatus, animus, approach, arousal, awakening,brainchild, brainstorm, creativity, deep think,elevation, encouragement, enthusiasm,exaltation, fancy, flash, genius, hunch,illumination, impulse, incentive, inflatus, influence, insight, motivation, motive, muse,notion, revelation, rumble, spark, spur,stimulation, thought, vision, whim

Much in common,(barring afflatus and inflatus) but oh how much less selfish and more exciting inspiration seems to me. And doesn’t inspiration lead to aspiration? I can inspire you to aspire to reach your potential. I can’t aspire you to do anything. We can inspire each other with the aspiration to win.

In short, compared to inspiration, aspiration is a dull target to aim for. Let the Conservatives aspire while we inspire.

* Karen Wilkinson is is a mother of 3, Chair of Thornbury & Yate LibDems and co-founder of Marshfield Energy Project and the non-aligned campaign “Parents Want A Say”

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/33143 for Twitter and emails.


  • ‘Aspiration’ has almost joined the set of empty words – things like ‘reform’, ‘modernisation’…

  • This wasn’t a very inspirational read, and now I feel a little exasperated.

    Hope I got the definitions right!

  • The Tories are against aspiration, they talk about it so incessantly to try to convince you otherwise.

  • On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand, dare seize the fire?

  • Aspiration in the real, but simple sense of the word, is to set and then attempt to achieve a goal which you think will improve your standing in life.

    Politicians like this word because everyone has aspirations, whether it is the child who wants to win a card game or the young lady who wishes to become the Next Prime Minister. This means that any politician who says he/she supports ‘your’ aspirations is fundamentally saying something any listener can connection with.

    However, there is another thing about aspirations that MPs like, and that is that the success or failure of ones aspirations can easily (rightly or wrongly) be blamed on the individual in question, rather than society and by extension the MP.

  • For a liberal, aspirations have to self-defined, like identity. Of course we have our heirarchy of aspiration with the desire to become oneself at the top, a moving target.
    The important thing for us is to stress the validity of any aspiration that doesnt interfere with other peoples aspirations & not to sound snobbish about aspirations that sound unworthy to us.
    Also we should be very sparing with the “hard-working” meme. For many Labour & Tory supporters “to work is to pray” but we should insist that “we dont pray that way.”

  • Sorry, insert “be” between “to” & “self”.

  • If “aspiration” relates to improving quality of life – in terms of personal health, housing opportunities, education and employment opportunities – then I am in favour of it! It should be recognised that many Tories have a different view of “aspiration” from that of most Liberal Democrats……….

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSarah Noble 30th Nov - 10:05pm
    I've even dug out my care plan which discusses a possibility for a GRC, in particular, it says that I will have to either apply...
  • User Avatarexpats 30th Nov - 10:04pm
    onathan Brown 30th Nov '15 - 6:33pm.........@Expats – I’m well aware that the link included a caveat. I think anyone sensible venturing an opinion should...
  • User AvatarJohn 30th Nov - 10:02pm
    One thing is for sure, and that is that the Middle East is an unholy mess. What do we want to see there? A Liberal...
  • User AvatarRobert Wootton 30th Nov - 10:00pm
    Reason three is the critical one. Unless there is a plan for peace in Syria, as I said in my previous comment, there is no...
  • User AvatarJonathan Brown 30th Nov - 9:58pm
    A very good article Austin, and I agree with most of it. Your third point is why on balance I am against supporting proposals to...
  • User Avatarpetermartin2001 30th Nov - 9:57pm
    Geoff, A good article and one with which I largely agree with. I might just make a small quibble though: "The Chancellor approaches economic policy...