“There’s nothing a man can’t do if the spirit’s there.”
Are you dreaming of some “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” that makes you think you’re crazy to even consider it? Goals like being fitter than when you were 21, or finishing top 10 in your next marathon or triathlon, or writing a best selling novel, or starting a new career or anything that scares the **** out of you?
BHAG was coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Although this term was first used in the context of company strategy, these types of goals are relevant to our personal lives.
Repeat after us: “I have dreams worth pursuing, and I can achieve them.”
BHAGs are huge and intimidating and seem impossible to accomplish when you first set them. However, if you chunk them into bite-sized pieces, they lose their intimidation factor.
For example, when I was getting ready to run my first marathon, the 26.2 miles seemed like an impossible task. A good friend and running phenom said to me, “Lia just focus on 10 km at a time.” Now when I run a marathon, I split up the full run into 10 km segments. When I finish the first 10 km, I put a mental checkmark on that piece and say to myself, “one-quarter done and three-quarters to go!” For each piece, I have a target pace that I want to run in order to achieve the overall end time. For every 10 km, my focus is on the pace and before I know it, I’m half way through the marathon and then done. I admit that the last 10 km can be a challenge, not only physically but also mentally. Being so close to the end, though, keeps me going. My pace times get re-visited along the way, sometimes lending positive reinforcement and other times giving me reality checks about what my body can do that day. As a plus, as my mind is busily calculating how much time I gained or lost in the last leg of the race, I’m also working on my mental math skills!
Gradual and steady…
The lesson here is that this approach works for all kinds of BHAGs. Think of the goal as smaller goals or milestones that get you closer to the BHAG. If you’re trying to lose 50 pounds, remember that weight piled on one chocolate chip cookie at a time! Losing the 50 pounds will also take time. Break your goal down into logical segments or time frames. For instance, for the weight loss goal example measure your weight loss over 3 month segments. Losing 6 pounds every 3 months will get you to your BHAG in just over 2 years. Losing 6 pounds every 3 months is an average of 2 pounds per month. Now that’s doable!
Let your mind do the work…
Psychologically, there are benefits to chunking bigger goals. When you achieve smaller goals along the way, you are creating positive reinforcement for your behavior. Whatever you did worked to get you closer to your BHAG, so keep doing it. On the other hand, when you have a set back because you haven’t quite achieved what you expected, then there is time to re-evaluate what you did over the past period and adjust your behavior so you can reach your goals. All is not lost, just a bit of time to realign and get back on track!
Discipline is your friend with BHAGs. Stay disciplined to the process of achieving the small steps. They will get you there. Heed Lao Tzu’s advice:
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”