Big Hairy Audacious Goals
Do you have a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG)? This is a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built to Last and discussed again in Jim’s book Good to Great. For a company, a BHAG is its reason for being, what it does best in the world, gets passionate about and drives its economic engine. For a person it’s a life purpose that supersedes and directs one’s everyday actions. Inside every company there are many individuals all with their personal BHAG’s. It’s management’s job to help and inspire employees to dovetail their personal BHAG’s with the company BHAG. When this happens, there is very little employee turnover and a great deal of productivity.
In my work I ask people to define their Purpose in Life or BHAG. They mostly all have trouble with this question. In our time together my clients are going to accomplish many goals. Without a direction goal achievement is rather unfulfilling. It’s just busy work. Our culture is so activity based that we often ‘do’, but we don’t know why. People often answer that they want to become a better salesperson or a better CEO because they want their sales or business to grow. Then I play the 5 year old who continually asks ‘why?’ to dig deeper. To have more money. To have a sense of accomplishment and status. Why? Many answers revolve around financial stability for themselves or family. Some say ‘to pursue excellence’. Occasionally I hear to ‘to help clients and staff be the best they can be.’
Being clear with yourself about your own BHAG is important. It leads to focused and motivated behavior. Envisioning your purpose helps you excel and achieve. Robert Cooper in the book, Get Out of Your Own Way, talks about research done on the forebrain which lies just beneath your temples. Stimulating this part of the brain with BHAG visions mobilizes your inner resources to realign and energize your current actions to achieve the future you envision. Strengthening this brain activity is like strengthening a muscle. Focusing on your BHAG vision, repeatedly sets you in motion because of the reactions of other parts of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. There’s a lot more to this analysis than I can go into here. So check out his book. Here are two more inspirational ways to look at the power of a BHAG.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction. And you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” — Patanjali
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson