June 28, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”
Burnham (1907) quoted in: Charles Moore (1921) Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities. Volume 2. Chapter XXV “Closing in 1911-1912;” p. 147
BIG goals are scary to many of us. They cut right to the “A” in the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting scheme. But the reality is that in many cases we don’t know what we are actually capable of achieving until we try.
He wants to know what mountain we are climbing, pushing us to articulate what he and Jerry Porras call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
The BHAG serves as a ‘North Star’ (or ‘Southern Cross’ if you’re down under) as you drive your business, your project or your life toward success. It provides a vector along which all other decisions will be tested, helping you make the critical “yes/no” decisions that drive progress.
One of the most historic BHAGs ever set was by JFK when he declared:
“…I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Kennedy did this because he believed that, if America wanted to stay on the forefront of innovation, exploration of space was key. Kennedy realized that the nation needed this motivational, albeit seemingly impossible goal.
- In the 1960s, Nike vowed to crush Adidas,
- In the 1970s Honda set its’ sights on ‘destroying’ Yamaha,
- In 1990, Wal-Mart declared it would become a $125 billion company by the year 2000,
- Microsoft’s BHAG was to put a computer on every desk in every home,
- Stanford set out to be the Harvard of the west,
- Amazon set out to make available every book ever printed, in any language in less than 60 seconds, and
- Starbucks set its sights on becoming the most recognized and respected consumer brand in the world.
1. Big goals cause us to expand our vision and our imagination. In doing so, we have to confront the reality of the basic foundation we need to get us there. If that foundation is not strong enough, then we have to gain the skills, knowledge or resources we need to strengthen it so that it can hold the weight of the BHAG.
2. Big goals cause us to focus. They make us realize that we must maximize our time and do our best every day to move inch by inch towards the BHAG. To dwell in failure or self-pity slows our movement. Distractions take us off course. Big goals help us realize there is little time to waste and much to achieve and they help us recognize the kind of talent and support we need around us to get there. Big goals help focus our attention.
3. Big goals cause us to become execution machines. This may be the ‘biggest’ benefit of big goals. If we are serious, big goals cause us to change our self-defeating behaviors and habits. We become organized. We stop procrastinating. We start tracking tasks that help reach our goals and we start doing so with efficiency. We take responsibility for our mistakes. We become efficient learners by incorporating the lessons learned from errors into processes so that they are not repeated. We become steadfast in our mission to systematize our progress.
At this point, something magical and more significant starts to happen. It doesn’t even matter whether we achieve the big goal or not because we have achieved an arguably greater victory. We have revolutionized ourselves. This is the ultimate ancillary benefit of setting big goals – to become self aware, and to build and improve ourselves. Transformational change only happens through consistent and sustained effort. That, in turn, takes the power of habit and the discipline of focus.
I hope this helps you to get thinking about your own BHAG.
If you have one you’d care to share, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!
©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.
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