It is very common to develop a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for your business. What is not so common is to develop a BHAG for your personal life. Before we get into that, let’s define what a BHAG is for those not familiar with the concept. A Big Hairy Audacious Goal is term coined by the professor, management consultant and author Jim Collins. Jim has written several books with the most popular being Good to Great. A BHAG is a 10+ year visionary goal that describes your envisioned future. A BHAG should stretch you and guide you while helping you determine what to say yes and no to as you forge ahead to accomplish your goals.
As companies, we establish these long term goals to achieve ten to twenty five years out, and they guide the many decisions of go, no go along the way. A good BHAG is specific, numeric and has a time based component. It should also connect to the heart and inspire us to work hard to reach it.
That brings me to the concept of developing a personal BHAG. We all know that if we do not establish goals and priorities for our personal lives, life just has a way of happening and bringing us along with it. You know the old saying, “Life Happens!” I know many people that set annual priorities for themselves and their families. Some even look a few years out, but not many take a long-term approach. You may have heard the phrase “to live a life by design not chance,” or something similar to this. This is what a personal BHAG can help you do.
So here are some tips to help you develop your own personal BHAG.
Five guiding criteria for a good BHAG:
- A good BHAG is set with understanding, not bravado, is bold, but not unrealistic.
- It fits squarely in the three circles of (a) what you are deeply passionate about (including your own core values and purpose), (b) what drives your economic logic, and (c) what differentiates you (what you personally can be the best in the world at).
- It should have a long period to achieve—10 to 30 years.
- It is clear, compelling, and easy to grasp.
- It directly reflects your core values and core purpose.
Your BHAG can include professional goals along with personal goals. Some examples are the following:
- To live in a particular location
- To establish financial goals for retirement
- Achieve personal education goals like earning a PhD
- Getting your children through college and onto their chosen careers
- Seeing your grandchildren born
- Being self employed
- Achieving certain fitness goals
- Being debt free
- Starting a charity that matches your core values
The list goes on and the next step is to determine what is important to you and what you want to accomplish long term.
One tool we use for annual planning to establish goals is the Destination Postcard exercise where an individual looks back as though they just completed the year and writes a post card to themselves describing what made it a great year and what their three top accomplishments where. You can use this for a longer-term approach as well.
Another exercise I have seen used is to write your obituary to include all of your accomplishments and the things you are proud of in your life. This is a powerful exercise to make sure you have no future regrets and live a life worth living and full of contribution. Doing so can help clarify what your BHAG should be.
Remember, seeing what we want to accomplish and believing it is possible is the first step to realizing your goals. One cannot accomplish what one cannot first envision.
Here are 4 Tips to developing a great BHAG:
- Choose an arrival or completion date.
- Develop a quantitative goal to achieve.
- Make it qualitative in a way that connects to the heart and inspires you to achieve it while connecting to your core values and purpose.
- Share with others around you to hold yourself accountable.
Life is about balance and that can be difficult for “A” players that are very career-driven. Developing your personal BHAG just might help you restore some of that needed balance in your life and create some perspective on other things that are important as you design and live the fullest life you are capable of.
Good luck as you develop you successful vision, Alan
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Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Mar 11, 2015, and has been updated.