The Ten Most Important Things We’ve Done In Our Business: #3 Set BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)


Do big goals scare you?  Why?

All credit for the acronym BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) goes to Jim Collins, author of the international best selling book Built to Last:  Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.  In his book Collins introduces the world to the concept of a BHAG, and gives lots of case studies to support his position that visionary companies that are able to stand the test of time have a habit of setting them.

What is a BHAG?

A BHAG is a clear and compelling goal that engages people.  It reaches out and grabs them.  It is tangible, energizing and highly focused.  You get it right away with little or no explanation.  A BHAG involves commitment and risk.  To many people they seem audacious, even perhaps a little pretentious.  A BHAG is a goal, not a statement. It has a specific end in site and involves a specific time line.  You are stretched to your very capacity to achieve it (if you achieve it).  

A habit of setting BHAGs has made all the difference in the world for our business.  A clear example of a BHAG that we set, and achieved, for ourselves was that we were going to build our Scentsy business so big that I could leave my job as a lawyer.  For many people this idea was ridiculous.  No one does that (we were told that many times). But we set the goal anyway.  We achieved it.  Now we have other BHAGs on the go.

Setting BHAGs is the #3 most important thing we have done for our business.

Here is why BHAGs work:

  • They get you excited.  You need to be excited.  The world is too rough and tough for you not to be excited about your future.  In our business you have to deal with way to many rejections and disappointments.  If you don’t have a really compelling, exciting vision to pull you, then you will probably fizzle and quit.  It is that simple.  A BHAG fuels you when you need it most. It causes you to stay up late and wake up early.  It causes you to work when others in the neighbourhood are watching TV.  If you want amazing results in your business you first have to have an amazing vision.
  • They give you a long term perspective. This makes you much more resilient in the short term.  When you set your goal on something big,  you realize that you aren’t going to achieve it next month.  It is going to take a lot of time, and effort, to achieve it.  When you accept this,  you are willing to go in for the long haul.  You aren’t overly concerned by the small short term setbacks that occur from time to time.  In fact, you know that they are inevitable, so you almost come to expect them in a way.  You know that your goal is big, and that it’s hard.  You know that it’s going to take a long time, so you embrace the fact that it’s hard.  This whole process makes you WAY more resilient in the short run than people who don’t have a long run perspective.
  • They cause you to get “real” with your business.  You can’t set a really big hard goal and then take an amateur approach.  Since it is hard it forces you get real serious.  It forces you to plan, take risks, take massive action.  You can’t be a part-timer and get full time results.  You can’t be an amateur and hang with the pros.  When you set a pro goal you start to act like a pro in everything you do.  Anything else is incongruent.

Setting BHAGs has caused all of the above to happen in our life and in our business.

Despite this I find that many people are scared of setting them.  Why is this the case?

The number one reason is that many people are paranoid of failing.  Big goals increase the potential of failure.  Therefore, since they don’t want to confront failure, they don’t want to set big goals.  

To this I can only say (very kindly) GET OVER IT.  Whatever conditioning school, or your job, has given you to be scared of failure, it isn’t helping you. Failure is inevitable in business. Who cares if you fail.  Will someone think down on you?  Well then don’t hang out with that person.  Surround yourself with people who will build you up.  People who criticize you for failing are miserable, disempowered people.  You don’t need people like that in your life.

Want to know what the best remedy for curing the fear of failure is?  It is failing.  The sooner you can get past that one the better.   When you fail you realize that it wasn’t so bad.  Why were you so scared of it in the first place? Once this realization takes place you are in a very powerful position.  You are are now ready to set BHAGs and reap their benefits.

The number two reason that people don’t set BHAGs is that they don’t believe.  

I’ve seen this one over and over again.  They don’t think it is possible.  That is why belief was the #2 best thing we ever did for our business (more important than BHAGs).  If you don’t believe that you have even a seed of potential to achieve the goal it is unlikely that you will even set it.  So you have to work on the belief.  You have to find a way to see it in your mind, and actually believe that it is possible – for you.

One of the biggest impediments to belief is your social network.  This can be a very challenging one to many people.  Many of the people closest to you right now (close friends and immediate family) may not believe your vision.  They may doubt your BHAG.  What do you do when that happens?  You just quietly go about your work.  Find people who believe your vision (they exist).  Spend time with them.  Don’t alienate or be a jerk to your friends and family, but DO NOT give up on your vision, and DO NOT stop setting BHAGs just because someone doesn’t believe it.  Accept that many people won’t believe it, but move forward anyway.

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