How to chase a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG)

Just under two years ago SolarAid, the cause I work for, set a BHAG –  A Big Hairy Audacious Goal – to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by the end of the decade.

It has been transformative in shaping our  thinking, and the actions we take every week. It’s changed strategic thinking, engaged supporters wishing to help us achieve the goal, and dramatically influenced our programme and fundraising activity.

So I thought it would be interesting if I set myself my own personal BHAG. What would happen? What learning and insights would I gain that could be applied to any BHAG.

My scary goal - increase my swim from 25m in a pool to 750m in open water

My scary goal – increase my swim from 25m in a pool to 750m in open water

So I did just that by doing my first triathlon in June of this year. This is a BHAG for me because just six months ago I could barely swim 25 meters. Now in just over 4 weeks I need to swim 750 meters in open water (and then cycle 20km and then run 5km). So that’s a 3000%+ improvement (yes three thousand percent!) in 9 months.

What has been interesting is the following three insights shaping what I feelthink, and do all because of the audacious goal I have set myself. On reflection I think the same principles apply to our organisational BHAG.


Feel the fear 

I used to fear swimming ten lengths (250 meters) – then it was twenty. Now my latest fear is swimming over 30 ‘lengths’ in open water. On your journey you will find a new a level of fear.

Fear is often the unknown. So ask yourself what are you afraid of? Then set your sights on overcoming one fear at a time. Who can help you? I’ve used everyone from friends to professional instructors to help give me the confidence to face my fears.


Think what do you need to do

Then you think what do you need to do to achieve the goal not what you could achieve with what you’ve got.

We tend to to reasonably think what we can do with the resources we’ve got – but with a BHAG you have to think much bigger.  What do you need to do to achieve this goal – not what you can do? So in my case it I need to learn to swim without drowning and still have enough energy to do a bike ride and a run!

Imagine if you achieved this goal what would milestones would you have to achieve along the way?

3. DO

Take small steps

Next you just have to make a start. Take small but important steps to close the gap. What step can you take now with that end goal in mind?

So I started by joining a swimming class, then realising that wasn’t enough I added several additional swims a week. Realising that wasn’t enough I got a one on one swimming instructor. Each was one step closer. Now I see the end goal in sight. But at the outset I couldn’t see the solution. It’s the small relentless steps that will help position you so you can achieve your goal.

Identify the small steps you can take and put them into action. And constantly review what you need to do (go back to 1 and 2).

All three are connected of course – how you feel, what you think, and what you do. Just by setting your sights on achieving a BHAG you impact on all three.

Progress on my real goal

Progress on my real goal

The most interesting insight is what it’s all about. What’s the real purpose?   The real reason I set a personal goal, other than to gain an insight into the impact of a BHAG, was to lose weight. And in 6 months I have dropped from a high of 12 stone 8lb to 11 stone 6lb. Whether I do the triathlon or not I will have achieved my real goal!

So I recommend setting yourself your own BHAG and collaborating with your colleagues to set an organisational one. You might not achieve it but you will learn a lot along the way by trying and you will be better for it.

If you want to learn more about BHAG’s see my initial posts :

Do you have a BHAG?

What if we all had a BHAG?

What’s your problem – the power of crowd thinking (and BHAG’s)

One thought on “How to chase a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG)

  1. Pingback: Confessions of a fundraiser | ifundraiser

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