, How to Set and Achieve BIG Hairy Audacious Goals

How to Set and Achieve BIG Hairy Audacious Goals

September 28th, 2016 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Life Coaching, Performance Coaching

Ever since I returned from Australia in my early 20’s I was extremely goal driven. I was in massive debt (for a 20 year old) and had no job in an environment where employers weren’t exactly laying opportunities at my feet. But I’d managed to get myself around the world for the last year on a wing and a prayer and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like no job opportunities get in my way of getting back on my feet! I set a goal that I would get a job…any job…within 2 weeks. I found myself down at the job centre every day scouring the board for new opportunities, hassling the clerks for anything they knew and, on the 14th day, I secured a job as a night porter at a health spa in the beautiful Dublin Mountains. I was absolutely thrilled, not at the job, but having achieved my goal. In the end it worked out pretty well. When all of the guests went to bed I got to sit around and indulge in my favourite passion…reading books and books and more books!

I’ve always been pretty goal focused and I’ve looked into loads of different ways of doing this. I could never reconcile how to achieve those Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) if goals had to be SMART. To quickly summarise, SMART stands for:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Time bound


The big ones seemed too far out of reach and difficult to measure and I never liked the idea of SMART goals because if they are achievable and realistic then what’s the point. It didn’t seem very motivational to me to do something I thought I could already do. Why go for something that is already achievable and realistic…shouldn’t I be stretching myself? Here’s how I managed to solve the dilemma which is one of those one plus one is equal to 10 scenarios.

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. ~ Confucius

I believe that stretching ourselves is important for our growth. If we’re not moving towards something that’s worthwhile, that’s challenging, then what’s the point? That’s why BHAGs are so important to have in your life. So start by dreaming about what you’d like to be different in your life. It might be that dream job, or buying a nice house, it could be getting a university degree or taking off on the holiday of a lifetime. Something big and unachievable…something that’s going to stretch you! You may not know how you’re going to do it but you know that you want to do it.

Now, here’s my simple but powerful revelation about goal setting. Break down your BHAG into smaller goals…achievable goals…realistic goals.

The problem with BHAGs is that they often seem too big, too unattainable and we never get started or we feel we’re not making progress and lose interest. By breaking your BHAG down into specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound mini goals that are moving you closer to your BHAG you will find that you are taking those small steps that will eventually get you to where you want to go.

Here’s a simple example… If I wanted to write a book (no small task by any stretch of the imagination!) that would be my BHAG. I might even stretch myself to say, “To write a best-seller”. Now, in order to achieve this I’d have to determine the steps along the way and, to ensure I keep my motivation up, those steps have to achievable and within range (time bound). So, examples of mini goals might be:

  • Determine the type of book I want to write by 30th October
  • Decide on the impact I want that book to have by 30th October
  • Determine the content (chapter titles) by 15th November
  • Write a chapter on goal setting (for example) by 31st November
  • Research publishing methods by 31st January


All of the above mini-goals can be made to meet all of the requirements of a SMART goal. So, to recap…if you want to achieve something amazing in your life dream big, write it down – somewhere you can see it every day – then break it down into smaller, more measurable and achievable goals and then go to work! Remember, the only things between where you are in your life today and where you want to be in the future are skills, effort and time!

It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute… that gives meaning to our lives. ~ Tony Robbins

Lastly, I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t thrilled about becoming a night porter I was more thrilled at achieving my goal. Happiness is not about achieving things, or acquiring things, it’s about moving towards something, it’s about making progress in a direction you want to take your life. It doesn’t matter if you’re not where you want to be now what matters is that you’re moving towards where you want to be! So now, take a pen and paper and start to dream BIG! Start now…write your BHAGs down. Next, get started! What SMART thing can you do in the next 24 hours that will be the first step of you achieving something great?


If you’d like to know more about how to set goals that will change your life, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.