We talk a lot about goal setting here on Clever Girl Finance. That's because it’s one of the best ways to achieve financial freedom and success. When it comes to setting goals, however, there is your everyday type of goal, and then there are big hairy audacious goals. That’s the type of goal that helps you achieve your wildest dreams.
It turns out, when you set both kinds of goals, even more possibilities open up in your life. So let’s go over what it means to have audacious goals and how to set them so you can achieve some big hairy audacious goals of your own!
What are big hairy audacious goals?
A big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG for short, is a clear and compelling long-term goal. Developed by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” the concept began as a way for companies to come up with long-term strategic goals for their organizations. These goals are meant to inspire and energize employees to accomplish things that might seem impossible but are (possibly) achievable.
A big hairy audacious goal differs from a regular goal in a few ways. First, a BHAG is always long-term – think ten or more years. Second, BHAGs must be bold. So bold, in fact, that you might not achieve it (but the journey to almost getting there will be worth it – more on that later). A good BHAG is about 70% achievable. You might get there, but there’s a chance you might fall a little short, but that’s ok. Lastly, it is measurable.
The classic example of a big hairy goal is NASA’s plan to land a man on the moon in the 1960s. It’s clear and compelling and certainly audacious! It was achieved in 1969, eight years after President Kennedy announced before Congress that he wanted to land a man on the moon before the decade was up. Without this BHAG, who knows when we would have landed on the moon. That’s the power of a big hairy goal!
Big hairy audacious goals began in the corporate world, but you can use them in your own personal life, too, and we’ll show you how next.
Why is it so important to set personal audacious goals?
Corporations have implemented BHAGs for years. They’ve envisioned things that sounded impossible, or out of reach and accomplished things nobody thought were possible. The amazing thing is that you can harness the power of audacious goals in your personal life. There are so many benefits to goal-setting, including pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
By setting a BHAG, you will become the person who not only dares to set audacious goals but who reaches them. Instead of waking up one day, ten years from now, and realizing that you still haven’t put your dreams in motion, set a BHAG today. It will help guide you and provide the direction that you need to reach your potential.
Not only will your BHAG guide your consciousness, but you will also probably start to unconsciously move toward your dream life too. With your audacious goal sitting in the back of your mind, even when you aren’t actively thinking about it, you will start to take little steps that move you toward it. For example, maybe your big hairy audacious goal is to become totally fluent in French.
That will certainly take lots of diligent work on your part. But you might also start to unconsciously gravitate toward French cookbooks, French music, and other things like that in your everyday life, even when you aren’t actively thinking about your BHAG. All of those little steps you take will just help you on your way to achieving your goal.
The best thing about setting a big hairy audacious goal? You don’t have to reach it in order to succeed. That’s right! Because a big hairy goal is so bold, even if you fail to accomplish it, it won’t be a failure because of what you will have achieved along the way.
Big hairy audacious goals examples
To inspire you to set your own big hairy audacious goals, let’s go over some BHAG examples. While not all of yours will be financial-related, because finances are so intertwined with everything we do in life, so many goals are, too.
Your BHAG can and should be tailored to your own life and your own dreams, but hopefully, these BHAG examples will encourage you to come up with something big and bold of your own!
- Start your own jewelry business that will replace your corporate 9-5 job.
- Pay off your six-figure student loans and become debt-free.
- Purchase a new house without having to take out a mortgage if you choose not to.
- Save $1,000,000 in investments for retirement.
- Earn a master’s degree in social work and change careers.
- Give $100,000 to your favorite charity.
Use these big hairy audacious goals examples to inspire you to get started!
How to set big hairy audacious goals of your own
Now that you have some ideas from our list of BHAG examples, let's dive into how to create your own! It’s time to set some big hairy audacious goals for the next ten years or so of your life. Here’s how:
1. Envision your dream future
Lots of people have goals, but not many of them are dream goals. So the first step to defining your almost out-of-reach BHAG is to envision your dream future. If you were to wake up ten years from now, what would your ideal life look like? What changes will you have made? Where will you live? What will your family look like? What kind of job will you have? How will your finances look?
There are two great ways to help you with this exercise. The first is by creating a vision board. You can make one the traditional way, with magazine cut-outs or you can make a digital vision board. Both work just as well, as the point of the exercise is simply to set out your dream future in visual form. The second way is to sit down with a pen and paper and get to journaling about your hopes and dreams.
Whichever method you choose, don’t skip this step. One of the keys to setting an audacious goal is choosing one that fits with how you envision your life, not how anyone else does. Make sure your BHAG aligns with your core values and your vision, not anyone else’s.
2. Identify which area of your life you want to set big hairy audacious goals for
Next, choose one area of your life you want to focus on. You might have envisioned a life totally different from the one you have right now, which might take more than one BHAG to accomplish. That’s great! You should dream as big as you can.
For now, though, stick to one topic to get the ball rolling. Which area do you want to focus on the most? Maybe it’s your health and getting into the most incredible shape of your life. Maybe it’s your job and the career change you’ve been thinking about for ages.
Or maybe it’s your finances. Whatever the category, decide on one and move on to the next step, where you’ll come up with a more specific goal.
3. Create a plan for your big hairy audacious goals
Now that you know which area you want to focus on, it’s time to set your BHAG. Remember, it should be clear, measurable, and, most importantly, bold! It should almost be something you don’t think you can accomplish. Not because you don’t have faith in yourself, but because it is that daring. Think, man on the moon levels of bold.
Write down your BHAG somewhere where you’ll be inspired by it every day. This could be your refrigerator, your phone screensaver, or anywhere else you know you’ll pass by and be reminded of it on a daily basis.
4. Brainstorm ways to achieve your BHAG
What’s it going to take to achieve your big hairy goal? Come up with an action plan on how to get there. Let’s say your BHAG is that you want to pay for your eight-year-old niece’s college education in full. That’s certainly clear and measurable, and it’s definitely bold! Great, you have a BHAG! But how will you get there? What actual steps will you take to achieve it?
It will probably involve some combination of saving, investing, and perhaps increasing your salary or starting a side hustle. All of this can (and will) change over time, but it’s good to have at least some ideas in mind as to how you will achieve your BHAG so that you can start to take action. A BHAG is just a dream if you don’t work toward it.
5. Get to work starting today
Once you decide on your big hairy audacious goal, don’t let it sit for too long as just an idea or a dream. Take the first steps toward accomplishing it as soon as you can. If your goal is to pay for your niece’s education, what can you do today to reach that goal in ten years?
Will you start that photography side hustle you’ve been thinking about? Perhaps you’ll look into investing once and for all? Whatever it is, take the first step toward getting there the same day you come up with your BHAG, and work toward it every day.
6. Share your big hairy audacious goals with someone else
Lastly, if you have someone you know will cheer you on, share your BHAG with that person. An accountability partner can help in so many ways, from offering encouragement and ideas to, of course, holding you accountable to working toward your goal.
If you don’t have anyone with who you think it is safe to share your big hairy goal, that’s ok, too. It’s better not to share your BHAG with someone if they will just be a downer and tell you that you’ll never achieve it. You know you can achieve it, and that’s enough.
Set big hairy audacious goals today!
Feeling inspired to set your own big hairy goal? We hope so! Don’t hold yourself back from realizing your wildest dreams. Setting an audacious goal (or two! or three!) is the first step to achieving something that might seem out of reach but isn’t really.
In ten years, when you look back on today and see how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished, you’ll be so happy you set your very own audacious goals.
You can learn how to create financial goals with our completely free course! Also, check out the Clever Girls Know podcast and YouTube channel to stay inspired towards your goals!