Setting Goals: The Power of BHAG

In their book Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras introduced the concept of “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals,” a.k.a. BHAG, which is a concept meant to motivate companies to set high goals and discuss how to achieve them.

Collins and Porras said, “A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”

Reading Built to Last prompted me to set my own personal BHAG: to cycle 90 at 90, meaning to complete a 90-mile bike ride the year that I turn 90. My son and I, along with some friends, started the tradition of riding my age in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when I turned 70, six years ago. Riders have joined in from all over the U.S., even from the United Kingdom. Having this annual event, plus the long-term goal, has motivated me to continue exercising regularly so I’ll be able to ride 90 at 90.

Will I be able to cycle 90 miles when I’m 90? When friends ask this question my response is, “Who knows? Hang around for another 14 years, and we’ll find out.” But whether I ride 90 miles that year or not isn’t as important as all the years I am motivated to maintain my fitness between now and then because of the goal.

My son Michael is an active athlete, but his travel schedule with his work sometimes makes it difficult for him to devote sufficient time to training. Last year was a tough ride for him. After the ride he said, “Dad, when you turn 90, we’re converting to kilometers.”

A BHAG can also be set for a shorter time span. Someone newer to cycling might set a goal to sign up for a 50-mile event one year away, or a runner might plan to participate in a 10K race in six months. Others might strive to walk 10 miles within a specific duration on a future date or achieve a certain weight loss. The possibilities are endless.

What about you? Do you have a BHAG? If not, think about creating one. The effect on your fitness and health can be big. It’s amazing how often I think about 90 at 90 and how it provides continuing motivation to stay fit and eat healthy now.

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One Response to Setting Goals: The Power of BHAG

  1. Marika Hartman says:

    Hi Harry,
    I was singing your praises today motivating a patient I saw about setting new goals
    for himself. I told him about how you bike your age every year. he asked – all in one day?
    He was surprised. I think I motivated him.

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