Last Shabbat a dinner guest suggested that my daughter take on a swim challenge. “You should train to swim the English Channel.” He was dead serious. While she dismissed it at first (it is a distance of 34km in freezing salt water), she does swim 3.6km every day on her swim team. If she trained for it, she could probably do it. I then became slightly obsessed and spent time watching YouTube videos about people who successfully crossed the Channel. What if we trained for it together? Maybe this can be a goal to accomplish in the next decade?
It got me thinking about outrageous goals that we set for ourselves. Or in the language of Tom Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last, it’s the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG). In our companies and organizations, when leaders set audacious and long-term goals it can help everyone stay on track, ease decision-making dilemmas, and keep us from getting dragged down by the interpersonal tensions that can consume so much time and energy.
But there’s another aspect of an audacious goal. As leaders of our organizations, teams, or families, many among us are reticent to set such ambitious goals altogether. Fear of disappointment, anxiety over something that seems unreachable, or concern that we will be left as a leader without followers, may lead us to believe that we can go on, business as usual.
Sometimes we have a limiting concept of ourselves or our potential. We then see our colleagues and teams through that lens. What if we switched our orientation and adopted an expanded concept of ourselves? Not in terms of expanded egos, but expanded capacities to take on big challenges.
We all have the potential to set goals for ourselves, no matter what role we play in an organization. As Ron Heifetz, the author and leadership expert speaks about, leadership is not a position, it’s a disposition. We act as leaders when we take initiative, stay motivated, and set for ourselves audacious goals.
Name one audacious goal you would like to set for yourself. (Be aware of any limiting ideas of your self-concept that are creeping up as you do this and invite them to sit on the side for now.)
Carry that goal with you as you start your day tomorrow and see how you feel.
This week when I woke up early to go to the pool, I imagined myself as one of those swimmers, slicing through the water at a consistent speed. Even if I never actually swim the Channel, the idea and the image continue to motivate me.
I would love to talk to you more about this! Schedule a 20-minute talk so we can brainstorm how to set some audacious goals for yourself and your organization. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blessings for the journey,