• James McNeil

Big goals are important, but what's more important?

“What’s your BHAG?”


“Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal! What is it?”


This conversation took place several years ago. I had recently launched a marketing business, and I had joined a group of local entrepreneurs and professionals who met weekly for networking. One of these professionals approached me with the first question. I had never heard of the concept of a BHAG, and I struggled to find one for my new business. Upon seeing my struggle, this professional said, “If you want to succeed, you need a BHAG.”

I set one, and I worked toward achieving it. According to this professional as well as several other people in the group, the BHAG needs to be something you can’t achieve quickly. It needs to be something you have to build toward for months if not years. I learned that this would not be enough, and the business folded in 2012.

In fact in 2018, when I returned to college, I set a BHAG for myself of earning a degree with honors. That was definitely something I could not achieve quickly. I knew I had about two years to go to earn the degree. When I failed a class in my first semester, I came to realize something. While I needed a BHAG, it was not going to be enough. I needed smaller goals along the way as well. I needed a way to show myself that I was making progress toward my big goal by using smaller ones.

I did graduate with honors in 2020, and I have continued to grow. I have a couple of huge goals (definitely qualified to be called BHAGs, but I also have smaller goals on the way.

As you start to work toward overcoming the obstacles that lead to suicidal thoughts, I’m sure you have the BHAG of having those suicidal and self-defeating thoughts becoming a footnote in your history. That is an amazing goal, and I applaud you for having it. However, if all you have is that huge goal, you’ll view every setback as a failure that somehow means you shouldn’t even try. Nothing could be further from the truth.

However, the gap between that BHAG and the reality you’re facing can be demoralizing without setting up smaller goals. You can either set goals of positive things you want to achieve (journaling, building something, learning a new recipe, etc.) or you can set goals of negative things you want to avoid (negatively based conversations, self-deprecating thoughts, and others come to mind). Either way, as you achieve those goals, celebrate and make bigger ones. That way before you realize it, you’re already on your way to your Big Hairy Audacious Goal.”

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