How to Get Motivated with BHAGs

How to Get Motivated with BHAGs

big hairy audacious goalI can’t remember where I first heard the term BHAG (aka – “Big, hairy audacious goal”), but Wikipedia tells me that the phrase was first coined by James Collins (of “Good to Great” fame) and Jerry Porras in 1996. In their words:

“A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as 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. –Collins and Porras, 1996

So today, I don’t want to talk to you about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals or about how to manage your day-to-day task list. I really hate cutesy acronyms, and I’ve already talked about using technology to conquer your every day tasks. Instead, I want to talk about BHAGs and the overwhelming, driving passions that motivate us to drive our business’s forward each day.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – internet business is hard. It takes constant commitment, blood sweat and tears, afternoons when you’d rather be out with your friends and pretty much whatever other mental, physical and emotional energy you’re willing to throw at your business in order to be successful. So if you don’t have some sort of overwhelming purpose or major goal that pushes you to get through these challenges, you’re going to be facing a pretty big uphill battle.

If you don’t have your own BHAG, take some time this week to think about what goal you’re trying to reach with your internet business. And once you’ve uncovered your BHAG, be sure to set a deadline for its completion and a specific metric that will tell you’ve been successful.

For example, “I want to run a successful internet business” isn’t a good BHAG. Why do you want to have an internet business? And what constitutes a “success”? Will you measure your success in terms of email subscribers? Dollars earned through affiliate product sales each month? Repeat clients you earn through your website?

Let me give you an example…

My BHAG right now is to become self-employed again as a writer, web designer and web marketer by July 26th, 2012 (exactly 12 months from when I made the resolution to do so, although hopefully I’ll get there much, much sooner).

Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t an easy decision for me to come to, which is why it was so important for me to sit down and analyze what was truly important for me (versus what other internet business owners use as their BHAGs).

As you all know, I love my day job, but some recent changes in our organizational structure and culture tell me that it’s time to start thinking about moving on. And since my husband and I are thinking about starting a family in the next year or two, it’s important to me, personally, to have more flexibility in my schedule to raise our children in the way we choose.

But although I make a decent amount of money online (heck, lately it’s more than I make at the aforementioned day job…), there’s still one thing holding me back – credit card debt. $11,400 of it, to be exact. My husband and I weren’t that financially responsible when we were young, stupid college kids, but now, it’s important to me to have that out of the way before I become self-employed and think about having kids of my own.

So I guess, technically, my BHAG is two-fold – to get out of debt, and to become self-employed within the next year. Now that I know what my goal is, why it’s important to me and how I define its successful completion, I can start to put a plan in place to achieve it.

Today is August 24th, 2011, which means I have 337 days to reach this goal (if the Excel DateDif function can be trusted…). If I want to pay off $11,400 in credit card debt before that time, I need to come up with roughly $33.83/day extra in order to pay our bills (excluding interest charges, since I’m too lazy to extrapolate that all out right now).

Obviously, I can cut some expenses to ensure that as much of my internet income as possible is being directed towards paying off these bills. However, I also want to be conscious of keeping a balance between enjoying our last year before kids and being fiscally responsible.

So instead, I’m focusing instead on coming up with this extra money by increasing my online income. For example, if I want to come up with roughly $34/day, I could:

* Find new writing clients. At my usual writing rates of $.04/word, all I need is one extra 850 word article per day to meet my goal.

* Sell affiliate products. To date, the best selling product from this site is Market Samurai, which pays out 48% commissions. If I sell one copy of the full version of Market Samurai (which is totally freaking awesome, by the way), I earn roughly $71.00 – or two days of debt payments!

* Sell my own products. You all know I run occasional WSOs over at the Warrior Forum, but I’m also starting to invest in buying websites that sell their own products via Flippa. In fact, I’ve just picked up a skin care product site that sells an ebook package for $37 a piece, meaning that every sale puts me one day closer to my goal of being self-employed.

So why am I telling you all this? In part because I want you all to spend some time thinking about why you do what you do online. Having well-defined BHAGs (or even regular, medium-sized goals) is essential to maintaining motivation, especially when you run into frustrations and challenges with your business.

But also because I’m going to be launching a new feature on the site – monthly “Sarah’s Corner” posts that detail what I’ve been up to and what kind of progress I’ve been making towards my own BHAG. Hopefully, I’ll come up with a better title than that, but basically, my goals with these posts will be to give you a feel for life as an internet marketer, as well as a way for me to stay accountable with my debt pay-off goals. Check back next week on August 31st for the first installment in this new series!

Now it’s your turn. If you have a BHAG that you’re comfortable sharing in this public forum, I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below. Hopefully we can motivate each other to stay on track and reach our goals!

Image: jonsson

(PS – As a PSA for anyone else out there who’s as scared of spiders as I am, do not – under any circumstances – search Flickr for the phrase “big hairy monster”, even if you’re just looking for a cute little monster picture for your post on BHAGs.Ā  Consider yourself warned…)

21 Responses to How to Get Motivated with BHAGs

  1. Catarina says:

    Like your BHAG – become self employed, get rid of debt and then start a family. Your goal of getting new clients to write for, sell products and so forth also makes sense. And you are setting a realistic deadline. Go for it!! You will succeed if you passionately want it, and I belive you do!!

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Catarina! Thanks for stopping by and thanks much for the words of encouragement šŸ™‚ They’re very much appreciated!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Having a goal is like the difference between running 10K and just running. If you know when you are finishing, you will do better than if you are just aimlessly jogging. I have a goal to publish an eBook by the end of the year, so having that goal spurs me on to get something done with it whenever I have a chance. I agree with the concept that you shared.


    • Sarah says:

      Lou – That’s a great goal! And you’re such a good writer that I know your ebook will be awesome šŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Caleb Wojcik says:

    My BHAG is quitting the day job in the next month or two and travel full-time while I work on exciting projects with other people.

    It is scary, but I’m super stoked to make the jump.

    • Sarah says:

      Caleb – Great to hear from you! I didn’t realize we were day-job-quitting buddies. Let me know if you ever need a “No, I promise we’re not really crazy to be leaving our safe, secure day jobs for something better” pep talk šŸ™‚

  4. Sarah,

    thanks for sharing your goals and journey with us. I’m big on goal-setting… I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and I know it’s been crucial for my success. And ‘Good to Great’ is an awesome book! I love the concept of creating big, scary goals to motivate us.

    • Sarah says:

      Natalie – Thanks for stopping by! I haven’t actually read Good to Great (along with just about every other recommended business book out there…) yet, but it’s on my to do list šŸ™‚

  5. Chas says:

    I thought it stood for ‘Bodacious Hip Advertising Genius’; oh, well. I like how you have
    organized your goals in a concrete manner, instead of just some ‘fuzzy generalization’-
    a key to reaching them. I am not ready to share my goal, but, I am working on it.
    I will say, I have drawn some inspiration from a strange place- a couple of movies I watched last night- ‘Pirates of the Silicon Valley’, about Gates and Jobs, and ‘Bobby’, about the night Robert Kennedy was gunned down from the perspective of other people’s lives, who were there; and directed by Emilio Estevez

    • Sarah says:

      Wow, dude – your BHAG sounds incredible! I hope that someday, you grace us with its presence, just as Ben Stiller/Zoolander eventually shared Magnum with the world šŸ™‚

      (Switched from my morning tea to coffee today – don’t judge the movie reference… šŸ™‚ )

  6. viviana says:

    Hi Sarah, I love the idea of BHAG as setting goal. Specific, measurable and we impose the due date.

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Viviana – Exactly! Having something big that you’re working towards, combined with metrics that track when you’ve completed the action, is incredibly powerful šŸ™‚

  7. Adrienne says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Enjoyed the post and you have everything so well thought out. Let’s see, what is mine? Since I already make a full-time living online, it’s keeping it that way! šŸ™‚ But seriously, my goal is to continue down the path I’m on so that I will eventually be able to walk away from this computer on a more frequent basis and not feel like I’m going to lose any money from that day because of it. I am building a residual income so that’s the fabulous part of what I do.

    I want to be able to spend more time with my Mom while she is still here. She’s 86 and since I don’t have a family of my own, she’s the most important person in my life. I don’t have any regrets as it is, I’d just like more free time with her.

    Appreciate this post and thank you for sharing what your goals are. I have no doubt you’ll reach them all. Looking forward to Sarah’s corner. I’m sure that will be a wonderful addition.


    • Sarah says:

      Adrienne – Thanks so much for sharing šŸ™‚ It sounds like you’ve got some great goals put together – shifting to passive income and spending more time with your mom are both fantastic motivators to keep you working hard on your business.

  8. Hello Sarah,

    I do have BHAGs, or should I say I used to. On paper I do but the real issue is following up on my plans. On some days I would wake up buzzing with energy and on other days I would want nothing but to sleep all-day.

    Thanks for reminding me about keeping my goals in mind.

    P.S: And yes – making money on the internet is not much of fun initially.

    Have a lovely day!

    • Sarah says:

      Emmanuel – I know exactly what you mean – some days, getting up and getting to work is easy, and other days it feels nearly impossible. I’ve found that when I’m having trouble getting started, jumping in with an easy, mindless task is a good way to get going – sometimes, just getting anything done is enough to make me productive overall.

      Best of luck with your BHAGs!!!

  9. Kait says:

    I have a couple of BHAGs, and they’re related, in that they’re all about money. My first one is to make enough money to pay for the root canal that I need. My second, after that’s paid off, is to make enough to enjoy my senior year of college (next year). College isn’t that much fun if you can’t even afford vodka and Chili’s! And, if I manage that, I want to make enough to move out (which may happen before or after the end of my senior year). I’d love to get some roommates, since I missed the dorm experience.

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Kait – Those are awesome BHAGs! (And you’re right – college is wayyyyyy better with the vodka and Chilis!)

      Best of luck achieving them šŸ™‚

  10. Easther says:

    Hi Sarah

    I do have BHAGs, but my habits is I don’t follow up on my plans.
    I wouldl say, this is what I want etc..but that was it.

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Easther – Thanks for stopping by!

      Why do you think it is that you don’t follow through with your ideas? Is there anything you can do or any kind of reward structure you could put in place to encourage you to finish?

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