Pushing your limits

At the annual get together of the organization I was once associated with decades ago; I recall the CEO passionately saying, ‘You are using only a small portion of your brain. Push your boundaries. You do not know what you are capable of.’ Those words stay with me even today. Each time I come across a daunting task, I ask myself; am I pushing myself or am I giving up too soon…

When you push your boundaries and set higher goals, the chances of improving your performance are also higher. Stretching yourself beyond your own limits can greatly enhance your sense of engagement and motivation.

In their seminal book ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies’, authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras espouse the idea of visionary organisations having ‘big hairy audacious goals’ (BHAG).

“A BHAG is a huge and daunting goal – like a big mountain to climb. It is clear, compelling, and people “get it” right away. A BHAG serves as a unifying focal point of effort, galvanising people and creating team spirit as people strive toward a finish line. Like the 1960s NASA moon mission, a BHAG captures the imagination and grabs people in the gut.”

In simpler terms, BHAG is a long-term, 10 to 25-year goal, guided by your company’s core values and purpose.

What if, as individuals we were to set BHAG for ourselves and our work? What more can we achieve? How far can we stretch ourselves? Where do we even begin? How do we even defy the odds that can act as barriers when it comes to setting big goals?

The first step of course is to write down your goals. Remember, they have to be big! The definition of big here means something that is not easily achievable…something far away yet achievable…and in the process of achieving that big goal, you should be able to stretch yourself way above mediocrity and closer to excellence.

For example, if you are a journalist who thrives on interviewing leaders, aspire to interview the President of the USA! It does not matter that you are based in India and your current resume boasts of interviewing local leaders. Go for that stretch and push yourself to fulfill that goal of yours one day.

Of course, you have to take into cognizance your current environment, your own strengths and the opportunities that you can snatch one step at a time. Share this audacious goal of yours with a close network of friends or colleagues. Such acts trigger an all-round contagious infection that can really motivate you to continue on your journey.

As a leader, you can create an environment wherein your colleagues feel psychologically safe to fail knowing that their failure will not be held against them. This high level of trust also spurs creatively and out of box thinking leading to audacious goals.

Google co-founder Larry Page is known by his ‘gospel of 10x’ wherein he expects his people to develop products/services that are ten times better than that of competition. This kind of high thinking pushes people to rethink of solutions and devise new ways to look at old problems. In this whole process, there is also an element of fun because teams/people work together to achieve the BHAG.

When you set to make your big hairy audacious goals, ensure that at least 70% of those goals are achievable. If your targets are way beyond reach, it will only make you feel frustrated and want to give up halfway.

Your BHAG ought to make you think really long-term. This is the opportunity for you to visualize and dream big about what you really want in your professional journey. Go for it!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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