Go Big or Go Home

If you can dream something, it’s more possible to achieve it than you think.
But many of us suffer from limiting beliefs and obstacles that only exist in our own minds.
We need to break out of those constraints and develop the mindset that helps us believe and make things possible.

Dreaming gets a bad rap.
Not all dreams are simply unattainable fantasies or wishful thinking that we should snap out of.
They can be powerful projections of what we most value and the ideals we’re most willing to work for.
Only people who are content with the ordinary try to shoot down the dreams of others.
Unfortunately, we’re not encouraged to dream much in real life.

Along with the skepticism of cynics, there are our own deeply held belief systems and attitudes that keep us from shooting for our best-case scenarios.
We usually opt for the path of least resistance or, for some, the path with the lowest potential for pain.
We start by doing this consciously out of regard for our physical or psychological safety, but if we’re not careful, it becomes an instinct to hold back on just about everything.
In reaching your goals, giving your dreams a seat at the table is a huge part of changing your mindset.
It’s almost impossible to do a Google search on “impossible dreams” without having J.K. Rowling come up as a result, and by now her story is probably fairly familiar.
But it’s a good one.
Convinced at a young age that she was going to be a writer, Rowling went through a trying adolescence and a difficult early adulthood.
She came up with an idea for a fantasy series while on a commuter train from Manchester to London, where she worked.
Rowling eventually found herself as a single parent without a job, forced to live on the British welfare system.
“By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” she once said.
She frequently wrote chapters of her book in a café with her infant daughter sleeping nearby.
She submitted her book to publishers and got the typical writer’s load of rejection letters before a small publishing house in London agreed to put out her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Three days after it was published in England it was licensed to an American publisher for $100,000—at the time an unheard-of sum for a children’s novel.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you how successful Rowling’s creation became: seven novels in the series, made into eight successful movies, theme parks, merchandising, prequels, sequels, and websites where you can find out what house of Hogwarts you belong to.
(I got Ravenclaw and I’m still ticked off about it.) Rowling’s initial dream might not have been as gigantic as Harry Potter-mania has become over the last two decades, but she never abandoned it, even at her darkest moments.
It was a challenge to maintain that mindset, but it paid off.
She may have been lucky, but leading with a dream and thinking big make people luckier on quite a consistent basis.
Think Big Think back to when you were a child.
What did you dream of becoming or doing? Even if adults tried to temper your expectations (and many did), you still had big ideas.
You believed that you would eventually be able to fit in those big spaces.
As you grew older you probably adopted a more realistic approach about what you wanted to do, and your mindset followed through.
Certainly, most of us have maintained that mindset because we think it’s essential for survival: be cognizant of your boundaries, know your limits, don’t overreach or inflate your ambitions.
And yet it can be damaging in many ways.
Achieving results, thriving, and, yes, even surviving is much more dependent on being able to think big.
It’s how we discover exactly what we can do and how much we can achieve.
Anything we could call “success” benefits from developing a mindset that welcomes the audacious, the visionary, the impossible, and—if we do it right—the crazy.
Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy: you’ll be as successful you think you’ll be.
Your beliefs and thinking will always be the cap of your accomplishments—so make that cap higher.
The first obstacle in the path to thinking big is to understand what’s holding you back—your limiting beliefs.
These are all your self-criticisms, doubts, or misgivings you have about your capabilities.
They’re the reasons or excuses you use to explain why you can’t or won’t do certain things.
You don’t have a big enough vocabulary to write a book.
You don’t have the money to invest in learning a craft.
You’re not able to multitask to plan a big project.
You’re too short-winded to swim.
When you settle into the think-big mindset, these limiting beliefs get smaller and smaller.
As you establish your self-belief and confidence in this mindset, the limiting beliefs eventually vanish.
One such method is the BHAG.
How big can your thinking go? And how do you get it to go that big? Authors James Collins and Jerry Porras developed a series of thought models organized around what they called the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” or BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) for short.
The BHAG pushes companies to shape their objectives around goals that seem fantastical and ridiculous at first glance.
Most companies make goals that are pretty lackluster.
They set numerical goals over a period of time, often many years in the future.
They think doing so makes their workforce cooperate and perform more efficiently.
These goals are often expressed as hard quantitative floors: “cut the operational budget by 3% within six months,” “boost revenue by 15% within two years,” “increase market share by 2% within five years”—strictly numerical standards that don’t exactly strike an emotional chord with anyone.
The BHAG takes a more abstract and longer view, with ambitions that deliberately raise eyebrows.
Collins and Porras describe it as “an audacious 10- to-30-year goal to progress toward an envisioned future.” They state that companies can have more than one BHAG at once—for example, one long-term, monster BHAG and a few with shorter time frames.
If you were to forecast your next year’s revenue, you would multiply it by 10 for a BHAG.
The sheer size and enormity of setting a BHAG instills possibility in the mind and gives it room to run.
BHAGs encourage you to come up with drastic and far- reaching ideas rather than incremental or minor improvements.
They’re the polar opposite of limiting beliefs.
You’re empowered to envision results so grand that they border on the unrealistic.
That forces you to consider what’s actually possible (because why not?).
That encourages you to figure out how to achieve it in real, concrete steps.
By setting higher goals, you stand to achieve much more.
Collins and Porras illustrate the concept by identifying four different kinds of BHAG: Target-oriented BHAG.
This goal combines the traditionally quantitative aspects of goal-setting with more subjective, somewhat personal aims.
The trick is making the specific numeric goals (boosting revenue, increasing market share) prospects that stir the emotions of a given team—team members should see the target as a personal inspiration.
It might take a certain amount of crafting to make those numbers exciting and require a solid system of evaluation to work.
This kind of group-centric goal might seem a little hard to winnow down to personal goal-setting, but it’s entirely possible.
You might want to set a target of getting 1,000 subscribers to your blog.
You might set a goal of knitting 100 towels to sell at a market.
You might want to increase the customer base of your financial consultancy firm by 10% over six months.
Whatever achievement would bring you excitement and motivation works well.
Competitive BHAG.
This goal rallies a team around to defeat what Collins and Porras call a “common enemy.” Who’s the big dog in your industry that everyone would love to see taken down? It’s the classic David versus Goliath, Karate Kid, Slumdog Millionaire–type underdog story that’s difficult to resist and easy to cheer for.
If you’re a political blogger, you might harness your efforts to take down one of your ideological rivals.
If you run a sandwich shop, you might want to take down the big-name franchise with stakes in your neighborhood.
Role model BHAG.
This goal set is sort of a reverse of the competitive BHAG.
It’s where emergent organizations look to the industry leaders in their category whose success they’d like to emulate.
Rather than highlight the competitive aspect, this BHAG focuses on the traits of other companies that you’d like to develop.
Going back to the examples of the competitive BHAG above, the political blogger might want to emulate the approach and promotional structure (but not the content or style) of your personal favorite writer.
The sandwich shop might draw from a successful independent business that’s made a name for itself in another part of town.
Internal transformation BHAG.
This objective seeks a redefinition and adaptation of a company’s culture and operational style.
Whether it’s to completely alter how a business division works or to overhaul its identity, Collins and Porras specify that it’s especially useful for larger corporations trying to adapt to changing times.
All these BHAGs share one common element: they’re huge.
They’re extremely ambitious, audacious, and seemingly impossible to achieve at the outset.
But since they dispose of limiting beliefs and encourage free thinking, they open the door to endless potential.
Their purpose is to transform the way you think.
Right off the bat, the BHAG model is something you may find useful to apply to your own personal life and aspirations.
You’re probably not overseeing the kind of large corporation the BHAG model was devised for, but you undoubtedly have as much, if not more, emotional stake in the success of your goals.
And that comes from setting big-screen targets that might seem flat-out impossible or out of reach to outsiders—but aren’t so far off for those who know what you’re doing.
Set a revenue goal twice what you were projecting previously.
Try to reach 10 times the previous year’s milestones.
Attempt to scale a huge mountain.
Set the intention to lose 100 pounds.
Strive for chopping 100 logs into firewood where you would normally chop only 20.
And then—this is the important part—contemplate exactly what you’ll need to change about your current methods and processes to create those realities.
When you operate with BHAGs in mind, you imagine and draw up your plans in a new way that trickles down to your everyday life.
Your blueprints get bigger in relation to the size of your goals—at least it gives you a fighting chance because you have visualized and thought it over.
It can be a serious game-changer.
Systems vs.
Goals Allowing yourself to dream hopefully makes you want to find ways to achieve it, and that’s where the idea of system-oriented thinking comes in.
It pushes you toward action because it deconstructs each goal into a system of daily tasks.
Goal-oriented thinking makes the final result the main infatuation but doesn’t always consider how to achieve that goal.
Merely having a goal in mind is actually what prevents us from action quite frequently because there’s no action in place to reach it.
A goal by itself is just a star in the sky.
The system-oriented mindset centers on specific actions that, if done on a consistent basis, will naturally get you close to any goal you set.
It emphasizes consistent action—small daily tasks and duties that make motion easier to fathom than striving toward huge, insurmountable goals.
A system is a set of procedures, routines, and processes that you follow to achieve the desired goal.
Ideally, this system is proven and repeated and produces the same, or very similar, outcome every time it runs.
There are systems for virtually every aspect of our existence—exercise circuits, method acting, math functions, medical procedures, hairstyling.
Name it, and there’s a process to it.
On the other hand, a goal is the summation of your efforts, the pinnacle of your achievement—which means it comes loaded with stress and anticipation.
For instance, you may have the goal of becoming a painter.
But a goal alone doesn’t address how you make that goal real.
The system mindset considers what’s needed to become a painter—the education, the practice, the supplies you’ll need, the steps you’ll need to achieve your goal.
Complete X, Y, and Z over a certain amount of time and you’ll automatically fulfill your goal.
Highlighting the system mindset over the goal mindset can be more drastically advantageous than you might think and can make your dream become more realistic bit by bit.
In the spirit of this chapter, you can also think bigger with your daily systematic actions.
If you’re a pro golfer, then your goal is to win a tournament.
But what kind of system do you have to employ for yourself to make that goal a reality? What consistent actions build the ladder to winning more tournaments? How can you build upon them? Your system is going to consist of some combination of early-morning training, practice with coaches, and refinement.
Focus your efforts on simply completing the duties you need to complete, and you’ll be better off.
Think of it as a formula that moves you ahead in life and toward whatever you want to achieve.
Systems thinking lessens the pressure by helping you keep centered on the simpler, everyday processes that help you build on your skills over time rather than on the burden of the gigantic, big finish you want.
Systems force you to take it step by step on a daily, gradual basis.
The beauty of this is that you’ll make improvements and develop better habits—whether or not you ultimately obtain your goal.
A system is not a 100% foolproof roadmap for success.
Inevitably there will be days when you work on the system a little harder than others.
If you’re on an exercise program, you’ll run longer on certain days than you will on others.
But in a good system, you will do something every day.
You will develop the discipline that will eventually bring you much closer to your goal.
There will be days when you step on the scale and won’t notice any difference—but a good system accounts for that.
As long as the system produces a net success rate, it’s working.
Focusing on a goal, however, imposes some unexpected restrictions.
True, it’s much more likely that you’ll attain a single goal if you concentrate on it exclusively.
But you also might miss an experience that might have been even better than your target.
A system that works toward your goal but is ultimately independent of it increases your chances overall.
Your vision in a system isn’t so trained on one specific object that you’ll miss out on another prospect.
Anything is game in a system mindset.
There are some exceptions in which goals are helpful.
If you’re intent on being a physician and you have the innate talent for it, then keeping close to your goal is vital.
But most of us don’t have such a clear long-view plan.
We don’t know what’s going to happen, what chances will come our way, or what we’ll have to do to get to them.

The best that we can do is get into a situation where the odds are more favorable—a place with more possibilities, more chances to improve a skillset, more opportunities for networking, and the chance to experiment in different subjects.
To build a systems mindset, think in smaller, gradual steps instead of massive or drastic measures.
Give yourself credit for each step you take toward achieving your goal, not the grand prize for the goal itself.
Appreciate the gradual experience for what it can bring to other areas of your life and the opportunities it will open.
This mindset will patiently and meaningfully bring your dreams closer to reality.

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  • The Art of Intentional Thinking: Master Your Mindset. Control and Choose Your Thoughts. Create Mental Habits to Fulfill Your Potential (Second Edition) By Peter Hollins
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