Picture this, your 20 year reunion is coming up and looking to made a huge impression…but you you’re feeling a bit, um, huge. Truth is, you’ve needed to lose about 100 pounds for years, but now there’s a reason and a target date. The event is 6 months away, so it’s doable but extremely aggressive.
Question is, what do you focus on in order to maximize the likelihood of success?
Two major approaches offer radically different advice.
Goal Setting By Focusing on a Massive Change
First, there’s the mega-goal approach. Made famous in business by Built to Last author, James C. Collins, who believed the greatest companies all had what he termed “big, hairy, audacious goals” or BHAGs. Other expressions come in the form of classic saying like, “if you shoot for the stars, but land on the moon, that’s still pretty impressive.” Or, it’s gotta be worth the effort.
The idea behind this approach is the notion that grand visions have exponentially more power than little, more mundane goals. Achieving great things takes sustained, often tireless and unpleasant work over an extended period of time. It takes being able to surmount hurdles, roadblocks, emotional crashes, outside judgments and waves of self-doubt. And that level of effort can’t be sustained by anything other than the prospect of complete and utter world domination, fame, glory or some other benchmark of success on a massive scale.
Following this approach, if you wanted to lose weight, we’d tell you to focus on that 6 month vision, visualize what you’ll look and feel like when you lose the 100 pounds. Create a detailed picture of what it will allow you to do, how it will change your life, what it will mean on a visceral, emotional and physical level. Describe the drop-jaws, hush-talk and looks of awe on each person as you stride into the reunion looking and feeling like the god or goddess you were always meant to be.
No doubt, there’s a lot of power in the this approach. In fact, it tends to be the way I pursue my lifestyle adventures and passion-driven quests.
Goalsetting by Focusing on Baby Steps
But, there’s another approach that’s got it’s own rally cry and a pretty good argument to boot. It’s called The Kaizen Way after it’s major promoter and it suggests doing the exact opposite of the BHAG/shoot for the moon approach.
Kaizen says that when you shoot for the moon, you are bound to fail. The reason offered is that the average person looks at a goal that would bring massive change and instead of becoming motivated…shuts down. They become so overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge that lies before them, they end up immediately focusing on how unlikely they’ll ever be to pull it off. This leads to a cascade of negative emotion, self-talk and a dramtic increase in the likelihood that you’ll abandon your grand vision shortly into your quest.
The solution then, according to Kaizen, it’s to chunk it down to the tiniest, most psychologically doable steps and focus on one step and only only step at a time. I have to admit, there’s a certain elegance and sensibility to this approach and the theory behind it as well.
And, the Winner Is…
Damned if I know!
Yeah, I know this is the place where I’m supposed to resolve the battle and declare a winner. But, honestly, there’s a lot of truth to both. And, I wonder if it’s more a matter of figuring out which is a better match for your temprement. I know, for me, baby steps don’t work. I need to see the big ring. And, truth be told, I need also know there’s substantial gratification built into the process, too.
So, I’m curious…what do you think? What’s been your experience?
Do BHAGs work better for you or baby steps?
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