Motivation In A Bag

Dear reader,

Certain things help us to get fired up.  What is it about these things that get us fired up?  The answer varies of course, but we often label it as our motivation.  Motivation is very personal and comes from within – we might get inspiration from an outside source, but true motivation is about our internal representation what an achievement will do to us or for us.  For example, students may feel motivated to study for an exam, not because the act of studying is necessarily exciting to them (although to some it is), but rather because they are excited to develop mastery of a subject or to be rewarded for the demonstration of that mastery (a good grade).   Even though the grade is external, the motivation is fueled by the inner sense of satisfaction, pride and success.

So, how does one manufacture motivation?  Conventional wisdom describes the goal setting process as a way to create a sense of motivation, the desire to take action.  Often the “SMART” acronym is used to describe goals that are Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Time-Bound.  Although I’m a fan of SMART goals, today I’m going to advocate for a type of goal that is not necessarily smart, but is often brilliant.

The BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, comes from the excellent book Good To Great, and describes a goal that is unrealistic, borderline attainable and often shocking to the individual or group that it applies to.  The great thing about BHAGs is that they stimulate radical thinking, the passionate pursuit of entirely new approaches to solve a problem or meet a challenge.  Teams that are pursuing BHAGs are excited by the challenge and frequently roam quite far from their former comfort zones in order to achieve new levels of performance.  And, my friends, isn’t that the point?  You’ve probably heard the old saying that “it is better to aim high and miss that aim low and hit”.  This is what BHAGs are all about.

By the way, to maintain motivation you must act swiftly and decisively, because motivation begins and ends with motion.  Literally.  Look at the word MOTIVATION.  It begins, and ends, with MOTION.  So get moving!

I’d love to hear about BHAGs that you’ve conquered or are still working on.

All the best,


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By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos.  They are my gift to you.  :-)

About eddecosta

Business and Executive Coach
This entry was posted in Business Coaching, Leadership, Living With Passion, Productivity, Self-Mastery, Success, Teamwork, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Motivation In A Bag

  1. Jarred L. says:

    Excellent article, Mr. DeCosta.

    Motivation is a very interesting topic. Whether as a hair salon manager motivating stylists and receptionists (such as my former self) or the CEO of a multinational corporation motivating country managers toward a unified company vision, motivation is the ‘catalyst’ that will achieve that end.

    In Jim Collins’ book he bypasses the entire subject of motivating the seemingly unmotivated to achieve Greatness. He does emphasize shifting firms from good (mediocre) to great. Collins’ emphasizes ‘getting the wrong people off the bus, the right people on the bus and in the right place’. Suffice it to say, motivation can be manufactured to become good, okay, or mediocre. But to be come great, motivation must be inherent.

    In contemporary organizations where more and more competing interests attempt to meld for a common direction, there still exists dissonance and resource consumption aligning the individual and company goals. Having served in multiple leadership roles in academia and in the workplace, I believe there are those that are motivated but who lack clear direction and therefore appear unmotivated. I, consequently, agree with Collins’ assessment that the first task is identifying the motivated individuals and then clearly articulating the Big Hairy Audacious Goal to serve as a focal point of the collective whole. Just as you indicated motivation is internal to the individual it is not directly observable and measurable. One executive of Apple commented on Steve Jobs’ ability to inspire his engineers. He was able to make them believe that the impossible was possible and that was what has pushed their company beyond the current boundaries of reality and create revolutionary designs. Granted the executive attributed Jobs’ ability to cognitively bend reality around himself to his acid use, the notion still mirrors your explanation of the BHAG’s purpose: exciting and causes to roam quite far from former comfort zones to achieve new levels of performance.

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