I’m a sucker for good vision. No, I don’t mean eyesight, although the human eye is a magnificent device. I mean aspirations, the things a leader sees that are outside ordinary perception, beyond the horizon, or perhaps not yet even in existence. When leaders are ready to shift today’s situations toward something greater, it’s that sort of vision that gives me goose bumps.
Maybe your vision is about moving toward a more constructive way of living. Maybe it’s about creating a work environment where people can truly thrive. Perhaps it’s an ambition to lift up others. As leaders, the gutsy act of envisioning means picturing something grander than our everyday status quo; something powerful enough to motivate both ourselves and the people we lead.
That motivation can be visceral, something we literally feel in our bodies. When I hear great visions, it makes my chest warm and shoots my energy sky high, like a natural caffeine. This has happened numerous times since I last blogged. All around I’ve spotted people setting their sights on far-reaching aspirations— or what Built to Last authors Collins and Porras (way back in 1996) called Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Of course I prefer the acronym, pronounced “bee-hag.”
Kim Wright offered a perfect example of creating a BHAG with the power to motivate. She joined Wisdom Works’ leadership dialogue this past June –and she joined with gusto. We were exploring how laws, and the legal field as a whole, can foster reconciliation and healing, versus conflict and division. Kim, the bestselling author of Lawyers as Peacemakers, shared her vision for remaking the legal system through conscious law, transformative mediation, and restorative justice. Under her stewardship, a growing number of lawyers across the USA are organizing as “a community of visionary leaders for a new paradigm of law.” How’s that for inspiring?
Then there’s gaming systems designer, Jane McGonigal, author of the 2011 book Reality Is Broken. She believes that playing games —in virtual and real life— can change the world by reinforcing positive emotions and social connection. Jane has put this belief into practice by inventing such games as World Without Oil, where players experience life after this dwindling natural resource has vanished. Another of her ideas, which became a game called The Lost Ring, galvanized 2.9 million people worldwide to collaborate in a long-lost sport, providing an entrée to the 2008 Olympics. (Click here to beta-test her newest brainchild, SuperBetter, a gaming system which helps you recover from illness or injury and practice positive lifestyle behaviors— all while having fun!) Her vision? For a game designer (yes, a game designer) to win a Nobel Peace Prize. I believe that qualifies as a BHAG, don’t you?
It’s possible for whole communities to have big hairy audacious goals, too. Serenbe, Georgia is being built under principles of sustainability that range from construction methods to “the organic produce on your table that was grown by one of your neighbors.” Albert Lea, Minnesota transformed itself according to Blue Zones principles (derived from studies of places where people live better and longer) by weaving these principles into its schools, businesses, homes, restaurants, and everyday lives. Even my home town of Manitou Springs, Colorado is engaged in a citizen-led process to create a clear vision which will guide city strategies, decisions, and resource allocations through year 2020.
What is it within us human beings that creates such an attraction to great vision? Why do we long to be propelled into a healthier future? While I was attending a recent workshop, Aikido sensei and somatic teacher Richard Strozzi-Heckler shared this powerful poem:
Some People Wake Up
Again and again
Some people in the crowd wake up.
They have no ground in the crowd
And they emerge according to broader laws.
They carry strange customs with them,
And demand room for bold gestures.
The future speaks ruthlessly through them.
For me, these words by Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke describe our longing beautifully. People of vision exemplify courage. They step outside the bounds of normal thought and bring forth a future which broadens our individual perspectives and opens up life-giving possibilities for all of us. That’s pretty good motivation for finding our own BHAGs, wouldn’t you say?
Photo by mind_scratch