Why you WON'T achieve your dreams in 2013

Let's be frank: one year probably isn't long enough to make your wildest, most brilliant dream of success a reality (that's any type of success, by the way). But five years might be. Heck, in 10 years you could be really close. In 15 years you'll almost certainly be there.

Does 15 years sound too long for you? Well, sorry, but if you really, truly want to make something incredible happen, something that changes the game for you or your industry or your family or your community, you need to be thinking long-term.

I generally loathe business jargon and buzzwords, but there is one phrase that really sings to me (and not just because it reminds me of Monsters Inc):  "Big Hairy Audacious Goal". The BHAG was invented by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in the 90s. It's the type of goal that sounds so fantastical it's almost impossible - almost. It's the kind of goal that might in fact sound impossible to others, but you know that if you really went all out for 10 or 15 or 20 years, you could actually get there.

A BHAG is your really long-term strategy, as well as being a single purpose that underpins and drives everything a business is about and is striving for. If you're a three-person cupcake shop in a small village in Sussex, for example, your BHAG might be to become the number one cupcake chain in the South East of England - or the whole of the UK. But let's not limit BHAGs to nationwide success. I think BHAGs can work on a personal level too. Your BHAG might be more personal: to be earning enough from your own business to fund a private education for three children, say, even though you don't yet have any children, nor a business.

Let's hear a bit more about BHAGs from the man who invented them. Jim Collins tells us: "BHAGs are not just random goals. [... A good BHAG] has to fit with what you're passionate about, which includes your values. It has to fit with what you can be the best in the world at. It has to fit with what best drives your economic or resource engine. And a BHAG that doesn't fit those three would be a bad BHAG."

He goes on to explain how the goal becomes clear, which it might not be for several years. You need to empirically prove you can achieve it along the way, by breaking it down into smaller steps and achievements, then attaining those goals, keeping the bigger, much longer-term picture in mind. Of course, those smaller steps will feel like huge milestones too, and there's every reason you'll start achieving THEM in 2013. But your BHAG needs to look further into the future.

The key is to have that big, hairy, audacious goal running as an undercurrent to everything you do in the short- and mid-term. It's a similar strategy to that used by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has said he believes his company retains competitive edge because it sets itself five to seven-year goals and plans, rather than the three-year cycles most of Amazon's rivals commit to.

Your long-term goal is your vision. If you want to build a business with a sizeable team, it keeps them motivated; it helps them understand why you and they are doing what you're all doing. If your BHAG is just for you, it keeps you focused - it gives you a roadmap through the next few years of life. Once you know where you want to be in 10, 15, 20 years (in your wildest dreams this is, remember), you can start working out the steps you need to get there.

It doesn't matter if success to you means running a one-person business that can support your family, or whether it means creating a product so innovative it will be a major international success in two decades' time. You just need to set your BHAG, and let it guide you every step of the way to get there. Of course, Smarta will be here too to provide you with all the advice, support, events and tools you need along the way. But driving it all is you, and your crazy, fantastic, long-term dream. Your BHAG.

If the world doesn't end today, you owe it to yourself to chase that BHAG with everything you've got. Bring on 2013.

Smarta is taking a well-deserved Christmas break, but we'll be back on the blog from January 2nd. Wishing you all an exceptionally merry Christmas and a truly fruitful new year - go get going on those great goals of yours!

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