They say that home is where the heart is. But when life gets busy, our attention and focus are often anywhere but home. In fact, they might as well be out of town on business.
Too often, we wake up obsessing about what the day will demand of us. We plow through obligations and stomp out fires for hours on end. Then we come home tired and spent. Work challenges, financial stresses, daily tasks — collectively, all these things can absorb so much of our focus that we begin to overlook the very real responsibilities and opportunities we have to make an energetic and creative contribution at home.
Most of us would say that we take both our family and work lives seriously, of course. But at work, there’s structure and accountability, key objectives, quarterly deliverables. At home, there’s a couch and a television and projects that can wait.
At work, we think in terms of big objectives that are directly linked to our organization’s mission and vision. We collaborate with other members of a team focused on the same ambitious goals.
At home, if we even have goals, they’re more likely about ticking things off our to-do lists. The people on our “team” are precisely the people whom (much as we love them) we are most likely to take for granted. And they are generally just as busy as we are, but focused on entirely different things.
Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated to give our best when we’re inspired by a shared vision and surrounded by others who are equally focused on achieving the same goals.
That’s the whole idea, of course, behind the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG), a concept made famous in Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’s book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. A BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) is a goal so huge and inspiring that it captures the imagination and the energy of all the people whose skills and energies are required to help achieve it. It aligns, unites and inspires people in a way no other goal can. “A true BHAG,” Collins and Porras explain, “is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit.”
So what if we had BHAGs at home? What if, instead of functioning as a bunch of busy individuals with our own agendas, we decided to articulate a unifying goal we could all get excited about as a family unit? Something that would, in Collins and Porras’s words inspire you “to progress towards an envisioned future” together?
You might start by exploring the shared values that are important to all the members of your family. Learning? Health? Fun? Athletics? Talk about the things that matter most to you, individually and collectively. Perhaps, as a family, you’d all like to be healthier and more fit. You might set a BHAG of being the healthiest family ever, or of breaking the worst health-sabotaging patterns you share. From there, you could define some specific steps that would help you achieve that goal.
Involve the whole family in suggesting ideas and coming up with solutions and workarounds. Even if not everyone is able or willing to commit to precisely the same activities or outcomes, look for ways that everyone can participate and support the larger vision of the group. Keep a shared notebook documenting your original BHAG objectives and the values that inspired them. Conduct weekly family meetings to assess progress, adjust strategy, overcome obstacles and celebrate successes.
Focusing on a common goal will lend a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose to your family. And instead of functioning as a collection of individuals with little in common but the roof over your heads, you’ll start acting like a bona fide team. More important, you’ll begin seeing (and feeling) the necessity of bringing enough energy and inspiration home with you at the end of the day to show up for your family BHAG project. Perhaps that’s the most essential opportunity in all of this. Because whether your family BHAG concerns health or something else entirely, the experience of having that BHAG will give each of you an opportunity to lead by example.
Home, after all, is not just where the heart is, but where our whole selves are both nurtured and called upon to be their very best.