SMART Goals vs BHAGs: Which is Best for You?

Goal setting is an essential tool for success, both on a personal and professional level. Setting goals help individuals and teams to focus their efforts, monitor progress, and measure success.

But choosing the right approach to goal setting can be challenging. Two popular methodologies often discussed in this context are BHAGs and SMART goals.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between SMART goals and BHAGs, highlighting each approach’s benefits and drawbacks.

Whether you’re looking to make incremental progress or achieve something remarkable, this will aid you in picking the most suitable approach for your needs and circumstances.

What Are SMART Goals?

The SMART goal-setting technique will help individuals and organizations set realistic goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

People can use this approach to establish realistic goals while pushing themselves to strive for more.

Need better clarification? Let’s dive deeper into each component:

  • Specific: Make your goal as clear and precise as you can. To succeed, you must clearly understand your target, including the people involved and the expected outcomes.
  • Measurable: It’s paramount to have a means of measuring goals; thus, tracking the results is necessary. This SMART criterion will allow you to make consistent progress throughout your journey.
  • Attainable: You may become demotivated and quit if your goal is not realistic and achievable. Remember to set practical goals that can be accomplished within a given time frame.
  • Relevant: Ensure that the goal you set is appropriate for your work’s current situation and context. If you don’t do so, it will be challenging to continue pursuing your dreams.
  • Time-based: Having a robust timeline for goal setting is extremely important. After all, adding an end date can make you act more quickly by giving you a sense of urgency.

The SMART method is crucial for achieving your goals and doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

You should clearly state both your desired result and the deadline you have in mind. A well-thought-out plan will increase success by providing clarity and holding you accountable.

What Are BHAGs?

A BHAG stands for big hairy audacious goal. It’s an ambitious, long-term goal that pushes you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to take risks.

The term was first coined in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.

Nowadays, BHAGs are sometimes used by businesses in their strategic planning, as they motivate employees to think outside the box and devise a vision for the future that is more than just a financial goal.

They are often visionary in nature and require a substantial amount of effort, resources, and commitment to accomplish.

A great BHAG consists of the following:

  • Big: Choose something big enough to challenge you and your team. It should be large enough to require a lot of effort and dedication.
  • Hairy: Make sure your goal is ambitious and exciting for everyone involved. If it’s too easy, it won’t inspire you to push yourself beyond your limits.
  • Audacious: The goal should be bold and courageous. It needs to be something that will make you and your team stretch further than you ever dreamed possible.
  • Goal: The BHAG needs to be well-defined and aligned with the person or company’s mission. That way, you can quantify results and celebrate milestones along the way.

BHAGs focus more on the journey than the outcome, inspiring people to take risks and strive for greatness. They have a higher reward potential than SMART goals, pushing individuals to become more creative and innovative.

You shouldn’t underestimate this goal framework, as it can unlock your full potential and enable you to reach heights you never thought possible.

Pros and Cons of SMART Goals

Pros of SMART Goals

  • SMART goals are designed to steer people away from impracticality. They are meant to realistically assess your capabilities to aim for big dreams.
  • The SMART method promotes clarity by urging you to be more specific. This system helps you break down tasks into more manageable parts that you can work on individually. You can rest assured knowing that the instructions will be easy to understand.
  • SMART can propel you to achieve results promptly. You’ll be able to efficiently use resources and laser-focus on reaching long-term success.
  • Adhere to the SMART criteria to make your goals more actionable. To have an impact, it’s key to concentrate on the required steps and be proactive. You’ll have the chance to work towards meeting your desired result.
  • Setting SMART goals will allow you to maintain motivation. You’ll be more likely to finish your tasks and stay caught up with your projects.
  • Crafting SMART goals can boost your sense of achievement. Each time you reach a milestone, you could take the time to celebrate victories to increase your enthusiasm even further.
  • The SMART template encourages you to be accountable. You’ll be inclined to commit to the process and take responsibility for your actions. And that will give you a better understanding of your overall objectives.

Cons of SMART Goals

  • Creating SMART goals takes a lot of time and effort. One should not expect quick results when starting this journey. Thinking through each of your goals would require diligence and commitment.
  • Success is not assured using the SMART method. Simply completing each requirement is not enough, despite how it may appear. So although the goal-setting strategy may boost confidence and provide motivation, failure is always a possibility.
  • SMART goals may be regarded as too rigid by some people. The framework must be tailored to fit an individual’s specific abilities. Otherwise, it could be too strict or restrictive.
  • Pursuing SMART goals does not prioritize taking breaks. Pushing yourself too hard regularly can have negative consequences such as burnout or fatigue.
  • Just because you set SMART goals, it doesn’t mean the work is completed for you. Achieving the ideal outcome relies on factors like motivation and attention to detail, which you must actively consider.

Pros and Cons of BHAGs

Pros of BHAGs

  • BHAGs have the potential to make an impact on a large scale. When well-constructed, these goals will cause you to think bigger and aim higher.
  • The BHAG framework is inspiring and motivating. You can feel the power behind these goals that compel you to do more than you ever thought possible.
  • They allow for creativity and innovation. You’ll be able to explore different solutions to address an issue and move your project in a new direction.
  • BHAGs are more future-oriented than present-focused. You’ll get to plan further ahead and develop your strategies accordingly.
  • It emphasizes the importance of taking risks and being bold. These types of goals are meant to push boundaries, helping people move out of their comfort zone and achieve greater success.
  • BHAGs create the perfect environment for collaboration and teamwork. You’re more inclined to get people on board when working towards something bigger than yourself.
  • They help you consider your personality when approaching challenges. Some people with grandiose ambitions are likely more suited to pursuing big hairy audacious goals.

Cons of BHAGs

  • Setting BHAGs requires a lot of dedication and effort. You must be prepared to put in the time and energy needed to make your dreams a reality.
  • The goal might not be realistic, leading to disappointment. You have to assess the situation before committing to a big goal and ensure it can be met, given the available resources.
  • BHAGs could prove to be too ambitious. Making grandiose plans may be too overwhelming and lead to feelings of frustration or discouragement.
  • This type of goal may be challenging to measure. It can often be hard to gauge progress due to the complexity of the task. This could lead to a lack of motivation if the desired outcome is too far away.
  • Developing BHAGs may lead to tunnel vision. Focusing solely on the end goal can make it arduous to think outside the box or develop other solutions. This could be detrimental to the success of your project or task.

How to Choose Between SMART Goals and BHAGs

Both SMART and BHAGs have their merits in goal setting. It is important to consider each approach and determine the best fit for you.

When to set SMART goals:

  • You want a time frame in place for facilitating accountability
  • You’re seeking a goal that is precise and attainable
  • You want to foster professional and personal growth in all areas
  • You hope to establish a culture valuing self-discipline and organization
  • You want a well-defined roadmap for lasting success
  • You plan to celebrate every small accomplishment along the way

When to set BHAGs:

  • You seek a goal that is ambitious and inspiring
  • You want to create a motivating atmosphere and inspire others
  • You’re looking for something that will push you out of your comfort zone
  • You want to explore various possibilities and take risks
  • You’re looking for an opportunity to collaborate and think big
  • You want to be part of a cause that has the potential to make a lasting impact
  • You hope to motivate your team to reach long-term objectives

Remember that there is no right or wrong answer, and mixing SMART goals and BHAGs may be the soundest decision for some people and teams.

Regardless of your chosen system, the key is to set goals that align with your values, are challenging, and provide a roadmap for excellence.

Final Thoughts

Both SMART goals and BHAGs offer valuable approaches to goal setting that can help individuals and companies succeed. SMART goals are best suited for those seeking incremental progress.

On the other hand, BHAGs are ideal for those looking to achieve something extraordinary and make a significant impact in their field or industry. BHAGs also inspire everyone to work towards a shared vision and can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Choosing between the two depends on your circumstances, objectives, and personality. You would have to consider your strengths and weaknesses to ensure they’re achievable.

Ultimately, combining BHAGs and SMART goals may be ideal, as it allows you to chunk down a BHAG into smaller objectives while maintaining a long-term perspective.

Just recognize that creating goals should be flexible on the path to success. You’ll finally make significant strides toward the life or career you envision.

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Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.