How big goals will change your life – the surprising truth

Georgia Hall is only the third British winner of The Women’s British Open since the event became a ‘Major’.

The 22 year old golfer said: “Hopefully I can encourage [ ] young girls out there to take up the game. I want to be a good role model.” Her desire to be a leader and motivator is admirable and everybody – even non-golfers – can benefit from her approach to securing success.

Hall revealed she had set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG. The best-seller ‘Built to Last: Success Habits of Visionary Companies’ introduced this concept. The abbreviation might sound unusual but the book was revelatory. It showed how large businesses were more likely to succeed over long periods, if they set themselves overarching objectives or BHAGs.


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Hall confirmed her BHAG to the press. “It was my goal when I was nine to win the British Open. I am so happy”, she said.

There are more examples of BHAG’s leading to success. Henry Ford’s was to make cars affordable for everyone. The Brontë sisters strove to become published authors at a time when society viewed women as incapable of this. We know what happened in each case.

Big goals sustain motivation and focus. We encourage people on our Tougher Minds programmes to create Future Ambitious Meaningful Stories (F.A.M. Stories). So why is this way of thinking so powerful?

I will focus on the three most compelling reasons. The first is the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Walt Disney famously said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’

Work by Columbia University Professor Robert Merton showed that if you create a belief that you can achieve something, you have a better chance of success. Merton is known as the founding father of modern sociology, his self-fulfilling prophecy theory has had far reaching implications for how we understand human behaviour.

Comments from Wayne Hall, Georgia’s father and caddie underlined this. He said: “We’ve been dreaming about this since she was seven years old, practising and knocking in putts for the British Open and it’s actually happened.”

Georgia Hall fulfilled her own prophecy by winning The Open.

A second reason behind the power of big goals is that knowing what you are working towards makes it easier to see progress. Harvard psychologist Professor Teresa Amabile coined the term, The Progress Principle. She highlighted how people feel better if their daily activity helps them to make progress towards a meaningful goal. She showed how small wins, or pieces of progress, make it easier to keep persisting in the face of challenges. Further, according to researchers the single biggest cause of work burnout is not overload, but working for too long without experiencing personal progress.

Wayne Hall explained his daughter had “a 36-handicap at nine. At 10 years old she got down to 10-handicap and then she set the course record [ ] when she was 11 and that still stands now. Then she was selected for the England squads and just improved from there.”

These pieces of progress will have helped Georgia to be resilient in the face of setbacks.

The third and final reason is that having a clear, overarching objective allows you to pivot if things do not go to plan.

Her father explained her goal last year was also to win The Open. The fact that she failed was not fatal to her career. Instead she re-set and tried again. Wayne Hall said: ”This is the biggest tournament for her, and for us, and we really, really went for it after last year, when we finished third.”

The lesson here is that our goals do not have to be completely rigid. They can be flexible, but creating them appears to be far more beneficial than not.

Georgia Hall’s success story can help us all. Set yourself or your company a F.A.M. Story. It will be beneficial.

  • This article originally appeared in The Yorkshire Post newspaper.

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