Resistance by definition is self-sabotage Steven Pressfield

If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.  Robert Fritz

Each of us, Steven Pressfield tells us, carries within us a “still small voice” that calls us to do our life’s work and a toxic force, “the Resistance” that holds us back from achieving our calling. Seth Godin calls this toxic force “the lizard brain.” Any creative act involves our own internal fight between these two forces, a battle that “must be fought anew everyday.”

In my last post I suggested personal vision, a clear statement describing who we are and what we want to accomplish, can help us fight the Resistance by clarifying why we want to listen to our “still small voice.”  Equally important, I believe, is to pull ourselves forward by establishing compelling goals that keep us from sleep walking through our experiences and settling for the status quo.

The power of goals in organizations was famously described by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their business classic Built to Last, where they famously identified Big Hairy Audacious Goals as a defining characteristic of visionary, effective organizations.  Porras, then, went on to suggest that Big Hairy Audacious Goals are critically important for personal success.  Here are some of Porras’s ideas from his book about personal success, Success Built to Last:  Creating a Life that Matters.

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

engages people–it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focussed. People get it right away; it takes little or no explanation.  It has a clear finish line.

is an extension of who you are and what matters to you.

instantly captures your head and heart.  It delivers clear direction.

requires a certain level of unreasonable confidence.

What BHAGs do, is the propose a new vision of what we want

To embrace a BHAG (a clear, important, easy to understand goal that is profoudly motivating emotionally and intellectually)  is to arm ourselves for the creative battle. Committing to such a goal while also having a clear understanding of current reality creates a tension that stands at the heart of much creative action.  Peter Senge, building on the work of Robert Fritz, nicely describes how this creative tension works in The Fifth Discipline:

The juxtaposition of vision (what we want) and a clear picture of current reality (where we are relative to what we want) generates what we call creative tension:  a force to bring them together, caused by the natural tendency of tension to seek resolution.  The essence of personal mastery is learning how to generate and sustain creative tension in our lives.  

What all of this suggests, is that creative teachers, radical learners, can fight the resistance by establishing Big Hairy Audacious Goals for their classrooms.  Here are just  few suggestions:

Every student will master the content being teaching

All students will report they love learning on their exist slip of each class

I’ll create specific proficiencies and informal assessments for every question explored in class

Each students will be totally engaged by each class

My students will set their own BHAGs and see the connection between what we learn and their personal goals. (Kathy Perret has a nice video about student goal setting on her most recent blog).

These are only some suggestions of course.  What ever area of growth we identify, we might move forward by establishing a BHAG.  And I don’t want to miss out on the fun. So my Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to run the New York City Marathon on November 6 2011 at a 3:45 pace.   I’m registered, so stay tuned. I have a clear picture of current reality, and believe me, there will be a lot of creative tension if I’m to achieve this goal.