The BIG Goal

One the of the reasons to use project management techniques in magical workings is to help you solve problems. Another is to reach big goals. And big goals are good things.

Note: some of the material in this post comes from the books Built to Last and Good to Great by James Collins and Jerry Porras. I can't recommend the books as a whole. The bulk of the books are business book, focused on corporations, which don't apply to what we're up to. But there's a little section in the middle of Good to Great that applies to personal goal setting. It has to do with the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG -- worst acronym ever) and the three circles.

By the way, Dr. Horrible ended up being the theme of this post. Credit where credit is due.

The premise is that successful companies are often driven by a single big goal. This guides everything in the company, from personnel decisions to corporate values and gives a sense of unity and purpose. People can create the same types of goals because they are powerful drivers for change. Having a driving force can propel a person to success.

Why Have a Goal?
Our society is already pretty goal oriented and you can make the argument that if we all just gave up on achievement and relaxed a bit more, we'd live in a better world. However, I'd say that it's the nature of our goals that are the problem, not having them in the first place. Biologically, humans are strivers. We've been pushing the boundaries of instinct, technology, and intellect since we were huddling in caves. It's what we do and when we do it, we do better.

I want to be an achiever, like Bad Horse
... I mean Gandhi
Here are some reasons to set a big goal for yourself:
  • You want to change your life. Changing your life is easy of course (tomorrow, leave your house and never return). But changing it in a way that's right for you, that's a net positive, can be much more challenging.
  • You want to level up. "The status is not quo." The next stage calls to you: spiritual, emotional, physical, or material. Your life, only better.
  • You need something you don't have. The big three here are health, love, and money. It's usually not as simple as a charm or spell. In order to be healthy, you have to do lots of hard things like eat broccoli and jog. To find love you have to bust out and meet people, be vulnerable, and accept the love you're given. And money? Yeah, the system isn't exactly stacked in your favor.
Anyone can make a goal, but the optimal BHAG is at the intersection of three things: who you are, what you're good at, and what the world needs.
Venn diagram for the Win!

Of course, this is a plan for identifying real business goals rather than magical goals. For the magician, you have to adjust your interpretation of the diagram just a bit. For example, these three circles can symbolically correspond with the Celtic three realms or the Trailokya or the Christian Holy Trinity or the Newage mind/body/spirit (and probably about 100 other ones -- three is a magic number).

The premise is that in order to pick an appropriate magical goal, you need to unify who you are at a base level (the Underworld, the past, the mind, the Father), what you can do now (the Earth, the present, the body, the Son), and what's really needed (the Heavens, the future, the spirit, the Holy Spirit).

So, starting at the top (or rather the bottom) -- Who you are:
Who are you? According to our nifty Venn diagram, this includes your values and your passions.

Passion has gotten a lot of traction in recent years. In fact, some would have you believe that if you aren't pursuing your passion to the exclusion of all else that you are failing at living. But I think that values are at least as important if not more important than passion (cue collective gasp from lifehackers).

The current thinking is that everyone has to "discover" their passion, as if each person has some primary passion that exists a priori but may be hidden from them.

Well, I call bullshit.

First, how can you have a passion that you don't know about? Either you are passionate or you aren't. You don't discover passion, you develop it. Sure, maybe there's something out there that you could be super passionate about, but there are probably things you are already passionate about too. And if you don't feel passionate about anything, you have much bigger problems than goal setting. Maybe you shouldn't start by "finding your passion" but by becoming more passionate about life in general. Then you will have passions you can leverage for meeting your goals.

Second, you can be really passionate about things that are frankly not good for you (Rule the World! Bacon! Anonymous truck-stop sex!). And you can be passionate about multiple contradictory things. The idea that passion is some kind of holy grail, a golden arrow pointing to the promised land is really disingenuous. Passion is energy and just like any other energy, it can be used for good or ill.

Third, passion can get you moving, but it's not all that matters. For figuring out who you are, the best bet is to figure out what you value. If actions and passions aren't in alignment with values  -- well, no wonder it's hard to get shit done.

Enough lecturing, here's a personal example. I value -- or at least I claim to value -- health. I value health because I value family (and want to be with them a long time) and I value sustainability. And there are ways in which my actions are aligned with my values (I just ate a salad... an organic salad... with homemade all natural dressing... go me). On the other hand, we all know that exercise is a critical component of health. And here I'm not so good at acting in alignment with my values. Which makes me feel kind of crappy (and not just physically, but emotionally).

So what do you value? Intellect? Community? Connection? Family? Where your values intersect with your passions, that describes who you are.

Next up - What you're really good at
The idea is to play to your strengths and talents. Not because working on your weaknesses is bad but because it's not the best use of your energy. And for a really big goal, you need all the energy you can get. Being athletic has never been a strength of mine, but in looking at ways to be more fit, I need to focus on things I can do. Joining a sports team would be terrible idea, but an activity where I only compete with myself and have a way of seeing progress... that plays to my strengths.

Lots of business and life coaches suggest playing on strengths, so I went hunting for actual research that backs it up. And there is plenty. Plus doing a lot of what you suck at just kind of sucks. It's not the effort (you can be good at things that are hard), it's the endless grind. It's demoralizing.

He's Moist

In case you have no clue what you're good at, take a look at this article by the Harvard Business Review. It describes a process called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise. Quickly, the stages are as follows:
  1. Ask a bunch of people who know you what you're good at.
  2. Look for themes in the feedback.
  3. Write a description of yourself highlighting your strengths.
  4. Create a description of your goal or dream life based on this description.
Yeah, yeah, I know the article is all career oriented. And it's the Hah-vad Business Review. It's like taking advice from the Fourth Circle of Hell! To that I say, you take good advice where you find it and if you can re-purpose the tools of the system to your own ends, all the better. 

Finally -- What the world needs
Really? Well yeah, the concept of a BHAG was formulated out of a business book. So there's a bias toward business and corporate related goals. If you're a company and want to have a big goal, there'd better be some kind of need there or you won't succeed.

However, the book itself has an example of the author's wife, who was a triathlete. One day she looked at her husband and said "I think I can win the Ironman" (spoiler alert, after three years of full-time training, she did). Now that's a big goal right there. But there's not exactly some global need for triathletes.

All the cash, all the fame... and social change.
So, let's flip this and look at it from a magical standpoint. Among the many things that the world needs are more people who are focused and know what they need. Apathy and complacency are some of the most powerful weapons of the corporatocracy and their archon leaders. The freedom to decide on a goal and pursue it -- whether or not you are successful -- is one of the most empowering and important freedoms we have.

And make no mistake, those in power would love to strip that freedom away from all of us and replace it with prepackaged goals like "Buy a shiny new toy" or "Ignore your pain by watching reality TV" or "Hate the other guy and let that anger stand in for real emotion" (quantities are unlimited, operators are standing by, so call now!).

The world needs more people who are crafting good dreams and making those dreams happen. The world needs more people who are far enough up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to self-actualize. The world needs more people with a rational concept of "enough" and who know what really makes them happy. The world needs more people who accept and give love easily. The world need your big hairy audacious goal.

Blessing the Goal
Once you have your big goal, what next? Well, since we're not just doing a mundane project workings here, start with a divination to see whether this is a good goal. A basic three card will work fine and should give you some indication of whether to proceed.

Next, I'd recommend a ritual to call blessings down on your goal. Find or create a symbol of your goal and then craft the ritual based on your particularly path. Starting with whichever mystical three-level cosmology or symbol set you like, call the powers of the three realms (from within yourself and/or without) and ask that your goal have the blessing of your Gods/spirits/ancestors/the universe. At this point, don't commit to meeting the goal. Just ask that your goal be blessed and ask that if there is any reason you should not pursue that they send you a clear sign before you start.

We'll soon be delving into project initiation, where we'll be revising the whole blessing thing again. So if you'd like to work along with the PMPM process, start thinking about a major magical working you'd like to apply these tools to. Logical candidates include mitigating a complex risk, solving a vexing problem, or achieving the goal you set.


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