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Big Hairy Audacious Purpose

Creating purpose for life… & exercise, diet, sleep, mood etc.

Walk down the street and I think it’s a pretty sure bet that if you ask one hundred random strangers what the most important things are for good health, the majority would say exercise, good food, adequate sleep and a positive frame of mind.

Smiling overweight man in bathing suit

Press them a little further and I’m fairly confident the majority would be able to get fairly close to dialling in on the details, e.g. the volume and intensity of the exercise, the types of foods (plants), how much sleep etc.

Now we’ve all heard the stats, we become a little immune to them but the latest data tells us it’s not pretty. Every second person has a chronic disease, yet one in three is completely preventable. One in three of us are obese & have high cholesterol, almost half of us are completely inactive and a quarter of us have high blood pressure. So, if the majority of us have a fair idea of what’s important, why are the majority of us suffering from problems caused by lack of movement, too much energy and too little good food, lack of sleep and poor mood?

When I ask this question, the most common answer is; “because we are lazy”.

Really? Think about that for a moment. Are you satisfied with the amount of exercise you get? Do you always prepare nutrient-packed meals? Now, would you say you’re a lazy person? You’re often late to work without reason, call in sick a lot when you’re really not? You rarely clean up or do things for others? You often take shortcuts or do things half-arsed?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my share of people who you would probably call lazy. However, the majority of people I get to meet are far from it. They’re busy, hardworking, devoted spouses, friends, parents etc. So that brings us back to my initial question. Why don’t we move, eat, sleep, and think the way we know we should?

Well, I certainly don’t think we are lazy. I think it comes down to a lack of purpose. 1000 years ago, we didn’t have gyms, or Fast Fuel meals, or epidemic levels of heart disease, type 2 diabetes or cancer. We died a lot earlier, but that was due to a bunch of other problems we would come to solve.

Back in the day, when we were evolving, we were built to do things as efficiently as possible because energy was scarce and you had to work for it. Back then our movement was linked to purpose and our food was limited by two factors, how much we moved and how plentiful it was. Nowadays the environment we live in (which we created) is the opposite. We don’t need to move, UberEats will sort that for us, and our food is everywhere. If you run out of energy on the way to the shops, the good news is a fast food joint will be there to ensure you make the distance.

So, if there’s no short-term reason to drive you to move or moderate your energy consumption then it’s going to be tough. Granted, a bunch of us have built habits around the subtler side effects of movement (endorphins, dampening of your sympathetic nervous system etc.) and some of us have been made vulnerable, causing us to value movement or suffer the consequences. However, the majority of us still lack the purpose that drives us to move.

The solution? Find a purpose. Create the imperative to raise the tempo and to feast from mother natures garden. How? Well, that’s where a B.H.A.P. becomes crucial. What’s a B.H.A.P.? It’s a Big Hairy Audacious Purpose. How does it help? Well, I’ll explain that next time…

Be good to yourself


A Big Hairy Audacious Purpose Explained

So, what is a Big Hairy Audacious Purpose, or B-HAP for short? Well, it’s big first of all. Secondly, it’s scary. All hairy things are scary. Thirdly, it’s audacious, or in other words, it’s something you’re willing to take surprisingly bold risks for. Lastly, it’s a purpose relevant to your life.

3d cartoon cute red hairy alien monster

In other words, it’s your life purpose, your life goal, the thing that makes you get out of bed in the morning, the thing that makes troubling times a little less troubling, or at least tolerable. It’s the thing that drives your actions and behaviours and makes you feel uncomfortable if your actions are in contrast to this purpose, even if you aren’t conscious yet of what that purpose is yet.

So where did the idea of a B-HAP come from? Well, it’s a play on a concept developed in Jim Collins corporate development book, Built to Last. A BHAG (pronounced “Bee Hag,” short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”) is a powerful way to stimulate progress within the business. Think of the NASA moon mission of the 1960s. Well, we thought this concept could work on an individual basis along with a whole bunch of benefits for our health (more on that in a minute).

Why not just run with a Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Well, goals have an endpoint. Our personal view is that you shouldn’t stop working on your health until you’re made to… Hence, purpose instead.

There’s a whole bunch more though. As Friedrich Nietzsche once philosophised, “he who has a why to live for, can bear with almost any how”. In other words, if you know why you’re putting up with crappy times, those crappy times will have less of a negative effect on your outlook and your health. Secondly, your B-HAP aligns with your core values as a human and your key strengths. When our actions align with our strengths we feel content, if they stray, we feel discontent. When we have the opportunity to work on things that align with our strengths we are happier little humans.

Finally, if we have a life purpose or meaning we are healthier. Recent research has shown that those who experience happiness derived through experiences associated with life purpose, challenge and growth vs those who experience happiness through self-gratification (new boat, car, etc.) their immune function is very different. Essentially both groups feel the same, yet the meaningfully happy group have a stronger, less taxed immune system. The second group have a similar profile to those who are a chronically stressed.

So, the point is, what is your B-HAP? What do you want out of life? What is most important to you. What are your values, your most important connections and your strengths? What are you willing to sacrifice for?

Within these questions lies the answer to your B-HAP

Be good to yourself