The Systematic Way to Conquer Long-Term Goals, According to ‘School of Greatness’ Host Lewis Howes

The Systematic Way to Conquer Long-Term Goals, According to ‘School of Greatness’ Host Lewis Howes

The Systematic Way to Conquer Long-Term Goals, According to ‘School of Greatness’ Host Lewis Howes

By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire

 In short:

  • In a few short years, Lewis Howes went from being broke and sleeping on his sister’s couch to running a seven-figure online business. He has advice for business leaders who are working toward big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs).
  • Howes believes that clarity of vision, finding the “why,” and reverse-engineering are key to setting and accomplishing BHAGs.
  • Unlike solo endeavors, BHAGs require an emotional investment from your entire team. Howes says that again, having a clear “why” will guarantee team buy-in to your goal. 

Lewis Howes is a personal development expert, online business guru and bestselling author. A pro-athlete-turned-entrepreneur, Howes is on a mission to inspire 100 million people to earn a living doing what they love.

Howes is making progress toward his goal with a rapidly growing, multi-faceted business empire consisting of online courses, events and books. He also runs one of the top 100 podcasts in the world, "The School of Greatness,” in which he interviews game-changers in entrepreneurship, health, athletics, mindset and relationships. He has interviewed life coach Tony Robbins and appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and he’s a board member of the nonprofit Pencils of Promise. And at 35 years old, Howes is only getting started.

Howes frequently appears on talk shows and in media to share his tips. (credit: Instagram/lewishowes)

Turning trauma into goals

Howes was bullied as a child and struggled with reading in school. His parents had a tense relationship, and he was sexually abused, leading him to feel worthless and depressed, he wrote on his website. As a teenager, he discovered that channeling his sadness provided a helpful--if temporary--fix.

“Our mind and emotions play tricks on us when we feel we have no purpose or vision, community or contribution in life,” Howes wrote. “... I put all of this negative and lonely energy into my dream of being a professional athlete, and one day, an Olympian.”

That dream came crashing down when Howes suffered an injury that ended his Arena League football career at age 25. While recovering penniless on his sister’s couch, he was forced to channel his energy once again--this time into something more sustainable, which became his current business.

“Broken, broke, and clueless on how to make money or get a career, my obsession for learning about business, marketing, product design, human behavior, and adding value to people (when I had no value to give) began,” Howes wrote. 

After hitting a career wall, Howes taught himself about personal development. (credit: Instagram/lewishowes)

After cracking the code to self-worth, Howes pursues a “pay-it-forward” goal, aiming to “teach people how to pursue the dream that burns inside them and how to earn a full-time income while making an impact on the world and others.” 

It's clear Howes has a knack for setting and accomplishing big, hairy, audacious goals, or BHAGs, the iconic term first pioneered by educator Jim Collins in the best-selling book “Built To Last.” Howes told Grow Wire his tactics for achieving BHAGs, specifically those related to building and scaling a business.  


1. Define your goal, daily.

Howes revisits his goal--inspiring 100 million people to make a living doing what they love--every morning, so it’s fresh in his mind as he decides which actions to prioritize throughout the day. 

“It's so important to be clear on your big vision, your long-term goal, and why it matters,” Howes told Grow Wire. “That is something I check in with every morning. Then I can focus on just the two or three key things I can do that day to move my team and business forward towards that goal. This mindset helps me avoid getting overwhelmed and make clear decisions day-to-day.”

2. Review your “why,” and get others onboard. 

Howes said that before working toward your BHAG, it’s helpful to make sure your team understands the “why,” which allows everyone in the company to connect with your collective goal on an emotional level and stay focused. 

On his website and in the press, Howes shares openly about his past struggles and how they shape his business goals. This undoubtedly helps his team get onboard with his projects, as they understand the impetus behind Howes’s directives.

“If you don't enroll every member of your team in your big vision, they're not going to commit to making it happen,” said Howes. “I always spend time enrolling my team into the vision of what will be possible when we achieve a huge goal before I ask them to perform at a high level.”

When your team understands the purpose of attaining a goal, they can bond with the outcome on an emotional level. This deep commitment leads to bold teams with the ability to tackle goals others may not attempt, according to Howes. His strategy echoes that of business leaders like Don Miller of Meals on Wheels, who frequently reminds his team of the organization’s overall goal, then includes them in drafting its one-year plan. 

3. Write it down. 

To stay positive in the face of BHAGs, Howes uses daily reminders and visualization. 

“I write down my BHAG on a certificate of achievement with the date I plan to accomplish it by and mount it on my wall, so I see it every day," said Howes. "This reminds me of my purpose, and it also programs my mind to believe that I've already achieved my big goal.”

Other personal development moguls including Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield have talked extensively about the benefits of visualization.  

CEOs in other industries cite benefits of visualization too. In a guest post for Inc, Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk, states that visualization helped him turn his junk removal firm from a $1 million company into the $100 million 02E Brands. He sat down and imagined every detail of his business’s future, from the number of franchises he’d have to appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” And according to Scudamore, nearly all of it came to fruition. 

By writing down his company goals and imagining how he will reach them, Howes is performing a process called imagery training. The technique is intended to remove self-doubt, limiting beliefs or any other mental blocks that may be hindering your ability to succeed.

The key is to create absolute certainty – to fill yourself with the belief that you will accomplish what you set out to, no matter what is happening in the external world," Robbins wrote on his blog.

According to Robbins, to work towards a BHAG, you must first believe that accomplishing your goal is feasible. You must see the end as something you can and will attain. 


4. Break big goals into small ones. 

“One of the best tools I know to manage a BHAG is to reverse-engineer the process of achieving it,” said Howes. “I break it down into six-month, one-month, and weekly goals that lead up to achieving the big one.”   

Reverse-engineering the path to a BHAG allows you to understand the individual steps necessary to reach your goal, and the timing in which each needs to take place. This process also gives fuel to the fire by allowing you and your team to see how achieving the end goal is possible.

 “This makes it really clear for my team and me to avoid being overwhelmed by the goal and set our focus on weekly progress,” said Howes.

🌱 The bottom line  

It’s safe to say Howes is on the way to achieving his “100 million people” goal: Now in its fifth year, his podcast gets more than 2 million downloads per month, and his webinars regularly pull thousands of attendees. He’s a bestselling author, and he frequently appears on high-viewership TV shows. His latest project is a Facebook Live show about how to build yourself a better future, which already has more than 100,000 followers.

As a business leader, you must have long-term goals to steer your organization. Be sure they are clear, concrete and rooted in a “why.” Get your team sold on the mission, then map out the steps through reverse-engineering and tackle them one at a time. If you have doubts, push past them with visualization until failure becomes an afterthought. 

Then, prepare yourself for the long and exciting journey ahead.

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