Become a Unicorn. Create a Health BHAG.

by Justin Thomas

"Get into a comfortable position with both of your feet planted on the floor," the teacher instructed. I was sitting in a classroom with 35 fellow students at Duke Integrative Medicine. It was our first week of an integrative health coaching training program. I was beginning to feel slightly out of place. Our teacher continued, "Then, allowing your eyes to close or cast down, begin to focus your awareness on your breath." Now I was feeling out of place.

The breathing exercise continued for another minute or two. When I was settling in, I hear, "your Future Self is waiting for you; waiting to talk to you." Even with all the doubt and unease in my bones, I remember seeing a clear picture of my future self. The teacher wrapped up the exercise, "When you open your eyes, please remain silent, pick up your paper and crayons and begin drawing whatever you remember from this journey."

I did what I was instructed and started drawing the image I saw in my head. My future self-was a Navy Seal. I had no intention of really transitioning from my civilian life to a military career.  Plus simulating drowning and lack of sleep are not my heart's desire. The image represented strength, confidence, and most of all, an ability to protect those around me from harm. I couldn't believe the exercise prompted such a clear vision.

Motivated by this vision, I signed up for a GoRuck Tough challenge. It's a team-based endurance event lead by Navy Seals and other types of Military Special Operations professionals. It's a 12-hour overnight event for civilians to get a small glimpse into special ops training by carrying a backpack with 30 lbs of weight, food, water, and essentials. The military operations leader, known as the "Cadre" also brings a plethora of extra weight that the team has to carry throughout the night such as sandbags, water jugs, and logs while completing specific assigned tasks.

This type of event requires training and preparation. I started walking around with my backpack with weight and exercising. All was going according to plan until I pulled my back trying to do tire flips and then shortly after that I pulled my hamstring during a pick-up basketball game! Both injuries were a shot to the pride, and it forced me to go to a physical therapist (PT) for the first time in my life. My PT did some tests and told me I was one of the most inflexible clients he had ever seen! He softened the blow by qualifying it with one of the most rigid "fit" individuals, but it was another shot to the pride. Now wholly humbled, all I could do was rest and stretch for a couple of weeks.

I was starting to get nervous. My GoRuck challenge was only 10 weeks out. I did not feel like I was getting anywhere close to becoming a Navy Seal, let alone walk without pain. I thought back to my health vision and remembered how Navy Seals tough it out, don't ring the bell to quit, and make the most out of situations. I tried to do just that, and before long it was time for the event.

After 9+ hours into the GoRuck challenge we were all exhausted, and there was more to go. Our team was moving along at a slow pace as you might imagine when our Cadre pointed to one of the other guys and said: "you are a casualty and need to be carried." The group stopped, everyone took a moment to breathe and soak in the new reality of not only carrying our current weight, backpacks, log, sandbags, and heavy metal we now needed to move a person. I stepped out of the line and slung the guy across my shoulders and started to walk. I didn't go far before needing a break, but it was a moment I will never forget. That day I took a tangible step toward my vision of my future, healthy self.

As entrepreneurs, we all have a vision for our company. We may even have a fancy 2-page strategic plan with a 10 yr, 3 yr, and 1 yr goal. I did when I was CEO of a small tech company. It inspired the team, gave us purpose and a clear goal. We spent hours formulating the vision and crafting a plan to execute it. Why don't we do the same in our health?

Most of us are familiar with the concept of big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAG). It's almost a requirement in any pitch deck and HR material. I would propose that every entrepreneur, especially those of us who are faith driven, need to have a modified and personal Health BHAG, a big HEALTHY audacious goal.

We need to be a good steward of our health. We are called to be a good steward of the body God gave us. We know this already though. Specifically, we all know it's better to eat whole, real food than junk food. We all know it's better to receive 7+ hours of sleep than to try and operate off of 4 hours plus ungodly amounts of coffee to push through. We don't need head knowledge to be healthy; we need a vision.

Set a Health BHAG

Set a health BHAG - Something that motivates and inspires you. Romans 12 explores this idea of being a living sacrifice and in verse 1 to "offer your body" to God. We all want to be healthy, but that is simply not enough. There needs to be a genuine motivation. Without a Health BHAG you are just spinning your wheels like you would be doing in your business without a clear vision. You make tough decisions and apply discipline to strive towards your established goal. I would encourage you to do the same for your personal health and wellness. It will make you a better entrepreneur, and you will honor God's word by treating your body like the temple it is:

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" 1 Corinthians 6:19

You know about goal setting and vision casting as an entrepreneur. You know that your body is not your own, bought with a price, a temple for God's spirit as a faith-driven individual. It's time to put these skills and beliefs together. Create your own BHAG.

You don't have to be a certified health coach to do it. Merely ask yourself a few questions such as:

  • "what does my optimal health look like?

  • What does achieving that allow me to do?"

Start putting down some smart measurables that you hope to get to in 3 years for your Health BHAG.  Then think about how far you can reasonably get in the next 3 months as your first quarterly goal.

A unicorn is not an entrepreneur or company with a $1b valuation. It's, unfortunately, an entrepreneur who is successful AND healthy. We are called to be salt and light in this world as believers. Perhaps one way we can positively stand out is simply modeling healthy habits and honoring our bodies as Christ commands.

Thank you to Tim Goedhart on Unsplash for the cover photo.