It’s that time of year when many of us are setting goals for the year ahead. ABC recently reported the most common New Year’s resolution set by 59% of people is to exercise more. However, research suggests the way people typically set goals in exercise often do not work. To improve the chances of success, one suggestion is to set open goals.
For most of our lives, we have been advised to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound). For example, aiming to walk 10,000 steps per day is a common example. One main problem with specific goals is that they are all or nothing: we either achieve the goal or fail. When we fail to hit our specific goal, we may well give up. Whereas open goals are non-specific and exploratory, often phrased as aiming to “see how well I can do.”
Open goals aren’t just good for performance, they also have many more psychological benefits than SMART goals. Studies have found that open goals make walking more enjoyable and allow people to feel like they performed better. This boosts motivation and suggests open goals can help people stick with their exercise routine longer.
If you are looking to set open goals, your focus is on your starting point. For example, if your goal is to “see how many steps I can reach today”, as you track your steps and your step count continues to rise, you will feel like you are making progress. By not comparing against where you should be (SMART goal), you are instead constantly building on your starting point.
This will create a positive outlook on exercise and the more positive we feel during exercise the more we will want to do it over and over.
To start setting your own open goals for 2021, first think about what you want to improve on. For example, “being more active”, identify what you want to measure such as walking each day.
Phrase your goal in an open-ended, exploratory way: “I want to see how long I can get my average daily walk time to by the end of the year.” By setting open goals you are more likely to see progress, enjoy the process and stick with it until you are ready to set more specific goals.
Don’t forget setting too large a goal can be a barrier to success. Setting small achievable goals to establish entrenched habits gives yourself more chance of long-term success.
If you are wanting guidance on what type of health goals, you should set for 2021 our doctors are always here to help.
Book on appointment online with one of our doctors to discuss your health goals for 2021. Book here: www.reydonstreet.com.au/billing-arrangements/bookings/