Are SMART Flexibility Goals Setting You Up for Failure?

SMART goals are considered the gold standard, but they are just one goal-setting method and may not be the best method for you. 
Ashleigh Flanagan
December 31, 2021

Are SMART Flexibility Goals Setting You Up for Failure?

My last blog post discussed how establishing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, with a Timeframe) flexibility goals can be problematic. Firstly, it isn't easy to know if a goal is not achievable. Flexibility goals should be inspiring and aspirational because you won't achieve a goal you don't set. If you decide you will never achieve a split, you wont work towards it, so of course, you won't ever achieve it. Secondly, while Establishing a time frame for achieving a SMART goal establishes urgency and commitment, it is difficult to predict how long a flexibility goal will take to achieve as we all respond differently to training. You often have limited control over how long it takes to achieve a flexibility goal. By setting a time frame to achieve a goal, you can be setting yourself up to fail before you start despite your best efforts.

With SMART goals, you are always not succeeding, unless and until you reach your goal. This all or nothing approach to goal setting can lead you to judge yourself against unrealistic standards instead of focusing on the bigger picture, celebrating progress and continually improving in your own time.

Don't get me wrong, SMART flexibility goals are not all bad. They can be useful if they inform your programming, evaluation and review in specific ways. To learn how to get the most out of SMART flexibility goals, read the blog post here.

Open goals Vs SMART goals

Open goals don't establish a deadline to achieve a goal or clearly define an end objective. For example, an open flexibility goal may be 'Let's see how deep I can get in a middle split in a year'. The benefit of this kind of goal is that any progress, anytime you work towards this goal you are 'succeeding', meaning you are more likely to continue. It's easier to stick to an open goal than a specific goal, you are less likely to judge yourself negatively about your progress, and your goal is less likely to be impacted by factors outside of your control (e.g. covid). Open goals encourage curiosity and exploration, i.e. 'let's see how this goes?'. In reality, there is never only one way to achieve a goal, and the path is never linear. 

A downside to setting open goals is that they can be vague and not directly inform a plan. 'Be more flexible' isn't a goal, it's a wish. You need to have an idea of what success would look like for you. Ask yourself, 'what does being flexible mean to me?', "How will I know when I am flexible?', 'why is being flexible important to me?' The answers to questions like these will help motivate, guide, and inspire you and focus your training. 

To learn more about open goals and exercise, read this article by Associate Professor of Psychology Dr Swann. Want to Exercise More? Try Setting an Open Goal for your New Years Resolution.



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