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Goal Setting with Open goals or SMART goals

We are a 3 weeks into the new year now so many of you have probably thought about what you would like to achieve this year. Some have even put goals up on the black board in the gym.

The purpose of this article is to provide a framework and identify any traps relating to goal setting and to help everyone be more effective in 2021.

Is there one perfect way to set goals, not really. Like most things the answer lies in some nuance. Depending on your personality type, such as a type A, you may like really specific goals, if you’re more of a laid back style you may do better with an open ended goal. The next few hundred words will hopefully provide you with some options for either to help you figure out the best option for you.

Open goals or SMART goals?

Most people will be aware that SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timebound.
An example of this is;

“I am going to walk 10,000 steps per day”

** Side note, 10,000 steps has no scientific backing behind it, it’s just a random number they picked. It works because it gives people something to focus on and usually they are going from very little to something more.

The alternative is an Open Goal. These are usually less specific and focus more on participation more than a hard pass or fail end point.

In this study, golfers did better when they set the open goal, “see how many under par I can get”.

This study shows people walked further with an open goal.

Here are a few criteria for setting up your 2021 to be better than your 2020.

  1. Choose the right goals
    • Make it something that you actually want to achieve. Not something for anyone else or something that doesn’t line up with you intrinsically.
  2. Focus on process rather than the outcome
    • If you get the process right, the outcome will take care of itself. By focusing on the process and creating smaller targets you can stack small wins together and create a confidence multiplier.

      An example of this would be;
    • Outcome Goal: Decrease body-fat
    • Process Goals:
      • Eat protein at each meal
      • Consume 1.6kg/bw protein per day
      • Limit desert to twice weekly
  3. Try to avoid the “all or nothing approach”
    • This approach tends to be very restrictive and unadaptable. These 2 qualities tend to produce short lasting results.
    • Instead, try setting a range.
  4. You don’t have to do what you’ve always done.
    • Failing at the same goal for the last 3 years isn’t helping you. Reflect if your goals have been open or closed and try the opposite. Go back to point 1 and reevaluate what you want to write down as a goal this year. Look outside your normal zone and perhaps you’ll discover something you really enjoy.

Owner of WINKfit Matt, mid goal setting session with a WINKfit client.

Still struggling for ideas for a goal? Here is my number 1 suggestion:


I can give you the world’s best programme but if you aren’t consistent with it, it’s not worth the paper its printed on.

If you skip one workout for the week and think:

“It’s just one workout, it’s fine.”

The flaw in your thinking is that, if you normally do 3 sessions a week you’ve just skipped 33%. You’ve also eroded your habit building of positive healthy strategies.

Consistency example goals

  • Attend 200 gym sessions in 2021
  • Walk the dogs everyday for no less than 5km
  • Avg 3 bike rides per week for 2021
  • Sleep 8 hours or more per night a minimum of 4 nights a week

If our thought process appeals to you, our gym vibe will too. Come and see if we can add value to you.