When it comes to New Year's Resolutions, setting lists is much easier than getting stuff done. Resolutions fail for many reasons, with people often demanding too much of themselves and being too rigid about the goals they set. According to new research, 'open' resolutions are much more likely to succeed. If we make open-ended rather than specific goals, we are much more likely to achieve positive results. Whether you want to get fitter or be more productive at work, open goals offer a range of psychological and performance benefits.
Goal-setting theory from the 1990s and even earlier continues to change and evolve. The old-fashioned all-or-nothing approach to setting goals may be doing more harm than good, with people often giving up when they fail to reach a milestone instead of pushing on. Instead of setting highly specific and limiting goals, open goals are about focusing on the important movement forward rather than a distant and often arbitrary destination. Open goals are non-specific and exploratory, such as "let's see how well I can do", or "maybe I can jump even higher".
Open goals are already being used by professional athletes and the fitness industry, with Apple recently including open goals as a workout option on their fitness-oriented Watch products. According to some athletes, open goals are connected with the important concept of "flow", which is an enjoyable and productive state where everything falls into place. Because open goals are about the journey and not the destination, they eliminate the fear of failure and remove the paralysis and procrastination that often accompany the world of fitness.
There is another key difference between traditional destination-centred goals and open journey-driven goals, with the former focused on the future and the later focused very much on the "now". New Year's Resolutions and other goal-setting behaviours often fail because they set an unrealistic gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Instead of daydreaming about what may be, open goals help you to start working immediately to make your dreams come true. This is especially important for everyday people who are trying to set a fitness routine.
Open goals are about transforming fear into opportunity, and turning words into actions. Instead of comparing yourself to an, often unattainable, end-point, you're constantly building on a very real starting point. If you want to improve yourself in any way in 2021, setting enthusiastic but open goals may be the key. Once you start seeing progress and experiencing the benefits of your hard work, it's easy enough to move the goalposts and keep forging ahead. At the end of the day, adopting a flexible and agile approach to your future will take you much further than an endless cycle of expectation and regret.