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SMART Goal Setting for Pole

I'd love to say that new years resolutions are always successful and that it's easy to achieve your goals every January. Unfortunately that would be lying, the average New Year’s resolution flops within the first two weeks. There is an honest-to-God day called Quitter’s Day, which is on January 12th, where people start to falter on their resolutions. Studies suggest that 80 to 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, and in the world of pole, this makes February the wasteland of broken pole resolutions. Are there better ways to make pole goals happen? Is there a way to avoid the February slump? The answer is yes.

Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Crash and Burn

The first and foremost reason that resolutions nose dive is that people often set overly ambitious goals. The New Year holds a magically quality as a time of reinventing oneself, however many people don’t have realistic views on their actually capacity for changing long term. People don’t always consider time constraints, stress, workloads, financial situations, family obligations and old habits. This lack of connection with what is possible to change and how hard this change will be is called the false hope syndrome.

True change is extraordinarily difficult and frequently requires lifestyle changes. Eating healthier may mean cooking at home more, which means going to the grocery store frequently, meal planning, recipe hunting, cooking time, clean-up time and there may be major life adjustments to the loss of time and even the cut in social time spent eating out.

Habits New and Old

Research in change, has suggested that one of the biggest obstacles in change is that often a resolution is attempting to transform a long-engrained pattern of behavior, known as a habit. In order to make a change, people must be ready to stop an old habit and craft a new habit. An example would be no longer binging on Netflix every week night, but going to the pole studio, seeing friends or reading instead. Studies have shown that it takes 30 to 45 days to create a new habit.

From a psychological standpoint, habits are behaviors so in order to change a behavior the thinking around the behaviors has to change and on top of that for adherence, emotions around the thinking will have to be explored. Neuroscientists have found that pattern creation is based on memory and reinforcing thoughts. Basically, you have to create new pathways in your brain to change a behavior. What this really means is you have to stick with your goals through thick and thin, motivate yourself in the rough patches and the goal has to matter.

SMART Goal Setting

One of the best ways to create change is to goal set SMART goals. This system is used in clinical psychology, business management and many other teamwork situations. In mental health therapy, it's used to help with behavior diminishment, thought changing and remission of symptoms with certain disorders. Part of the goal is to help clients gain awareness, self-efficacy and to face themselves in a truthful manner. By using SMART, goals can be achieved and the idea is to use each letter of the SMART system when creating a goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound.


Name exactly what you want, why and where, precise naming of specifics helps create direction and motivation.

Vague goal: “I want to be better at pole by June.” Specific goal: “I want to have a solid aerial inversion by June.”

Now the specifics come in: what is required to get an aerial inversion? How many days a week will you need to work on it? Which classes will you attend? Who will you work with a friend an instructor? What training should you be doing?


Set up a measurable plan that allows you to track your progress toward the goal. Not only does this give you a guide to follow but this helps with motivation. You can use the measurability as part of a reward system to help yourself make changing a habit more rewarding.

Vague goal: “I will to go to the studio a lot more.” Measurable goal: “I will go to the studio for class twice a week minimum. I will mark it off on a calendar each time I go, so I can see my progress.”


It's always better to break down big goals into smaller goals and if you set realistic goals you will be successful. Change can feel uncomfortable in the beginning, and part of change is learning to understand yourself better and look at the reality of the obstacles you are facing. Be truthful about what you can achieve and not achieve at this point in time.

Unachievable goal: “I want an Iron X within a month.” Achievable goal: “I need to get my Ayesha, Handspring and Butterfly solid before I work on Iron X.”

If you are struggling with achievable goal setting ask your pole instructor for help and honest thoughts on what is truly achievable for you. Depending on how long you have been poling and if you have a gymnastics, dance or acro background achievable goals and time will be different for each individual. Serious self awareness and self compassion will most likely need to show up in this decision. How long have you been poling? How many times a week do you train? Have you discussed this goal with your instructor in class? Do you have the time to train and the money to train? What are the obstacles you will face in achieving this goal?


The goal needs to matter to you and you should know why it’s important. Asking yourself "why do I want this" is fundamental for adherence and to take ownership of the goal.

Far off goal: “I should do a competition.” Currently important goal: “I would like to try performing because I enjoy making art and sharing it with others. I will try out performing in the next student showcase and see how I feel, if that goes well, maybe I can consider training for a competition.”

Do you have the time and commitment available for pursuing this goal? At a core level what does it mean to do this? Are your reasons strong enough to keep you engaged? Are your reasons important and benefit you long term?

Time Bound

Setting deadlines not only keeps up adherence but also keeps one accountability. A set deadline assists with organization of daily tasks and the steps needed to achieve the goal.