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SMART Goal Setting for Pole

The time of unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions is here. The average New Year’s resolution bombs within the first two weeks. There is actually a day called Quitter’s Day, which is on January 12th. This is the day where, on average, 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, that statistic is no different. February is the wasteland of broken pole resolutions. Are there better ways to make pole goals happen? 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 magical quality and it is often considered a time for reinventing oneself. However many people don’t have a realistic view of their actual capacity for change. It’s easy to forget your time constraints, stress, workloads, financial situations, family obligations and old habits. This lack of connection with what it is possible to change and how hard it is to change may place many resolutions in a doomed place from the start.

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 a realistic view on one’s 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.

Another factor that matters in maintaining resolutions is the cause and effect relationship. It’s easy to set unrealistic expectations not just in meeting the goal but on how the goal will change life, an example would be believing that losing weight would solve all other life problems, such as having a great job, not feeling depressed, and meeting Mr. Right. However, if the person adheres to the changes in diet and fitness, loses some weight but doesn’t see immediate removal of life problems, the person backslides to old habits because the reward is worth it.

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 night, but going to the pole studio instead.

Habits are tricky, in general these patterns were developed for a reason and on some level we like the reason. Often the reasons are self-soothing, watching Netflix is pacifying and interacts with pleasure centers in the brain so it actually feels good to watch. Breaking the cycle may be thornier than expected. 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 often 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 psychological therapy, it is 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.


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

“I want to be better at pole by June.” Versus “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? what training should you be doing and how many times a week?


Set up a plan that allows you to track your progress toward the goal, which helps with motivation and can be seen as a form of reward.

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


The goal should challenge you but also be realistic. 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.

“I want an Iron X within a month.” Versus “I need to get my ayesha, handspring and butterfly solid and maybe by the summer I can consider working Iron X.”

I would venture to say that depending on how long you have been poling and if you have a gymnastics, dance or acro background that this goal will look incredibly different for each individual.

The self-awareness comes play here: 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 a solid handspring, butterfly and Ayesha series? 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 need to look at the depth of why it’s important and why at this point in time. Asking yourself these questions is fundamental for adherence and to also take ownership of the goal.

“I should do a competition.” Versus “I want to perform, 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 it? At a core level what does it mean to do this?

Time Bound

Setting deadlines not only keeps up adherence but also keeps one accountability. A set deadline can help daily tasks and excuses get out of the way.

“I want to get better at choreo.” Versus “I will attend choreo class once a week and perform in a group at the student showcase at the end of the May.”


Digging deep into what holds accountability is one of the major ways to make it through the 30 to 45 days mark on habit changing. Consider social support options, tools for adherence such as apps or positive rewards for meeting goals.

Look at these options

Get a workout buddy who comes to class with you

Get Apps that hold you accountable

Treat working time toward your goal as an appointment, so you can’t schedule things over the top.

Set measurable points on the journey to the goal. Celebrate these achievements.

Create a system on calendars or ways to measure the distance

Have a plan for setbacks.

Faltering on goals can mean that the goal is too ambitious, but it could also be that continued effort is needed and perhaps a remodel of the original goal plan. It’s ok to have a setback, we are human and perfectly imperfect. First off, one should always be kind to oneself in a setback, but also have enough self-awareness to figure out why the setback occurred. After discovering the points of weakness, restructure the plan for the goal, make adjustments from what was learned in the setback. An example would be that two months into the goal of getting the Butterfly by three months you discover you are no closer to the objective. So be realistic, maybe you need six more months, maybe some private lessons, maybe more time in the studio. Explore why the goal is not happening and how you can rewrite your plan. Happy Pole Goal Setting!