Although SMART Goals are foundational to most approaches to behavior change counseling, a new study suggests that non-specific goals may also have a rightful place in the behavior change toolbox.

Measuring the results of a 6-minute walk test, the researchers found that participants who were given either specific or non-specific goals outperformed the participants who were not given goals.

“There was no significant difference in the distance walked by participants pursuing open, do-your-best, as-well-as-possible and SMART goals; all of whom walked significantly further than participants in the control.”

The Potential Benefits of Non-Specific Goals in Physical Activity Promotion: Comparing Open, Do-Your-Best, and As-Well-As-Possible Goals in a Walking Task

Why It Matters

Although generally accepted as the most effective approach to behavior change, there is nothing sacred about the use of specific goals. If the research consensus shows that non-specific goals can be effective for some people, then behavior change counselors should be willing and prepared to discuss them with their clients.