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Goal vs Objective: What's the Difference & Examples
On your journey to achieve your dreams, there’s no doubt you have many goals you want to accomplish. A concept that is frequently confused for “goals” is “objectives,” as the two words are often used interchangeably. There are a number of differences that set these two concepts apart though, like how they are measured and how long it takes to complete them. Understanding the distinction between goals and objectives can help you more efficiently plan out your goals and make them more attainable.
Let’s breakdown the differences between goals and objectives and explore some examples of each.
What Is a Goal?
A goal is a desired outcome you want to achieve. When written out, goals are typically broad statements rather than a step-by-step process. They are often long-term endeavors, and you can even set goals that are lifelong.
What Is an Objective?
An objective is a specific and measurable action that can be achieved in a short amount of time. Typically, objectives are precise targets you’re striving to complete, or individual steps in a process.
What Is the Difference Between Goals and Objectives?
The key difference between goals and objectives is that objectives are the individual actions you need to take to achieve a goal. When working towards accomplishing a goal, often you'll have objectives you must complete along the way. By completing objectives, you’re making progress towards completing your goal.
Goals can also be comprised of many objectives you need to first complete. That’s why goals almost always take longer to accomplish than objectives. Completing objectives may not mean the goal you are working towards is complete, but setting objectives can help you better understand the criteria of your goal and the exact steps needed to complete it.
Examples of Goals and Objectives
Let's take a deeper dive into the differences between goals and objectives. Here are some examples across three broad categories of goals and corresponding objectives that can contribute towards accomplishing each goal.
Get eight hours of sleep every night.
- Stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon
- Set alarms for going to bed and for waking up
- Avoid exercising two hours before going to bed
Save money for a summer vacation.
- Calculate how much money you need for your trip
- Designate a specific amount of money each month for saving
- Open a bank account to store the money you are saving for your vacation
Improve your presentation skills.
- Watch a video course on how to improve your public speaking skills
- Practice presenting a few times a week
- Give a mock presentation to a coworker and ask for feedback
Use Objectives to Map Your SMART Goals
Need help achieving your goals? Consider organizing your objectives with SMART goal setting. SMART is a methodology that can help you identify relevant objectives and outline a clear path to attaining your goals. Use this acronym to get started:
S – Specific: Exactly what you want to accomplish.
M – Measurable: How you can measure your progress as you work towards completing your goal.
A – Achievable: What you can realistically achieve and the skills you’ll need to learn to attain your goal.
R – Relevant: Why you want to accomplish your goal now and whether it aligns with your other goals.
T – Time-Sensitive: Your deadlines and how to hold yourself accountable for finishing your goal.
Write out your SMART goals and objectives with this acronym as a guide, or use our guide to setting SMART goals worksheet to get started. By breaking down your goals into objectives using the SMART methodology, you can more easily map out what you want to accomplish and how you can efficiently do so. Learn more about SMART goals and things to consider when setting them.
Start Working Toward Your Achievements Today
Understanding the difference between goals and objectives is a great first step in setting your goals. Once you’ve set your goals and objectives, go ahead and start working towards achieving your dreams.
While you’re at it, consider joining the dream movement today. You’ll find tips and resources to support you along any dream pursuit.