a woman presenting to a group

Goal vs Objective: What's the Difference & Examples

Updated May 5, 2024 . AmFam Team

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 break down the differences between goals and objectives and explore some examples of each.

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them

Check out our tips for setting goals that are manageable and attainable.

What is a goal versus an objective? 

A goal is an outcome you want to achieve, while an objective is a specific and measurable action that can be reached in a short amount of time, often related to a goal. 

When written out, goals are typically broad statements rather than a step-by-step process. They are often long-term endeavors. You can even set goals that are lifelong!  

Objectives, on the other hand, 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 toward 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.  

Because a goal can be comprised of many objectives, it almost always take longer to accomplish. Setting objectives can help you better understand the criteria of your goal and the exact steps needed to complete it.  

Examples of Goals with Objectives 

Let's take a deeper dive into the differences between goals and objectives. Each example below covers a different category and outlines a goal and the corresponding objectives that can contribute to accomplishing it.   

Personal Goal

Get eight hours of sleep every night.


  1. Stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon.
  2. Set alarms for going to bed and for waking up.
  3. Avoid exercising two hours before going to bed.

a family on a vacation to a lake

Financial Goal

Save money for a summer vacation.

  1. Calculate how much money you need for your trip.
  2. Designate a specific amount of money each month for saving.
  3. Open a bank account to store the money you are saving for your vacation.

Professional Goal

Improve your presentation skills.  

  1. Watch a video course on how to improve your public speaking skills.
  2. Practice presenting a few times a week.
  3. 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. Here's what the SMART acronym stands for:

S – Specific: What, exactly, do you want to accomplish? 

M – Measurable: How will you measure your progress as you work toward completing your goal? 

A – Achievable: What you can realistically achieve, and what skills will you need to reach your goal?  

R – Relevant: Why do you want to accomplish your goal now? Does it align with your other goals? 

T – Time-sensitive: What deadlines will you set, and how will you hold yourself accountable for meeting them? 

Write out your SMART goals and objectives with this acronym as a guide. 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 do so efficiently.

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, you're ready to start working toward 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.  

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. We believe this information is accurate but do not make any guarantees or promise any results based on this information.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.