Updated September 3, 2022 . 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.
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.
Objectives, on the other hand, are precise targets you’re striving to complete, or individual steps in a process.
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.
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.
Get eight hours of sleep every night.
Save money for a summer vacation.
Improve your presentation skills.
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, 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 do so efficiently.
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.