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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?

Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?
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You’re at home with your family and you’re planning a vacation for the upcoming summertime. The family sits down and you start discussing options and after an hour, you decide you will rent a modern trailer and drive from your current location (New York) to Miami for vacation. Miami is your goal and all the necessary steps to getting there are your objectives.

Throughout the article, I will refer to the above-mentioned metaphor to explain goals, objectives, and the relationship and differences between those two.

So buckle up and prepare for this ride because we will cover the following:

What Are Goals and Objectives?

The easiest way I can explain what goals are is to tell that they are your final destination. It’s the place where you want to be—mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually.

A goal represents a future we desire to happen, and it serves as a focal point to where we want to go in life (Miami in the case above).

Objectives, on the other hand, are the ways of you getting to your goal. For any single goal, you could have many objectives. An objective in the case above would be renting a trailer (way of getting to Miami). But as I said, you can and should have many objectives for a single goal.

You could add additional objectives to the goal of reaching Miami by stating that you will drive every day for 6 hours (one objective). Also, objectives can serve as indicators that tell you that you are on the right way to achieving your goal.

If you take the road from New York to Miami, along the way you should pass through cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, and Jacksonville. All of these serve as indicators that you are on the right way and that you should be continuing your way.

But is there a systematic difference that will help to differ goals and objectives?

Yes, there is, and the following chapter is all about that.

Goals vs Objectives

Goals answer the question of what.
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to take my family on a vacation to Miami”

Objectives, on the other hand, answer the questions of how.
“How are you getting to Miami”
“We are renting a trailer and driving all the way”

Goals can be vague, qualitative statements that are hard to measure. Sometimes, they can be binary where you measure them by either done/not done.

An example is a goal Napoleon had: “I want to conquer Russia.”  It can be easily measured by done/not done. In his case, it was not done.

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But then, there are those goals that are completely unquantifiable.

For example, “I want to be the best clarinet player in the world,” or “I want to be successful,” or “I want to find the love of my life.” These goals are unquantifiable because they are based mostly on feelings, and feelings are impossible to measure.

Goals are mostly vague and impossible to measure, yet we need them as they provide direction. So, we need something measurable and quantifiable and that is why objectives exist.

Objectives are completely measurable, specific things we do to achieve our goal.

In the family vacation example mentioned where the goal is to get to Miami, objectives provide checkpoints that can be measured. These provide the much necessary objectives measurements that tell us if we are on the right path or we need to change something.

Goal: Drive to Miami from New York in 3 days

Objectives:

  • Reach Richmond by 7 p.m. the first day.
  • Reach Jacksonville by 7 p.m. the second day.
  • Drive in Miami at 7 p.m. the third day.

If we don’t hit the objectives above, we need to change something. Otherwise, we won’t achieve our goal.

If we get late to Richmond on the second day, that means that we either need to adjust our speed (drive faster), adjust our driving time (drive more hours in the day), or make fewer stops (less resting time). There are multiple different ways we can adjust our approach to get to our goal.

But then, there is the question of importance. What is more important, goals or objectives?

Is One More Important Than the Other?

Goals and objectives are two sides of the same coin. There is no value in having just one or the other side—only when we combine them do they serve the purpose.

Goals are there to provide direction—future—of where we want to go. Without a goal, there is no bigger picture and no motivation for pursuit.

Without objectives, a goal is just something that lives in our heads. Objectives provide the waypoint for us to achieve our goals.

Simply having objectives without a goal is mindless action. I could tell you to practice math for 7 hours a day but for what reason? If you don’t want to be the best mathematician in the world, there is no point in you doing that.

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It’s the same thing with the family vacation example. If you know that you need to pass through Richmond and Jacksonville but have no idea what your goal is, how will you know when you get there (wherever “there” is).

“A man without a goal is like a ship that set sail to nowhere – always getting nowhere and never getting ‘there’ “

A goal without objectives is simply daydreaming – it’s a fantasy.

In the family vacation example, it would mean knowing that we want to go to Miami without any idea how to get there. The signposts that say Chicago, Houston, or Boston mean nothing to us when we have no idea how to get to Miami.

“A goal without a plan is merely a dream…”

Okay, but what will I do with all of this information? The last chapter of this guide will tell you what.

How to Utilize Goals and Objectives to Succeed in Life

So far I have shown you examples of goals and objectives, the difference between the two, and the importance of having both. Let’s see now how we can use these to achieve our dreams.

There is a simple framework I use for all my dreams, goals, and objectives and it’s called the Hawkeye-Wormeye framework.[1]

1. The Hawkeye-Wormeye Perspective

Step 1: The Hawkeye

Imagine that you’re a hawk and that you fly high above the forest which represents your life. When you’re a hawk, you see endlessly beyond and know where the mountains, rivers, and hills are. You see where you need to go, and you get clear on the bigger picture.

“I want to get to the hills beyond the murky swamps.”

The hawkeye is the first thing you do because it provides the goal, the bigger picture, or whatever you call it.

When you get clear on where you need to go from a hawkeye perspective, now it’s time to get down in the dirt by becoming a worm.

Step 2: The Wormeye

Okay, so we know where we are headed right now – it’s the “hills beyond the murky swamps.” But to get there, we need to become a worm now. Why a worm?

Because a worm can see just 2-3 steps in front of him. This ensures that even though you know your final destination, you are just focusing on the 2-3 steps that are right in front of you.

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As Will Smith said in an interview,

“You are building a wall. But you are not, in fact, building a wall. You are laying brick by brick as perfect as possible and one day, if you lay your bricks perfectly, they will become a wall.”

The same thing is with the wormeye. You know where your destination is, but you decide to focus only on what is in front of you. This way you ensure that you “lay the perfect bricks which will one day become a wall.”

The Transition from Wormeye to Hawkeye to Wormeye

Every 3 or 6 months, you should spend a couple of days only in the Hawkeye perspective. You do this because you need to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and to see if you need to change/iterate anything in your worms path. You take, as Bill Gates calls it, a “Think Week”.[2]

The rest of the time (over 95% of it), you spend it in the wormeye perspective. You are on the ground, doing work, getting new skills, or getting better at old ones. You step out from the wormeye to hawkeye only to see if you are still on the right way.

But what do you actually do in wormeye perspective?

2. Chunking Goals into Objectives

You have the bigger picture, the goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that goal is to become the best non-fiction writer in the world. So how do you become that?

First of all, you take apart what writing actually is. And there, you realize that writing isn’t just writing – that writing consists of four different parts:

  1. Generating ideas
  2. Researching
  3. Writing
  4. Editing

Okay, we now know what we actually need to work on to become the best writer. The four above are the skills we need to master to become the best writer in the world.

By putting big, vague goals/dreams into smaller compartments that can be easily practiced (daily habits), we are chunking our work to something that can be done.

The hawkeye perspective of becoming the best writer is focused down on the wormeye perspective of working on four different parts of writing.

But what do we do with chunks in the end? This is where we get to the actions and behaviors (objectives) you do daily and the last part of our big puzzle – daily habits.

3. Daily Habits

So we chunked the “become the best writer in the world” to “practice generating ideas, researching, writing, and editing.” So what do we actually do with that?

We form daily habits.

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This isn’t something big we need to do – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We take small actions every single day and those actions accumulate over time to get us to our goal.

We take it one step at a time, slow and steady, and as Eric Edmeades would say, “I do less today to do more in a year.[3]

In the writing example, a simple and easy daily habit would be “Write 500 words a day.” This way, you have a daily habit that takes care of the “writing” part of you becoming the best writer in the world.

For generating ideas, you start leading a journal (3 things that happened to you today), for researching you start reading books (20 pages a day) and for editing you create a list of forbidden words you simply delete from your writing (“like”, “very”, “thing” etc.).[4]

You don’t need to start doing all of these—actually, I advise you not to. I advise you to start with one of these and then, when it becomes a habit, add another one. That is what I did.

I started with a reading habit (20 pages a day). After 150 days, I added a writing habit (writer 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit and at the end, the editing habit.

If I started with all of them immediately, none would stick. As the saying goes, “Do less in a day to do more in a year.”

Learn more about how to build good habits and make them stick in this guide: How to Build Good Habits (Step-by-Step Guide)

Bottom Line

We started with an explanation of goals and objectives, went over the difference between those two, and understood that one can’t go without the other one. Then, we saw how to use goals and objectives in our daily lives.

For that, we used the hawkeye and wormeye perspective where we saw that we need the bigger picture of the hawkeye but the focus of the wormeye—the steps that are right in front of us.

In the end, we chunked down the big goals we had into the smallest possible actions and made daily habits out of these.

Now, we know what we need to do every single day to achieve our goals and dreams. Everything standing between us and the goal we want to achieve is a small daily habit – so just start doing it.

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Skitter Photo via skitterphoto.com

Reference

More by this author

Bruno Boksic

An expert in habit building

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Last Updated on July 25, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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