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Last Updated on September 5, 2021

Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?

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Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?

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.

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.

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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.

Objectives are also important to achieve your unquantifiable goals. For example, if you “want to find the love of my life”, you have to set attainable objectives that would lead you to achieve that goal. Perhaps you can figure out first the values you’re looking for in a lifetime partner. Do they share the same ideals as you when it comes to marriage or children? Then you can set objectives on how you’ll meet that person, like signing up for a dating app.

Even comparatively simpler goals need objectives to make it a success.

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.

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.

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]

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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.

In our family vacation example, the hawkeye perspective is pretty simple, get your family from New York to Miami. But to paint a clearer picture you want to include details tied to your goal.

In your “thinking” stage, you might ask yourself the following questions: How many days do you want to spend on the road? Do you want to arrive in style? How comfortable do you want your trip to be? These details will help you transition easier from hawkeye to wormeye perspective.

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.

Breaking them down into smaller compartments allows you create more tangible and actionable items. It will be easier to commit to your goals when you actually know what you need to do to achieve them.

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.

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.

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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 simultaneously—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 (write 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit. You may want to keep a journal and take notes of any idea that comes to your head. No matter how ridiculous you think it might be. You never know if it will serve your writing in the future.

And at the end, the editing habit. You can come back to those 500 words a day you wrote when developing your writing habit and take a red marker through your work. This practice also gives you perspective on your own growth, as well as your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

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)

Does Every Goal Need Objectives? What if they’re Just Small Goals?

Becoming the best non-fiction writer in the world is a pretty daunting task, and it would make sense to actually set aside time and effort to achieve this goal in life. But what if your hawkeye perspective is quite simple? Do you really need to plan your objectives out and even form daily habits?

Technically no, but you sure could run into a gamut of problems if you don’t.

Let’s go back to our family vacation example. The hawkeye perspective is pretty straightforward so it might seem easier to accomplish. Why would you still need objectives?

Imagine though if you just went out on the road without setting any plan. You could get lost, run out of resources like gas or money, or waste days because you don’t know the fastest and most efficient way to get there. You may still reach your destination. But you could’ve gotten there with a lot less headache if only you’d spent time getting into the nitty gritty of the wormeye perspective.

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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Published on September 16, 2021

What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

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What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

Ready. Set. Go. For years, this was my three-step mindset when it came to goals. I would reach for the moon and hope to land among the stars without feeling the pain of the fall. This approach was all or nothing, and as a result, I experienced loads of burnout and almost zero productivity. In short, my task list was filled with high-level intentions, but I hadn’t taken the time to create a map to reach the destinations. I was lost in the planning stages because I didn’t understand process goals or have any examples to follow.

Since then, I’ve learned how to embrace the journey and break my outcome goals into smaller and more manageable process goals. This approach has improved my focus and reduced frustration because I’m now working towards a surefire strategy that will take me where I want to go––I’m creating a plan of action with achievable daily targets (a process goal).

What Is a Process Goal?

A process goal is not a destination, it’s the path you plan on taking to get there. For example, if you want to become better at writing, your process goal would be to post one blog article per week and learn from the feedback you receive. The destination is a monthly goal of 12 articles.

This distinction is important because it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these types of goals are not all or nothing. Think about it. You’ve heard it said: it’s not about working hard but working smart.

Well, a process goal is an actionable target with what we call SMART criteria:

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  • Specific – The more detailed your goal, the better. For example, instead of “I want to be fit,” you would say, “I want to lose five pounds.” Make sure your goal is crystal clear.
  • Measurable – You need a way to measure progress and success, so it needs to be quantifiable. This is where you decide what “fit” actually means for you (more on this later).
  • Achievable – If your goal isn’t challenging, then it’s not going to be motivating. On the other hand, there must be a steeper mountain to climb if you want substantial results.
  • Realistic – “I want to run a marathon” is not practical for most people. Ensure you have the time, energy, and resources (e.g., training program) required to achieve your goal.
  • Time-Bound – Your goal needs an assigned deadline or it’s just a pipe dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but what happens when the fantasy ends?

To summarize, these are the essential components of any process goal: specific, measurable, achievable within a certain time frame, and realistic.

What Is a Destination Goal?

A destination goal is a point in time when you plan to be at a particular destination. For example, if your goal is to get to represent your country at the 2025 Summer Olympics, you right need to focus on smaller increments to attain that success. On your way to that goal, you need to focus on smaller destinations. First, make the national team. Then, compete in a few events and so forth.

If you try to make it to the Olympics from the very start without any milestones along the way, it would be too daunting. On the other hand, if you focus on each milestone as a destination goal, it will all seem possible and achievable.

Process Goal Template

Let’s say you want to become a better cook. Here is one way of writing the process goal: “I will save $100 per week by cooking all my meals at home for 12 weeks.” This would be your destination (monthly), and the steps required to achieve this goal (weekly) would be:

  1. Spend one hour on Sunday planning my meals for the week.
  2. Shop for groceries after work on Monday and Tuesday nights.
  3. Cook all meals at home on Wednesdays through Sundays.
  4. Pack my lunch for work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  5. Save $100 per week in cash by cooking at home.

This process goal will help you become a better cook by teaching you to save money through planning, shopping, cooking, packing your own lunch, and trying new recipes. It also includes a weekly reward (saving $100 in cash) that will help you stay motivated.

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Process goals encourage you to reach your ultimate goals. When you feel like you can accomplish smaller goals along the way, you gain sustainability and confidence to move forward.

In many ways, process goals are a lot like faith. Each accomplishment brings you closer to seeing the fullness of the life that you desire––it breaks through the fog and makes things clearer.

What Questions Helped Me Find My Process Goals?

After several years of setting lofty goals and becoming increasingly frustrated when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, I decided to take a closer look at my approach.

Now, there are many ways you can do this, but here’s how I went about it. Last year, I asked myself the following questions:

  • What am I doing right now?
  • How can I get better at this?
  • Is this process goal leading me closer to my ultimate goals?

The choices I made from the answers to these questions became my process goals. They were the driving force that kept me motivated and moving forward when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. Since then, I’ve been able to accomplish lifelong goals that I had given up on years ago. For example, I’ve been able to obtain a publishing contract, create more digital products for my business, and enjoy the moment.

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Before I broke down my goals into smaller ones, I was struggling to just get out of bed. The thought of my endless list kept me stagnant. Now, I look forward to each morning and taking on smaller projects to reach profitable outcomes.

What Are Some Process Goals You Can Try?

So, now that you understand the importance of process goals, let’s get you started with some examples that you can utilize this week:

  • Sign up for a new class.
  • Complete one portion of your project by Thursday.
  • Start walking around the block instead of running a mile.
  • Improve your writing by spending 30 minutes everyday journaling.
  • Practice your interview skills.
  • Read at least one book from the library this week.
  • Do ten push-ups each day before you leave for work.

You get the idea. These process goals don’t have to be complicated. If anything, you want to break down your plans to the point of them feeling easy or at least doable without needing a week’s vacation. By breaking your goals down into smaller pieces, you can accomplish a lot more in a shorter period. You’ll also feel more confident that you’re able to accomplish something within the moment.

It isn’t easy to continue towards your goal if achievement feels too far away. You need to celebrate the small things and embrace the process.

What Do You Need for Process Goals?

Think about how much time and money you’ve spent on new clothes, books, technology, etc. Many of us want to keep up with the latest trends and purchase the best gadgets from Apple or Microsoft. But all of these extra investments come at a steep price.

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To find your process goals, you may have to face some difficult emotions or situations bravely and confront them head-on. You might need to forgo the new outfit or the latest Mac book to meet your overall objectives.[1] Remember, process goals not only protect you from feeling overwhelmed, but they also keep you from being distracted.

Final Thoughts

You may feel overwhelmed at first when trying to set a process goal. Sometimes, just thinking about change triggers stress hormones, which only leads to more worries and anxious feelings. However, if you keep yourself focused and take small steps in the right direction, you’ll soon realize that goals don’t have to be complicated.

You can achieve your process goals one day at a time, and you can start today by breaking down your larger goal into smaller steps. It doesn’t matter if the process takes a week or six months, what matters most is that you’re moving forward and doing something to make yourself better.

Now, go on out there and achieve one of your process goals!

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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Reference

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