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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Why It’s Vital to Understand the Difference Between Goals and Objectives

Why It’s Vital to Understand the Difference Between Goals and Objectives

I’m sure you’ve heard many people talking about goals and objectives as if they’re the same thing. You may even believe this yourself.

However, if you want to unleash your productivity and take your accomplishments to a whole new level, then you’ll need to understand the clear differences between goals and objectives.

When you think of them as one thing, you’ll find yourself struggling to achieve your aims and dreams. But once you understand their differences — and their synergies — you’ll put yourself firmly on the road to success.

Different but Complementary

While apples and blackberries are both part of the fruit family, they are clearly very different fruits. Both fruits on their own taste great. However, if you’ve ever tasted apple and blackberry pie, you’ll know just how delicious they taste together!

This is a simple example of how different things can be combined to make something new — and something better.

If you’re not a foodie, then you might prefer to think about music…

Rarely does a solo voice or instrument sound amazing on its own. It’s when it’s combined with other voices and instruments that the magic really begins. Suddenly, there are harmonies, counterparts, and different textures and dynamics to the sound. Orchestral music is a great example of this, with its multi-layered symphonic sound captivating the minds of listeners.

What Are Objectives?

While I’ll go into this in more detail, the one-sentence answer to this question is:

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Objectives are the small steps that you’ll need to take to reach your goals.

Let me explain.

If you wanted to learn a new language, you wouldn’t expect to go from knowing just a few words to suddenly being fluent. In between these two extremes would be a ton of learning and practice. You’d also have to build your confidence in the new language and have someone to practice your new linguistic skills with.

To give your aspiration the best chance of succeeding, it would be wise to break your learning into bite-sized chunks. In other words, you should have a number of objectives that you can complete on your way to becoming fluent in the new language.

Something along these lines:

Objective #1: Find a language app to help you learn the basics.

Objective #2: Complete the available courses on the app.

Objective #3: Find a native language speaker to help you develop your grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

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Objective #4: Study with them one-to-one until you feel you’ve reached a decent level.

Objective #5: Book a trip to a country that speaks the language you have learned — and then use the trip to test out your skills and to increase your knowledge of the language.

Now, admittedly, this is a very simple list. In reality, you would probably add extra steps (objectives) to make your pathway to fluency as clear and straightforward as possible. But the above list gives you an idea of what objectives are and how to use them to your advantage.

Let’s turn our attention now to goals.

What Are Goals?

Again, let me first give you a one-sentence answer:

Goals are long-term aspirations such as wanting a new house, job, or relationship.

It’s goals that will drive you forward in life[1]. They’ll give you the energy, passion, and enthusiasm to keep going — and to keep succeeding.

People who lack goals lack a reason for living. Because of this, their lives are often stale and unadventurous. They’re also likely to find that staying safe means they start falling behind. After all, if other people are learning new skills and pushing themselves forward, they’ll inevitably get ahead of the aimless.

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American motivational speaker Robert H. Schuller had this to say on the topic:

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive.”

Think about that for a moment.

Having clear, written goals will concentrate your energy and give you the drive you need to accomplish them.

Here are a few examples of big goals that can enthuse and propel you into ongoing action:

  • Writing your first book
  • Learning to sail a yacht
  • Traveling the world
  • Buying a holiday home
  • Earning enough money to retire early

If you’re having trouble choosing goals, then I’d highly recommend that you read our article How to Use the Wheel of Life to Live the Life You Want. This article will show you how to pick goals that will balance and enhance your life.

Objectives + Goals = Success

Objectives are your friend. That’s because they’ll help you move steadily along the road that leads to the successful completion of your goals.

Think of it this way:

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A big goal can often be intimidating or even seem way out of reach. However, with the clever use of objectives to break down the big goal into smaller and easily manageable pieces, suddenly the goal can become attainable and realistic.

From the very early beginnings of Lifehack to the present day, I’ve used the power of objectives + goals to help the business become the huge success it is today.

But this formula is not just for business. You can use it to boost ALL areas of your life.

Take your health and fitness, for example. You could set yourself a goal to run a marathon in the next 12 months. With this goal clear in your mind, it would be easy to set relevant objectives to help you achieve it. In this case, they would be things like: learning how to stretch and warm up, building your fitness, and finding a marathon event to join.

A Final Word

I hope this article acts as a “success catalyst” for you.

Once you understand the simple formula — and start implementing it in your life — you’ll quickly see positive and dramatic results. (In fact, you’ll probably look back and wonder why this formula was never taught at your school.)

Of course, success requires time and effort, but by breaking your big goals down into smaller objectives, you’ll make your life both easier and more productive.

More on the Difference Between Goals and Objectives

Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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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

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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