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.
Treating goals and objectives as objectives can lead to confusion and even discourage you to make steps to improve yourself or achieve your dreams. Understanding the difference between goals and objectives and how they work together gives you clearer picture of where you want to be in life and how to get there.
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.
Goals vs Objectives: 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…
A solo voice or instrument can sound amazing on its own. But 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. It becomes whole and more comprehensive. It isn’t simply one beautiful sound, it is a cacophony of melodies and notes that can entice feelings and even propel or inspire people into action. Orchestral music is a great example of this, with its multi-layered symphonic sound captivating the minds of listeners.
Goals and objectives can exist without the other. You can have goals without objectives, but then they’re just dreams. You can have objectives without goals, but then they’re just mindless actions. If your goals and objectives don’t work together, they’re just dreams and actions that don’t serve any purpose.
In order to have synergy between goals and objectives, we have to first understand what these terms mean.
What Are Goals?
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. 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.
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. It gives your day-to-day life purpose. You’re not simply existing, you’re working towards something.
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.
What Are Objectives?
While I’ll go into this in more detail, the one-sentence answer to this question is:
Objectives are the small steps that you’ll need to take to reach your goals.
Let me explain.
If your goals is 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.
Objectives are your guide map that will take you from where you are to your eventual goal.
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.
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.
When setting your objectives, a great strategy is following the SMART method.
Get S.M.A.R.T. With Your Objectives
S.M.A.R.T. is the acronym that defines the five qualities you want in your objectives to achieve success. These are: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Let’s get into it!
- Specific: While goals can be vague and ambiguous, objectives have to be specific, and as detailed as possible. In the above example, if your goal is to learn a new language, one of your objectives may be to find an avenue to learn them. Will you be using an app, going to the library or attending a traditional school? Are you willing to pay for the platform? Get into the details and list it down.
- Measurable: Your objective should be measurable. You should be able to quantify your progress, giving you an idea if you’re getting closer to achieving your objective and thereby reaching your goals. If you’ve decided on using an app to learn a new language, how much time do you need to devote to learn the basics? How do you know you’re learning? Are there tests that you could take to measure your progress?
- Achievable: The definition of achievable is different for everyone. You have to review your environment, conditions and resources when you’re setting objectives for your goal. If money is limited, or your work takes up most of your time, going to a traditional school might not be for you. A language app, which is affordable and can be used anytime, anywhere, might be a better option.
- Realistic: Objectives (and even goals) still have to be grounded in reality. You have to make sure that your objective is something that is actually realistic for your situation. If your objective is to find a language coach, that is very realistic. You can easily find freelance language coaches online who have reasonable rates. If your objective is for Penelope Cruz to be your Spanish language coach, maybe consider a new objective.
- Timely: Objectives have to be time-bound, otherwise you run the risk of procrastinating and eventually losing the motivation to achieve your objectives and letting go of your goals. Give yourself a set timeline for achieving objectives, with an actual start date and end date. But also make sure that your timeline is realistic and attainable. You can’t expect to learn a new language in two days.
Following the SMART method for setting your objectives gives you the motivation and direction to work on them in order to achieve your goals. It also allows you to track your progress and boost your confidence.
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:
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. The goals in itself may seem daunting and it can be discouraging. But it would be easy to set relevant objectives to help you achieve this goal. When you break it down into objective chunks, you’ll see that you can take smaller steps day-to-day to finally reach your end goal. In this case, your objectives would be things like: learning how to stretch and warm up, building your fitness, running 10-15 minutes a day and eventually increasing that time when you build up your strength, and finding a marathon event to join.
When you look at it this way, it won’t look like an insurmountable hurdle that you can’t possibly overcome. It would give you the courage and motivation to work for the success of your goals.
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
- Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?
- What Are Smart Objectives? (And How to Use Them)
- What are Goals? Achieve More By Changing Your Perspectives
Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com
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