Difference between Goals and Objectives

Updated on September 14, 2017

Would it help you to know the difference between an objective and a goal? After all, don’t most people use these two words interchangeably? In reality, you would be surprised to find out how much this matters, in a business setting, for example. Keep reading to find out how knowing the difference between a goal and an objective can help you win over a client or formulate your own winning business strategy.

Definitions

Goals

Goals are long-term aims you have in your personal life. They are backed by very personal desires and beliefs. Also, they tend to be more generic, often stemming from the promise of a bright future. For example, some of the most common life goals are that of having a family, becoming rich and famous, seeing the world, or saving the world. Note how generic they are and how easily anyone can fall into some of these categories.

Also, since they are so generic, they are difficult to measure. The notion of goal achievement can vary. Some may settle for any type of family, moderate fame, a comfortable lifestyle, and traveling to a certain extent. Others may constantly feel dissatisfied and feel they have not fulfilled their goals unless they get the perfect family, absolute fame and wealth, and the chance to see the entire world. Measurement of goals is just as subjective as setting them, depending on what satisfies the individual.

In business, a company may have the ultimate goal of becoming the first or the best in an industry or a goal of coming up with a game-changing product. Goals usually show that there is a vision for the evolution and development of the company, and they show optimism about what the future can bring. Goals set a direction for the evolution of the company.

Objectives

Objectives are well-defined milestones people set for themselves. They are very concrete and clearly outlined. You can have objectives in every aspect of your life. Simply leaving the house and getting to work every day is an objective. Note that objectives are very specific. While getting to work every day is the objective of all the people in an office, some people may want to get there in time, others without ruining their hair, others after having dropped off the kids at school or after having run some errands.

Since objectives are so specific, it is easy for the person to measure the success rate. As long as they have completed the task in the manner they intended, then it is done. Objectives are concrete. You either get or do not get the results you were trying for. Checking minor objectives off the list gives people a sense of achievement and gets them closer to a final result.

In business, objectives are important because they help coordinate all departments and all minor efforts toward the same final result. Splitting a big task into smaller objectives is also easier to manage and to accomplish. Also, since objectives are measurable, this makes the company’s results visible to all those concerned.

Goals vs Objectives

So what is the difference between goals and objectives?

The main reason people confuse the two so often is the fact that they are used in the same context and many forget to mention which is which. Goals and objectives are both important in a growing business and in personal development, but they are not the same.

As shown above, goals are the broad destination whereas objectives are the stepping stones – the means – to get to that end. Therefore, goals are more subjective and objectives are more concrete. Also, goals are more generic; for example, “I want to look good,” whereas objectives are more specific; for example, “I want to dye my hair blonde and get a new haircut.”

As far as measurement goes, goals are difficult to measure and are subjective in this respect. On the other hand, objectives are easily quantifiable.

On a bigger scale, goals can change objectives. As the direction changes, the objectives needed to get there will be different. On the other hand, modifying objectives will not affect the goal in a serious way.

Comparison Chart

Goals Objectives
The endThe means to an end
Are subjective and genericAre clear and specific
Difficult to measure since they are made up of many componentsEasy to measure because they are simple tasks
Are broad and long termAre small and short term
In business, goals are the vision for growth and the direction to go inIn business, objectives are the numerous tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of the company goals