Difference Between Goal and Objective

Goal vs Objective

Even though there is a common perception that goals and objectives are the same, there exists a difference between them. Hence, they cannot be used interchangeably. A goal can be viewed as an aim or desired outcome. An objective is a step or a sub-goal that assists the individual to achieve his goal. This emphasizes that there is a clear difference between a goal and an objective and that they refer to two different things, although they are related. Knowing the difference between goals and objective is important as both are important, when one is trying to achieve his goals. This article will clarify the difference between these two words.

What is a Goal?

A goal can be defined as an aim or desired outcome. All of us have goals that become the guiding force of our lives as we strive to achieve them through any means necessary. Very early in our lives we decide what we are going to become in the future, and start working with the intention of realizing it. This becomes our ultimate goal.

For example, for a cricketer, the ultimate goal may be to represent his country by being a member of the national cricket team.

When examining the characteristics of a goal, it is broad and generalized. A goal is always referred to in intangible, vague terms. A goal is not very objective and is talked in general terms. It is talked about in the emotional language. A person may have financial independence as his goal while someone else may have ‘being happy’ as his ultimate goal.

Since goals are vague and subjective, it is prudent to convert them into small objectives that are definable, measurable and achievable so that the individual has a clear notion of how to achieve his ultimate goal. With this, we can move on to an objective.

Difference Between Goal and Objective

Playing for the national team can be a cricket player’s goal

What is an Objective?

Objectives are sub-goals or part goals that are definable and achievable in a short period. It is after succeeding these sub-goals that the individual can finally achieve his ultimate goal.

Let us take the previous example of the cricketer. Even though his ultimate goal is to be a member of the national cricket team to achieve this goal, the person may have to set realistic targets. These are his objectives.

Unlike a goal that is broad, objectives are specific descriptions of what is to be achieved. To remember the difference, one can think of objectives as having objective language, where there is a talk of tangible results. Also, objectives are measurable, achievable, and realistic and time defined. Achieving objectives tells the individual that he is on the right track towards the achievement of his goals in life. An individual starting his business may have his goal as being most successful. He needs to come up with a strategy to achieve his goal. For this, he can create smaller, measurable goals that can be termed as his objectives, which needs to be achieved in given time periods to be on the right track.

Goal vs Objective

Objectives are sub-goals that help us to achieve our goals in the long run

What is the difference between Goal and Objective?

• Definitions of Goal and Objective:

• A goal can be viewed as an aim or desired outcome.

• An objective is a step or a sub-goal that assists the individual to achieve his goal.

• Connection:

• While goals are primary and more important, objectives are sub-goals that lead to the ultimate goal.

• Status:

• The goal is the end or the result of all the hard work.

• Objectives are means to this end.

• Importance:

• Without objectives, it is impossible to come near your goals.

• You cannot have objectives without setting goals.

• Characteristics:

• Goals are subjective, vague and cannot be measured.

• Objectives are specific, objective, achievable, and measurable.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Travis Birt by  Aaroncrick (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  2. Writing Tools by Pete O’Shea (CC BY 2.0)