Goals and Objectives : The same, no?

Do you remember the very first time you heard the term “New Year’s resolution”? I know for sure it was after I had moved to the United States and my elementary school teacher asked the class to set “resolutions” that we would follow in the New Year. I believe some of my earliest and more modest resolutions were to read more, learn how to ride a bike, or probably to draw more. Today, living in a world which is built on measurable successes, setting and meeting expectations boils down to the goals and objectives which are set and met in academia and the workplace.

What is the difference between a goal and an objective? Many of us at Talk for Change become Toastmasters to improve our communications and leadership skills. Communications and leadership are both vast areas of knowledge which require practice and perfection. Either of these crafts can be extremely unsurmountable to master if goals and objectives are not set properly.

Goals are generally broad, sometimes intangible, maybe even abstract. They are “Big Picture” ideas that can help shape you psyche into thinking and acting towards them. They can be simple or grandiose, but what they lack in specifics, they make up in substance. Here are some examples:

Goals are Big Picture ideas.
Goals: Big Picture
  • Become better at Public Speaking.
  • Learn how to Play Music.
  • Write a Book.
  • Communicate a Vision.
  • Fix Global Warming.
  • End World Hunger.

Many of you may have heard that goals are wishes unless they are written down. I will tell you that goals are useless unless and until you accompany them with proper objectives with measurable results. The intention of climbing Mount Everest (Goal) will never become real unless it is accompanied with tangible actions such as going to Nepal (Objective), learning how to mountain climb (Objective) , and hiring a top notch sherpa (Objective).

Objectives are narrow, specifically precise, tangible, very concrete, and can be validated. You can liken them to big steps like the one in the picture that almost always take a  few steps to climb.

  • Objectives: Big Steps
    Objectives: Big Steps

    Deliver the 10 Speeches Required for the “Competent Communicator” award.

  • Learn the major and minor open chords on an accoustic guitar and play a certain Van Morrison song.
  • Write the Table of Contents for a book on “Building Sustainable Societies with Social Networks and Social Enterprises”
  • Communicate the results of a business plan in terms of the number of people and how they will benefit.

The objectives defined above can be attained and verified whereas the goals can be great reminders for why we’re working on a particular objective. Objectives also need to be accompanied with a deadline and milestones along the way. Milestones can be accompanied with tasks.

Here’s a scenario. I wanted to be a better public speaker (Goal), so I became a member of the Talk for Change Toastmasters Club (Objective), and decided to pursue my “Competent Communicator” award (Objective), and have completed 6 out of 10 of my required speeches (Milestones). I will finish the rest of required speeches (Milestones) to get my Award by March 1, 2010 (Deadline). I need to prepare my 7th Speech on the subject of “Internet Illiteracy” by Tuesday night (Task) so I can deliver my speech by Wednesday (Task).

You get the picture? Setting goals is the first step to attaining them. The next step needs to be to create objectives with deadlines, and if necessary milestones and tasks. When you set goals, you set the scene for your mind to create good objectives towards meeting your goal. When you set objectives, you set your self up for succeeding by creating smaller steps to get to where you want to go. I hope the distinction between goals and objectives helps you today and in the future to create a better life for yourself, and a better world for those you live, work, and play with.


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