The words goal and objective are often confused with each other. They both describe things that a person may want to achieve or attain but in relative terms may mean different things. Both are desired outcomes of work done by a person but what sets them apart is the time frame, attributes they're set for and the effect they inflict.

Comparison chart

Goal

Objective

Meaning The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed. Something that one's efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish; purpose; target.
Example I want to achieve success in the field of genetic research and do what no one has ever done. I want to complete this thesis on genetic research by the end of this month.
Action Generic action, or better still, an outcome towards which we strive. Specific action - the objective supports attainment of the associated goal.
Measure Goals may not be strictly measurable or tangible. Must be measurable and tangible.
Time frame Longer term Mid to short term

Definitions

Both terms imply the target that one's efforts is desired to accomplish. Goals are generically for an achievement or accomplishment for which certain efforts are put. Objectives are specific targets within the general goal. Objectives are time-related to achieve a certain task.

A goal is defined as

  1. The purpose toward which an endeavor is directed.
  2. The result or achievement toward which effort is directed or aimed.

An objective has a similar definition but is supposed to be a clear and measurable target.

Attributes of goals vs. objectives

Differences in scope

Goals are broader than objectives in the sense that goals are general intentions and are not specific enough to be measured. Objectives are narrow and are set for certain tasks in particular.

Specificity

Goals are general while objectives are specific. Goals are just general intentions towards the attainment of something while objectives are precise actions for accomplishment of a specific task.

Tangibility

Goals may be intangible while objectives ought to be tangible. Goals may be directed at achieving non-measurable things while objectives may be targeted at getting measurable things or tasks.

Differences in time frame

Both have a certain time frame. Goals usually have a longer time-frame than objectives. Objectives are usually precise targets set for a short term. Goals may be set for a longer term but many objectives may be set within that goal.

Measuring goals and objectives

Goals may or may not be measured, but in most cases objectives are measurable.

Examples

"I want to achieve success in the field of genetic research and do what no one has ever done." This is a goal.

"I want to complete the thesis on genetic research within this month." This is an objective.

References

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