You’re at home with your family and you’re planning a vacation for the upcoming summer time. The family sits down and you start discussing options and after an hour, you decide you will rent a modern trailer and drive from your current location (New York) to Miami for vacation. Miami is your goal and all the necessary steps to getting there are your objectives.
Throughout the article, I will refer to the above-mentioned metaphor to explain goals, objectives and the relationship and differences between those two. So buckle up and prepare for this ride because we will cover:
What Are Goals and Objectives?
The easiest way I can explain what goals are is to tell that they are your final destination. It’s the place where you want to be– mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually.
A goal represents a future we desire to happen and it serves as a focal point to where we want to go in life (Miami in the case above).
Objectives, on the other hand, are the ways of you getting to your goal. For any single goal, you could have many objectives. An objective in the case above would be renting a trailer (way of getting to Miami) but as I said, you can and should have many objectives for a single goal.
You could add additional objectives to the goal of reaching Miami by stating that you will drive every day for 6 hours (one objective). Also, objectives can serve as indicators that tell you that you are on the right way of achieving your goal.
If you take the road from New York to Miami, along the way you should pass through cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond and Jacksonville. All of these serve as indicators that you are on the right way and that you should be continuing your way.
But is there a systematic difference which will help to differ goals and objectives? Yes, there is and the following chapter is all about that.
Goals vs Objectives
Goals answer the question of what.
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to take my family on a vacation to Miami”
Objectives, on the other hand, answer the questions of how.
“How are you getting to Miami”
“We are renting a trailer and driving all the way”
Goals can be vague, qualitative statements that are hard to measure. Sometimes they can be binary where you measure them by either done/not done. An example is a goal Napoleon had: “I want to conquer Russia.” It can be easily measured by done/not done. In his case, it was not done.
But then, there are those goals which are completely unquantifiable. For example, “I want to be the best clarinet player in the world,” or “I want to be successful,” or “I want to find the love of my life.” These goals are unquantifiable because they are based mostly on feelings and feelings are impossible to measure.
Goals are mostly vague and impossible to measure, yet we need them as they provide direction. So we need something which is measurable and quantifiable and that is why objectives exist.
Objectives are completely measurable, specific things we do to achieve our goal.
In the family vacation example mentioned, where the goal is to get to Miami, objectives provide checkpoints that can be measured. These provide the much necessary objectives measurements that tell us if we are on the right path or we need to change something.
Goal: Drive to Miami from New York in 3 days
- Reach Richmond by 7 p.m. the first day,
- Reach Jacksonville by 7 p.m. the second day
- Drive in Miami at 7 p.m. the third day
If we don’t hit the objectives above, we need to change something. Otherwise, we won’t achieve our goal.
If we get late to Richmond on the second day, that means that we either need to adjust our speed (drive faster), adjust our driving time (drive more hours in the day) or make fewer stops (less resting time). There are multiple different ways we can adjust our approach to get to our goal.
But then, there is the question of importance. What is more important, goals or objectives?
Is One More Important Than the Other?
Goals and objectives are two sides of the same coin. There is no value in having just one or the other side- only when we combine them do they serve the purpose.
Goals are there to provide direction- future- of where we want to go. Without a goal, there is no bigger picture and no motivation of pursuit.
Without objectives, a goal is just something that lives in our heads. Objectives provide the waypoint for us to achieve our goals.
Simply having objectives without a goal is mindless action. I could tell you to practice math for 7 hours a day but for what reason? If you don’t want to be the best mathematician in the world, there is no point in you doing that.
The same thing would be with the family vacation example.
If you know that you need to pass through Richmond and Jacksonville but have no idea what your goal is, how will you know when you get there (whatever “there” is).
“A man without a goal is like a ship that set sail to nowhere – always getting nowhere and never getting ‘there’ “
A goal without objectives is simply daydreaming – it’s a fantasy. In the family vacation example, it would mean for us to know that we want to go to Miami but we have no idea of getting there. The signposts that say Chicago, Houston, or Boston mean nothing to us when we have no idea how to get to Miami nor what is a good road to there.
“A goal without a plan is merely a dream…”
Okay, but what will I do with all of this information? The last chapter of this guide will tell you what.
How to Utilize Goals and Objectives to Succeed in Life
So far I have shown you examples of goals and objectives, the difference between the two and importance of having both. Let’s see now how we can use these to achieve our dreams.
There is a simple framework I use for all my dreams, goals and objectives and it’s called the Hawkeye-Wormeye framework.
The Hawkeye-Wormeye Perspective
Step 1: The Hawkeye
Imagine that you’re a hawk and that you fly high above the forest which represents your life. When you’re a hawk, you see endlessly beyond and know where the mountains, rivers and hills are. You see where you need to go and you get clear on the bigger picture.
“I want to get to the hills beyond the murky swamps.”
The hawkeye is the first thing you do because it provides the goal, the bigger picture or whatever you call it.
When you get clear on where you need to go from a hawkeye perspective, now it’s time to get down in the dirt by becoming a worm.
Step 2: The Wormeye
Okay, so we know where we are headed right now – it’s the “hills beyond the murky swamps.” But to get there, we need to become a worm now. Why a worm?
Because a worm can see just 2-3 steps in front of him. This ensures that even though you know your final destination, you are just focusing on the 2-3 steps that are right in front of you.
As Will Smith said in an interview
“You are building a wall. But you are not, in fact, building a wall. You are laying brick by brick as perfect as possible and one day, if you lay your bricks perfectly, they will become a wall.”
The same thing is with the wormeye. You know where your destination is but you decide to focus only on what is in front of you. This way you ensure that you “lay the perfect bricks which will one day become a wall.”
The Transition from Wormeye to Hawkeye to Wormeye
Every 3 or 6 months, you should spend a couple of days only in the Hawkeye perspective. You do this because you need to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and to see if you need to change/iterate anything in your worms path. You take as Bill Gates calls it – a “Think Week”.
The rest of the time (over 95% of it), you spend it in the wormeye perspective. You are on the ground, doing work, getting new skills or getting better at old ones. You step out from the wormeye to hawkeye only to see if you are still on the right way.
But what do you actually do in wormeye perspective?
Chunking Goals into Objectives
You have the bigger picture, the goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that goal is to become the best non-fiction writer in the world. So how do you become that?
First of all, you take apart what writing actually is. And there, you realize that writing isn’t just writing – that writing consists of four different parts:
- Generating ideas
Okay, we now know what we actually need to work on to become the best writer. The four above are the skills we need to master to become the best writer in the world.
By putting big, vague goals/dreams into smaller compartments which can be easily practiced (daily habits), we are, in fact, chunking our work to something that can be done.
The hawkeye perspective of becoming the best writer is focused down on the wormeye perspective of working on four different parts of writing.
But what do we do with chunks in the end? This is where we get to the actions and behaviors (objectives) you do daily and the last part of our big puzzle – daily habits.
So we chunked the “become the best writer in the world” to “practice generating ideas, researching, writing, and editing.” So what do we actually do with that?
We form daily habits.
This isn’t something big we need to do – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We take small actions every single day and those actions accumulate over time to get us to our goal. We take it one step at a time, slow and steady, and as Eric Edmeades would say it “I do less today to do more in a year.“
In the writing example, a simple and easy daily habit would be “Write 500 words a day.” This way, you have a daily habit which takes care of the “writing” part of you becoming the best writer in the world.
For generating ideas, you start leading a journal (3 things that happened to you today), for researching you start reading books (20 pages a day) and for editing you create a list of forbidden words you simply delete from your writing (“like”,”very”, “thing” etc.).
You don’t need to start doing all of these- actually I advise you not to. I advise you to start with one of these and then, when it becomes a habit, add up another one. That is what I did.
I started with reading habit (20 pages a day). After 150 days, I added a writing habit (writer 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit and at the end, the editing habit.
If I started with all of them immediately, none would stick. As the saying goes “Do less in a day to do more in a year.”
Learn more about how to build good habits and make them stick in this guide: How to Build Good Habits (Step-by-Step Guide)
We started with an explanation of goals and objectives, went over the difference of those two, understood that one can’t go without the other one. Then, we saw how to use goals and objectives in our daily lives.
For that, we used the hawkeye and wormeye perspective where we saw that we need the bigger picture of the hawkeye but the focus of the wormeye- the steps that are right in front of us.
In the end, we chunked down the big goals we had into the smallest possible actions and made daily habits out of these.
Now, we know what we need to do every single day to achieve our goals and dreams. Everything standing between us and the goal we want to achieve is a small daily habit – so just start doing it.
More About Goals Setting
Featured photo credit: Skitter Photo via skitterphoto.com