The Difference Between Goals and Purpose

Welcome to this post about the difference between goals and purpose!

Although the words “goal” and “purpose” refer to the outcome an individual or business wants to achieve, there is a significant difference between the two words. Even though they are synonyms in the dictionary, in real life, the uses of the words branch off into two different concepts.

Yes, they are both used to help one improve themselves and their lives. Yes, they both motivate one to keep going and try hard. And yes, they both make one a different person than they were in the beginning. However, these are just the end results. The ultimate distinction lies in the process. No, they do not both cause one to adopt the same habits and routines. No, they cannot both be measured with the same method. And lastly, no, they do not shift one’s mindset in a similar manner.

If you ask me about my goals in life, I would be able to answer that clearly and easily. However, if you asked me about my purpose, I wouldn’t know the answer as clearly I do with my goals. I do know what I love to do, and I understand what my strengths and weaknesses are, but I cannot yet determine my life’s purpose. As teenagers, we are surrounded by all sorts of distractions and we forget about the center – us. It is critical to understand the difference between our goals and our purpose so that we can not only determine both, but use both to help us advance and improve ourselves.

In a recent poll on our Instagram, 100% of the people who answered believed:

While the introduction above vaguely explained a few of the differences between a goal and a purpose, the rest of the article is dedicated to go much more in-depth. This blog starts with the definition for both the words “goal” and “purpose,” then lists a couple of examples for each term, leading into key differences between each, and lastly, the conclusion. So, without further ado, read on to understand the differences between goals and purpose.

Definition of goal

The Difference Between Goals and Purpose

“Let’s begin with some definitions. A goal is an object of your ambition or effort. It’s something you want to get done, to achieve, to receive. You may have lots of goals, only a few, or even none at all. Goals aren’t always of your own making either; you can be influenced or manipulated to take on a goal, or even be forced to do so.” (lifehack.org)

Definition of purpose

The Difference Between Goals and Purpose

Your purpose, on the other hand, is the reason for your existence. If you work that backwards, it implies that if you exist, you must have a purpose. It does not imply however that everyone is clued into that purpose. Unlike a goal, it can not be chosen or forced upon you, it just is. You will notice that some people have no goals and yet here they are, therefore even if you are without goals you must have a purpose.” (lifehack.org)

Examples

Goals:

  • Getting all A’s in school
  • Working out at least four times a week
  • Saving $X amount of money in a certain amount of time
  • Getting a job
  • Starting a journal
  • Waking up at 6 a.m. every day
  • Eliminating distractions
  • Lessening your screen time on your phone
  • Smiling more
  • Earning $X amount of money by the end of the year

Purposes:

  • Empowering others to become the best version of themselves
  • Using writing to help teach others
  • Spreading happiness in the world
  • Inventing new items to make things convenient
  • Using your voice to inspire others
  • Solving problems by changing the status quo
  • Enjoying every moment of life
  • Taking control of your life
  • Giving back to those in need
  • Leaving a positive legacy in the world

Key Differences

1. Goals have clear and actionable steps, while purposes are not straight to the point

When you set a goal, you most likely know what you need to do to achieve it. For example, if you want to wake up early, you must sleep early and set an alarm. If you want to be more time-efficient, you should set a schedule and know what you have to do beforehand. However, when you set a purpose, the steps that need to be taken are not entirely clear and you might not even know how to achieve it.

Your purpose is the reason you get up every morning, the reason you live. And obviously, you don’t plan out your life. So, how can you plan your purpose if you’re living it?

2. Goals are short-term, while purposes are long-term

Not only are goals more straight-to-the-point than purposes, but the time it takes to achieve goals is also much shorter than the time it takes to achieve your passion. Going off of the first point, because you know what steps you need to take to achieve your goal, you can take action right away and achieve the goal in a matter of days (depending on your commitment). Also, to achieve goals, you can set a deadline but you can’t set a deadline for your purpose. Even if you committed 100% towards your purpose, you wouldn’t be able to achieve it in a matter of days. To help justify this, some people live by one purpose throughout their life, and up until their very last day. They don’t achieve it in one or two months, they achieve it throughout their whole life.

3. Goals are measurable, while purposes cannot be measured

One reason why goals are so critical to self-improvement is because you can measure them. You can measure how much you grew and improved with your goal. For example, if your goal is to work out more, you could go from one workout a week to four workouts a week. If your goal is to wake up early, you can measure how many days in a row you woke up early for. However, this is not the case for your purpose. You can’t measure the “why” of your life, the reason you work so hard, and what you dedicate your life to. That is solely something your mind and heart can determine, not measure.

4. Unlike purposes, goals have a specific target and go forward in one direction

When you set a goal, your goal is the target you want to aim for, not anywhere else on the board. When you know what to aim for, you go forward in one direction and get closer and closer to achieving your goal. For example, if your goal is to be a better writer, you have to practice reading and writing. If your goal is to be more focused, you eliminate distractions and use your time wisely. It’s as simple as that… well, only for goals.

Unlike goals, with your purpose, you can’t be specific nor can you head in one direction. Even though you have one purpose, there are many more things you have to in order to achieve that purpose. They’ll be multiple steps, different paths, and more to get you to the end.

5. Purposes are broader and deeper than goals

The main difference between your purpose and your goals is that your purpose goes beyond the element of your goal. Your purpose will be broader, deeper, and definitely more significant. One term to describe it is using an umbrella. Your purpose is the umbrella and everything under it are your goals. Each goal is a small part of your purpose, and the purpose is the biggest part. To find your purpose, you can ask yourself, “What is it in your life that you want to do?” Most likely, your answer is broad and deep. After all, it is your life’s purpose.

6. Goals are influenced by purposes, and purposes are influenced by one’s values and beliefs

Your purpose is deeply connected to the reason you live, so your purposes are definitely influenced by the values and beliefs you hold. For example, your purpose in life could be to help others or leave a positive legacy in the world. Whatever it is, is a result of your mind and heart together. However, your goals, which are influenced by your purpose, may or may not relate to your values or beliefs. Goals are usually a small part of your purpose, but it may not be directly influenced by what you believe in. Regardless of that or not, your purpose should help you stay true to yourself, improve your life, and help you succeed!

Do you know your purpose when you set goals?

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Even though your goals and purpose are different from each other, they do relate to each other.

What is your why? What is the reason you wake up every morning? And, what is your motivation for achieving your goals? This is your purpose. When you know your purpose, you can set goals accordingly to help you live life by that purpose. And, even if you don’t know your purpose, you should reflect upon your goals. What overall theme do your goals have? This tip can change your life.

Your purpose is the reason for your goals. If your purpose is to leave a legacy on the world, your goal should be to do something extraordinary. If your purpose in life is to help others, one of your goals could be to start a non-profit one day. And, if your purpose in life is to enjoy every moment, your goal could be to look on the bright side.

Setting goals without knowing your purpose is a fruitless and unfulfilling business. Focusing on goals rather than purpose is epidemic in this world, and ignoring purpose altogether is quite common. So if goals stand in the way of the fulfillment of your purpose, they have to go, and they can go as they are not required. Going goal-free would be a pretty scary prospect to many folks, but this too is not required. Goals have a way of focusing your mind, so if you mindfully choose goals that stand in support of your purpose, they actually make your life smoother and more satisfying.

An important characteristic of your purpose is it is happening right now. While it is true that your purpose unfolds into the future, the present moment is the only one you control. Goals, on the other hand, are only ever in the future: if a goal is accomplished in the present, it is annihilated, as a goal that has been accomplished is no longer a goal, but an achievement. Don’t get me wrong, achievement is terrific, but it takes the goal out of the picture and returns your focus to your purpose.

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/are-your-goals-and-your-purpose-the-same-thing.html

The Takeaway:

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Goals and purposes are both crucial to make the best out of your life. What helps even more is knowing the difference between the two so you can use each of them to your advantage. So, as a recap, the key differences between goal and purpose are:

  1. Goals have clear and actionable steps, while purposes are not straight to the point
  2. Goals are short-term, while purposes are long-term
  3. Goals are measurable, while purposes cannot be measured
  4. Unlike purposes, goals have a specific target and go forward in one direction
  5. Purposes are broader and deeper than goals
  6. Goals are influenced by purposes, and purposes are influenced by one’s values and beliefs

Because both goals and purpose are significant to living the best life you can, I highly recommend reading the book, “Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals.” Along with that, be sure to watch this video on “Goal vs Purpose – What’s the difference?” Last but not least, because goals and purpose both improve yourself and your life, read our past article on how to improve yourself in 2021.

Once you set goals and find your purpose in life, you are unstoppable. So, stay tuned for more articles on achieving your goals and finding your purpose! My job was to write this article and explain the difference between goals and purpose, so now your job is to implement both these terms into your own life and build on them! Good luck!

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6 thoughts on “The Difference Between Goals and Purpose

  1. Alan

    Dani… This is way too deep and philosophical for me XD

    1. Dani

      Haha 🙂

  2. Eli

    Great article! Good use of images!

    1. Dani

      Thank you!

  3. Eli

    Speaking of images… Is there a way to change my profile picture? This one is a bit… weird

    1. Alan

      You gotta get a gravatar account, look in your website settings

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