In the NHK’s TV program aired on August 1st, featuring Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, 2012 Nobel prize winner for Physiology and Medicine as the guest, Dr. Yamanaka told that his motto is “VW,” and explained the “VW” means “Vision and work hard.”

He said he was given this word by Dr. Robert Mahley, a leading cardiovascular scientist and senior investigator of the Gladstone Institutes when he was studying in Gladstone Institute in California and struggling on determination of the subject for his research work. He said he owes all his success as a physiologist who created iPS cell first in the world to Dr. Robert Mahley’s platform of success – Vision and work hard.

That said, what is the difference of Vision from Objective or Goal setting? OALD defines Vison as (4) the ability to think about or plan the future with great imagination and intelligence, Objective as (1) something that you are trying to achieve, and Goal as (3) something that you hope to achieve.

I think Dr. Robert Mahley advised Mr. Yamanaka to set a clear goal, not a dream, not floating on numerous or random research subjects, and work hard.

What is the difference of having vision from clarifying objective, and setting the goal in a few words?

3 Answers 3


For me, the objective is where you want to get, and it is specific. There might be one or more goals that you might set for yourself in order to get there. However, these two terms can also be used interchangeably.

Vision is a newfangled word; I find it quite overused, and I usually find myself disliking the people who use it a lot. It's related to the big picture, and a direction you'd like to go (to use less modern terms).

One vision that doesn't get on my nerves is the one described in Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

I'll make up a context to use these three words, to try to give you more of a feel for them. Let's say you and I are scientists in a group that needs to get its funding renewed. The Principal Investigator (director of the group) gives us an inspirational pep talk one day:

I'd like to thank all of you for meeting with me today. We are facing a difficult juncture, because if we don't get our funding renewed, we are going to have to close down our operations and we will all be looking for work.

Our objective is clear: we have to make a convincing case to the reviewers that we have made significant contributions during the last funding period, and that many more will be coming out of the lab in the next three years, because we have so much good work in the pipeline.

I'd like to use our time today to set some specific goals for each of the four weeks leading up to the review.

As we each think about our own specific goals, let's not lose sight of the vision that Dr X [now retired] had when he began working on this project 20 years ago. Etc. etc.


Your question has the answer already in it when you quoted the OALD.

However, these sentences should help you see the differences.

Steve Jobs had vision. Soldiers have objectives. People trying to lose weight have goals.

That said, one can apply all three words to each of these examples, but that changes the meaning. If I say Steve Jobs had goals, then we are focusing on the hope part of what he was doing, not on his imagination about the future. Soldiers that have objectives might have a vision of peace. They might have to overcome difficult goals to do that, so an element of hope is involved.

The word "clarifying" in your question means that you want to have a clear objective.

"I have a vision for a better world." "What do you mean by that? A better economy? An end to medical suffering?" "I'm not sure, yet." "Ok, so you need to set some clear objectives. You can have a vision but without objectives and goals then you are just a dreamer."


I'm looking for references to back me up. In the meantime...

Vision is for the long term. It might not even be something you can (hope to) achieve. They're usually achieved by using short-term targets, which are ...

Objectives - more immediate and, usually, achievable.

A single overarching vision ties together several objectives.

For example, a vision of world domination might involve:

  • gathering a core set of supporters
  • gaining control of a manageable area as a base of operations
  • making alliances with other nations
  • gaining military might
  • coups of governments unfavourable to you
  • ...


  • Gaining a PhD is an objective, on the way to ...
  • Becoming a researcher at a place with enough resources and other brilliant people around, on the way to ...
  • Finding an efficient means of travel that can beat gravity and the speed-of-light barrier, on the way to ...
  • the vision of humanity conquering the stars.

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