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Difference between “goals” and “objectives”

For a work related thing (sales) I need to list goals and also list objectives. What are the differences?

  • 5
    Are you seriously saying your employer has asked you to make separate lists of goals and objectives? That sounds unlikely to me, but if so I really think you should ask the boss what exactly he wants in each list. Nov 16, 2011 at 19:18
  • I asked an almost identical question yesterday. How odd.
    – Urbycoz
    Nov 17, 2011 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


In colloquial speech the two are interchangeable but for business purposes many people do make a distinction between the two.

During my studies for a degree in business administration I was taught that goals are somewhat fuzzier than objectives, e.g. "I want to sell more next year". On the other hand, objectives should be SMART (i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely), e.g. "Next year I want to increase sales by 10% before 31 December."

Keep in mind that in practice a goal can be made more concrete by defining the objectives that are needed to attain that goal. In other words, one goal can be supported by several objectives, and when all those specific objectives have been met you could claim that your goal has been reached.

Here's two websites that explain the difference in a bit more detail:



  • I think this is a good answer to a badly-phrased question. I suggest you copy it in to the later (better phrased) question which I've flagged as a duplicate. Nov 16, 2011 at 23:19

I usually associate with goals my long-term aspirations or things I work toward. A goal may also be the expected result of some plan of action, with which I associate the word objective. But they’re synonyms, really.

I rarely hear someone enumerate their life “objectives,” but frequently hear them speak of their life “goals.” In this way, I’d expect objective to be used in the context of a particular task.

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