Difference between Goal and Purpose

Key Difference: A goal is a desired result that a person wishes to achieve. It is a target that a person wants to reach. It is an end-point of where a person sees himself after a certain period of time. Goals can be short term or long term. Purpose tries to gauge at the reason behind something that is being done. Purpose defines why the person is doing something he is doing, what is his reasoning behind doing a particular thing and what he plans to achieve from it.

The words purpose and goal are really similar in nature and are even listed as synonyms in many thesauruses. To many people these two words signify the same thing. Ah alas! That is not always true. Though these words are listed as similar and can be used interchangeably, they are actually differently used and mean different things in certain contexts. In many scenarios, purpose refers to why something is being done, while goal just states something that is meant to be done and achieved. Let’s look at them separately first.

A goal is a desired result that a person wishes to achieve. It is a target that a person wants to reach. It is an end-point of where a person sees himself after a certain period of time. Goals can be short term or long term. Short term goals are goals that are placed after a small amount of time, while long term goal require a life-altering decision. A person can also set personal goals as well as professional goals. Personal goals include a vision for personal things such as marriage, child, home, etc; professional goals are related to the professional aspect of life such as job, career and so on.

Dictionary.com defines ‘goal’ as:

  • The result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

Purpose tries to gauge at the reason behind something that is being done. Purpose defines why the person is doing something he is doing, what is his reasoning behind doing a particular thing and what he plans to achieve from it. For example: Jim’s purpose behind the petition is to stop corruption. As this statement states, Jim is creating a petition but the reason for the petition is to fight corruption. That becomes the purpose of the statement. Another context purpose can be used is to show determination of doing something. For example the statement, “I have a purpose of seeing my name cleared of any accusation.” This statement shows that the person is determined to see their name cleared, that becomes their commitment.

Dictionary.com defines ‘purpose’ as:

  • The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  • An intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
  • Determination; resoluteness.

Purpose and goals are terms that are used to refer to something that is intended. It is a desired point in one’s life that they want to see. People set purposes and goals to try and reach that point in life. Many times setting goals helps providing that extra push that is required to achieve that dream we all keep adding to. However, purpose does not end there. Purpose also refers to why one wants to do what he wants to do. Why is that person trying to do that particular thing. Let’s take this example: Monty’s goal is to get in and get out without being seen. His purpose is to rescue the prisoner. In this sentence, one can see that Monty’s goal is to get in and out without being noticed, while his purpose is to rescue the prisoner. The first statement shows what he wants to do, while the second statement shows why he wants to do it. Another example: Samantha’s goal was to make her mom’s birthday party a surprise. This statement just tells us what Samantha wanted to do, while it does imply the obvious purpose behind her throwing the birthday party. Not all statements do imply the obvious, something it is required to state why someone would want to do something. Similarly, not all statements state how someone is going to do something. Third example: Tom’s purpose was to get revenge. Though, this statement shows that Tom wanted to get revenge, what he did to get revenge, how he planned to get revenge is not clear. Purpose and goal often complement each other in a sentence or a statement and provide a clearer picture.

Image Courtesy: hottraining.co.uk, unleashingyou.org

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