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How to set objectives and goals in life

Goals and objectives are two terms with totally different meanings. Yet there are used interchangeably as if both were the same. Objectives are definite tasks for the short term. If we go on achieving such tasks, which are measurable in the final stage of our journey we would have achieved a goal. Goals are always for the long term. Some dimensions of setting objectives and goals are sought to be described in this article.


If we clearly understand the difference between objectives and goals, we can easily set suitable objectives and goals. Such objectives and goals are also applicable to organizations and even to families. Specifically we can understand a) the difference between goals and objectives b) how to set short term objectives c) how to set long terms objectives and goals d) review such objectives and goals and e) take mid-term corrective action wherever applicable.

Understanding objectives and goals

Objectives are clear, measurable and short-term tasks that one should do. For example, learning ninety new words in English, with their contextual references and the exact grammar usage is a clear objective. It is measurable. This translates into only three new words per day.

How does one go about it?It can be achieved by reading world-class Newspapers like The Hindu or by reading the dictionary and even understanding all the basics of English grammar and also be reading good grammar books.

A lot of information is now available on the internet too. So such an objective can easily be met. A Goal in this direction would be "to be able to write superb English so fluently and publish an article in The Hindu in five years time". This is an ambitious goal. It has several objectives to be met. For example, after understanding that they do not publish purely academic articles, one can understand that the Newspaper publishes points of view, backed up with accurate reasoning, based on well known facts. The flow is very important. Once this is known the task of working towards such an ambitious goal becomes very easy.

Wanting to become a good spinner in Cricket within ten years is a clear objective. A clear goal would emerge if the individual declares "my goal is to play for the State and the country". This is a very clear goal. It requires huge hard work, dedication and sincerity, It also requires focus and a very clear and intelligent understanding of the game of cricket itself. This is exactly how we should understand goals and objectives.

How to set short term objectives

This can be accomplished by having a very big focus on what exactly we want to do now and what we want to become later. Only an eighth standard child can understand what is an Engineering career or a Medical career. After the child becomes clear and crystallizes the long term goal in the ninth standard, it becomes the big duty of both parents, for example to enable the child to set short term objectives.

Let us take the case of a child who wants to become an Engineer. The IITs are obvious gateways for success in this regard. The ninth standard child can be asked to go through the latest IIT question paper. Even if he or she does not understand much, the basics of a particular concept, in say calculus can be taught to the child in a week's time. This is the first objective. The second would be basics of something else. One goes on expanding in this fashion and then the child will himself or herself will be suitably motivated. The process will be well set in the mind of the child. Of course, there are too many good courses in other fields like Finance and Accountancy. Appropriate setting of objectives has to start from standard nine so that the foundation is very strong.

How to set long-term objectives and goals

A goal can be set for a period of say, four or five years. In the aforesaid example, the child would have the end goal of successfully cracking the IIT examination. The various steps that the child has to take in this direction are the objectives. Scoring one hundred percent in each mock test is a clear objective. The cumulative results of each of such objectives would result in achieving the goal.

However it should be noted that merely getting a seat in say, the Mechanical Engineering discipline in IIT is only one goal accomplished. The child has to now undergo a massive transformation and achieve the long term goal of becoming a top-class technocrat or the CEO of a company and so on through the practical and meaningful application of such knowledge. This is not at all easy. It should be remembered that setting of short term objectives would once again start. Let us imagine that the Engineer joins a company like Larsen & Toubro. No mercy is ever shown in this company.

To go up the ladder, the man has to make his hands dirty. The IIT Engineer should have hard core production and maintenance experience in over five different product lines. Yes, it is a minimum of fifteen years of experience before he could become the CEO of such one unit. In other world, the CEO of one product line. Based on achievements, all other rewards would follow. The process continues.

The process of achievement of the long term goal is only through sweat and more sweat. There are no short cuts.

To become a good chartered accountant in Chennai, in ten years time is one big goal. To become the best and most well-known chartered accountant in Chennai is a totally different ball game altogether. The dimensions are different. The process of achieving the end goal in the second case is more complex is more complicated. Only when the end goal is clear the process of getting there will become that much easier.

All goals and objectives should be realistic. For example, even an IAS officer cannot have a goal of becoming the Prime Minister of India. He has to resign, join a political party and work his way up. Peers and the experienced cunning foxes in the party would trump him at every stage. This is a hugely different ball game.

Review such objectives and goals

It is quite possible to review each objective and goal. Nothing remains in our memory. Most of us will fumble if someone asks what we had for breakfast yesterday. Maintaining a dairy with adequate details of what we sought to do and what we did do is the first step.

Sitting in a very calm place without the disturbance of any cell phone or any other thing is a must. So is the process of consulting knowledgeable others and learning from successful people, who can always inspire us. Many successful cricketers would say that they were inspired by Sachin Tendulkar or Wadekar or Gavaskar and so on. Celebrities in any field can be very useful reference points. Their hard work, their focus, their actions can always teach us many lessons in both setting objectives and goals and achieving them.

Taking mid term corrective action

Corrective actions can easily follow. For example, our hard work of six hours it might be revealed, is just not enough. We may have to scale it up to nine hours. This requires not only energy but also careful planning and execution. We can do it. We should.

In the process of such corrective action, there should not be hindrances. To give a simple example, let us refer to the same example of the L&T Engineering. Becoming the CEO would mean eighteen or at least sixteen hours a day. An Executive MBA on the weekends in Mumbai will add to the process of achieving the goal, as this adds value.

However, doing a Post Graduate course in say, Sociology or Public Administration, through distance education, would be an utter waste and would only pull the Engineer down and lead him to disastrous results. The focus will be lost.

Every corrective action should only enable us to do a particular task better and master it. There is no way in which we can loose this focus. For example, even after scaling up, the Engineer would have to pick up inter-personal skills on the job. This is not a class-room skill. If a review reveals that this is a weak area, the Engineer should rather aim to crack this with the utmost sincerity and focus and come right on top.


Nothing succeeds like success. And this success in life comes with setting realistic goals and objectives and clearly understanding where we are now and where we want to go and how. Once this becomes clear, the rest will follow. This is applicable to any human being even after retirement. In this case, the short-term objectives of following a good hobby of helping others and so on will come into play.

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Author: Umesh19 Aug 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

Setting goals and objectives in life are essential to convert one's dreams into reality. It is only when we fix the targets that we are motivated to work hard to achieve them.

So fixing the objectives is the paramount action in scheduling the future events. It is like an organisational plan. It has to go in the desired path smoothly and straightforwardly to reap the anticipated benefits.

Goals and objectives are not to be fixed randomly or half-heartedly. They are to be worked out with due diligence. Once fixed, they are to be pursued rigorously.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao24 Aug 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

A good article. Everyone should have some objectives and goals. I want to go up to a vice president level in an MNC can be the goal of an individual. But to attain this he should fix some objectives or short-term goals. For example, he should aim for the next promotion in two years. This will help him in fulfilling his goal. He should decide on his priorities for achieving his objective which will lead him to the correct path to becoming the VP.
Once we make a goal or objective we should make an action plan and some target dates should be fixed to each step of our plan and we have to review our progress at regular intervals and if any corrections or modifications are required, we should do that so that we will be on time on these issues.
A proper planning and correct execution of the plans with reviews at regular intervals will see you succeed in attaining your short-term objectives as well as long-term goals.

Author: Reena Upadhya05 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 9

Author has nicely narrated the article and I am happy that he has mentioned the different paragraphs for short-term and long-term goals. Setting goals are not that difficult. Accomplishing them is where the real efforts lie. The strategy lies in differentiating and sectioning them. One should set a number of short-term goals and all these short-term goals should lead towards the ultimate goal. One cannot jump directly towards the ultimate goal of life.

Every goal should be expressed positively. Do not state it in a negative manner. Ensure to be as precise as possible. Measure the achievements that will help you to know how much exact time you took to achieve the goal. Prioritize your goals. Don’t randomly run behind every one of them. Miscalculations are not going to take you anywhere. You need to list them on the priority list. It will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed which can be very much possible when you have too many goals to work upon. Just list them and rank them based on priorities. Spend most of your efforts and time on the one which needs more attention than the rest. You should always write down your goals. It is not at all childish act. This act crystallizes goals.

Operational goals should always be kept as small as possible. They should be achievable. Do not keep too high expectations by assigning yourself difficult to achieve goals. If goals are too large, it deteriorates the progress. It, in turn, under-appreciates your time and effort that you have put in. If required, try to complete your goals in increments. You don’t have to set outcome objectives. All you have to do is to set performance objectives. Set the goals over the entities which are under your control. If you cannot control something, try not to set personal goals over it. Goals should be set on the criteria of self-performance.

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