Home » Life Goals » What Is The Difference Between Purpose and Goal? (Examples Included)

What Is The Difference Between Purpose and Goal? (Examples Included)

what is the difference between purpose and goal

You probably do this every time the year draws to a close, and a new one is about to begin. You resolve to improve something, whether it be yourself, your work, or social interactions. 

You might want to start a talent-based business, a vegan diet, or promote an eco-friendly cause — or just eat more tacos that year. 

You might also want to invite a different colleague for lunch every alternate day. Or, you could deliver groceries to your elderly neighbor once a week.  

Could this be the year you finally get over your fears of failure, embarrassment, and imposter syndrome and apply for that dream job?

Whatever it is, you can call it your New Year’s Resolution. 

Quick question, though: are your resolutions your purpose or goal for the new year? 

Is a goal and purpose the same thing? What’s the difference between a purpose and a goal to begin with? 

Let’s begin by defining each one.

What is a Goal?

A goal is a clear, specific, practical, and measurable plan to achieve a particular outcome within a specific timeframe. 

A goal is a destination you intend to reach through a series of actionable steps. The steps you take to accomplish a goal are called objectives. These are often the items most people jot down on their to-do lists. 

A goal enables you to break down how to effect change logically so that you can edge closer to an end.    

What is a Purpose?

Your purpose is the reason you do what you do. You can think of it as the choices you repeatedly make, the habits you maintain, the reason certain people attract you, and why some causes grab your attention more than others. 

Your life’s purpose plays a big role in how you relate to others. 

So, how is purpose different from a goal?

The Difference Between a Purpose and a Goal

A purpose differs from a goal in that it refers to the sometimes hidden intention behind what you repeatedly do to help others. But a goal refers to a specific outcome you intend to achieve within a particular time frame.

A goal is about moving forward in a particular direction to achieve a specific outcome within a certain time frame. A purpose is often about deciding, acting, sacrificing, and nurturing an interest in improving a bigger situation than oneself. 

Purpose is usually a long-term mission to effect specific societal change, while goals are short-term plans to achieve specific results within a certain period.

Like tactics, goals can change quickly, but like a strategy, a purpose can affect how you do things for many years or even throughout your life.

Something else. 

Purpose is a sense of commitment to make a difference in the world with the resources, talents, and skills you have. Having goals gives you direction and provides checkpoints to determine how close you are to living that deeper and broader purpose in life.  

Your purpose is connected to your values and beliefs. When you have a purpose, you have an innate motivation to do things consistently, in a certain way, with a particular motive. 

But that’s not all. It’s also possible to measure a goal’s progress, which is not something you can easily do with a purpose. 

A goal is a way to specify the timeframe within which you will take a series of actions that will enable you to reach a particular outcome. 

In contrast, when you live out your purpose, you feel more at peace with your life without feeling that something is missing, even if you have a good job/business, a loving family, and quality social connections. 

A sense of purpose gives meaning to your actions, reminding you of the intrinsic value of living and contributing to the world around you. By achieving goals, you enhance your confidence that you can achieve more of that result in the future. 

Things get even more interesting here. 

When an outcome doesn’t align with your values, priorities, and sense of what’s meaningful and fair in your life, you may still feel dissatisfied even after reaching more goals. 

Purpose also influences your goals since it is all about the grand scheme of things. Goals are the steps you take to live out your intention each day, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

There is more to it than that. 

While purpose is qualitative, embodied in ideas and preferences, goals are more quantitative, measurable through results over time.  Here’s the kicker. A purpose defines your WHY; a goal describes your HOW. Thus, goals provide the means to influence change in the world for yourself and others. 

What Are Examples of Goals vs. Purpose?

A good example of a goal is losing 10 pounds in nine months. 

One reason to lose that much weight is to be healthier, to avoid diseases and life-threatening conditions that being overweight can cause. This is the primary reason people give for wanting to lose weight. 

In reality, that is often only scratching the surface of their real reason for losing weight.  

There are often more profound reasons that relate to others. For example: 

  • Avoid falling ill because it can severely limit your ability to provide for yourself or be productive, making you feel like a burden to loved ones.
  • Prevent becoming overweight and tragically sick, which might cut short a person’s contribution to their loved ones, such as young, dependent children who might suffer as a result.
  • Ensure that a person enjoys the energy and good health necessary to leave a solid legacy to others they care about. People usually refer to a well-lived life as the positive impact a person has on others while alive.

Ultimately, these reasons are about a person’s contribution to other people’s lives, not just their own. That selfless intent is often the critical factor that separates a life purpose from a goal.

Now you are probably asking yourself, “How can I make goals that move me towards my purpose?”

To help with that, here are a few practical tips.

How Do You Align Your Goals With Your Purpose In Life?

As such, the first thing you’ll want to do is identify what is so important to you that it nudges you to act. The answer may well be your purpose in life. Here you can read more about finding your purpose.

Here are three questions you can use to find out real quick:

  • Can you think of something you regularly do that reduces suffering for others?
  • How does it help you do that?
  • What would you be doing if money were not an issue? And why? 

Next, answer the following questions to determine if a goal aligns with your purpose:

  • What can I do this afternoon to ease that suffering?
  • For whom will I do it?
  • How will I go about it?

Let’s look at an example. 

Perhaps the thought of seniors spending days by themselves makes you sick to the core. Watching the elderly struggle to complete daily tasks on their own makes you deeply unhappy. If so, you can set improving the quality of life for the elderly as your purpose. 

One goal that would bring you closer to achieving that purpose is to shop for groceries once a week for your elderly neighbor. 

Alternatively, you can help them travel to and from the store to shop and meet new people to prevent isolation. 

You can also offer to prepare dinner every other day for an elderly couple living near you, staying with them for a while to keep them company.

Over to You; Create Meaningful Goals to Serve Your Purpose

Working on meaningful goals empowers you to live out your purpose in life. 

Your life purpose often influences your goals. Why? Because purpose is usually the expression of your values, beliefs, deep desires, and natural inclinations. 

Purpose is often the personal philosophy that guides your goal-setting and intended outcomes. So, reaching a goal should often be a milestone that confirms that you are heading toward deep fulfillment. 

That is typically why it is unproductive to set goals without knowing why you are doing so (your purpose); you wouldn’t aim your effort towards your true intentions.

Disclaimer : The information provided in this site is for educational purposes only, and it is not a substitue for professional advice. See the full disclaimer for more details.