Difference Between Purpose vs Objective

Difference Between Purpose vs Objective

As human beings, we spend most of our time trying to carve out a better life for ourselves. We do this by setting goals for ourselves over weeks, years, or even our entire lives. However, we may never achieve the life we want if we set goals without understanding the real difference between objective and purpose.

The crucial difference between purpose and objective is that a purpose is a long-term, meaningful goal that always has a purpose, whereas a goal is a short-term goal achieved to reach a specific goal.

For an individual to succeed or for a company to excel, short-term goals must be set to achieve a possible goal. To answer the question of what is the difference between purpose and objective in a comprehensive way, we will examine both terms in detail below.

Definition of Purpose

The purpose is the long-term, reasoned outcome that an individual or organization aims to achieve success in life. The definition of purpose involves using long-term goals as a benchmark for success and often takes years or even decades.

Take, for example, students in higher education. They enter university to graduate and to succeed in life. Graduation, academic success and knowledge acquisition become the main long-term goal of the university.

During their studies, students will ensure that they attend all classes on time and submit all assignments as required each term. These micro-steps are goals and become the first steps towards the student’s goal of graduating from university and opening the doors to a better and knowledge-rich life.

Definition of Objective

Having an objective is to focus on short-term goals and achieve them to reach your goal. To be successful, sacrifices must be made, and it is these sacrifices or goals that ensure ultimate success. To understand the definition of objective, you need to look at what it encompasses.

Take, for example, a newly employed professional who wants to own his or her own home.  While owning a home is a long-term goal that takes years, there are a number of short-term goals or objectives that he can achieve to ensure that he will eventually own the home.

They may choose to systematically save a portion of their monthly income to be able to pay for the down payment on the mortgage and reduce unnecessary expenses to be able to pay the monthly mortgage payments. Saving and reducing expenses are specific, short-term goals that take only a few months at the most, but ultimately help the professional achieve his or her goal of becoming a homeowner.

Goals must be specific and focused, realistic and achievable, measurable and time-bound, otherwise, they will not lead to success.

Main Differences Between Purpose vs Objective

Basis of ComparisonPurposeObjective
Quick DefinitionA long-term, meaningful goal with the desired end resultA short-term, precise goal carried out in order to achieve a purpose
How is it achieved? The purpose is achieved by successfully carrying out objectives Objectives are carried out in order to achieve a purpose
ScopeThe purpose is broad and abstract and based on ideas Objectives are narrow, focused and precise, and based on facts
DifficultyThe purpose is complex and difficult to achieve Objectives are straight-forward and easy to achieve
MultiplicityThe purpose is usually defined in the singular; the ultimate goal or reason for doing something Objectives are defined in the plural; they are multiple, focused steps taken to achieve a singular purpose
FlexibilityThe purpose is rigid; it is the ultimate goal. Objectives are flexible and can be altered and evaluated until the intended purpose is achieved.
Time-framePurpose often takes years, decades or even a lifetime to achieve Objectives can take days, weeks or at most months to achieve

Difference Between Purpose and Objective: Conclusion

At first glance, it is difficult to tell the difference between purpose vs. objective. A purpose refers more to what will be achieved in the long term, the end result, while an objective refers to the actions taken to achieve a goal.

The two terms complement each other, and one loses its meaning without the other. A goal cannot be achieved without first achieving objectives, whereas objectives are strongly and ultimately influenced by a purpose.