Goals vs Outcomes vs Objectives: Which one is right for you?

January 3, 2020

By Mariana

There’s a rhythm to goal setting that is almost as predictable as the seasons.

It begins with a big push at the start of every new year and then quarterly throughout the year.

Sure, the beginning of the year is a great time to reflect, recharge and look ahead, but it can get a little intense. 

It can start to feel like a bit like goal-setting peer pressure. 

Are you feeling goal-fatigue?

Are you facing a barrage of questions like:

What are your goals?

Have you picked your goals yet?

I have 4 BIG goals, how many do you have?

Goal setting fatigue for entrepreneurs.

You might want to just block it all out and avoid setting goals altogether. However, as entrepreneurs, focusing on well-crafted goals and taking action to achieve them it’s important for our business and personal growth.

Sticky notes with personal and business goals.

Then again, setting goals just for the sake of setting goals isn’t going to create the epic results you may be dreaming of either.

I recently noticed a bunch of people lately that seem to be part of a goal backlash.

Some people suggest business owners focus on objectives, others have opted for outcomes.

So what’s the difference and does it matter what you call the thing you’re trying to achieve?

Let’s dig in.

Goals vs Outcome vs Objective: What’s the word?

There’s a good chance that if you spend time with other business owners, you’ve heard these terms used interchangeably.

Turns out they are more different than you might think.


Since goals are thrown around in entrepreneurial circles like lattes at a coffee shop, I figured I would start with them.

A goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”

In general, goals tend to be broad and represent a long-term vision.

For example, revenue goals are one of the most common yearly goals business owners set. They often sound something like “Grow a 7-figure web design business.”

As you can see this example is both broad and rooted in a long-term vision.

When I read the definition above and saw the word desired, it made me stop and think.

The word desired in the definition is a little concerning.

In my experience, people tend to desire things that they don’t actually believe are within their reach. 

If there’s an element of wishing or hoping in your goal setting and you have struggled to hit them in the past, this could be part of the reason why.

Setting goals does not mean you'll achieve them.

Don’t give up your goals just yet, but let’s move on to outcomes.


An outcome is defined as “the result or effect of an action.”

From these definitions, goal versus outcome, the outcome is rooted in results rather than aim or desire. 

Essentially, the outcome comes from the action taken toward your goal.

This could prove helpful for any business owner who likes to do things in Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s way and “Start with the end in mind.”

However, when planning this way, you would be focusing on the desired outcome since the actual outcome still doesn’t happen until the end.

So, does outcome drive action or does action create an outcome?

This could be one of those chicken vs egg quandaries.

Let’s leave the egg and chicken for now and move on to objectives.


An objective is defined as “something that you plan to do or achieve.”

Although outcome and objective are similar, the outcome is the finish line for an objective. 

Unlike a goal, an objective is rooted in intention and planning. 

It’s not something you hope to achieve, it’s something you actively plan to achieve.

For example, let’s talk about pie.

Let’s say the goal is to make a blueberry pie.

The first objective could be to make the crust from scratch for the pie.

The outcome might be perfection or a not quite burnt crust.

Words will only take you so far

So now, you may be wondering what you should focus on. 

Should you set your sights on goals or outcomes or objectives? Great question.

If you have a favourite that already gets you across your finish lines, stick with it.  Ultimately, you should use whatever works for you.

Based on the definitions we’ve explored for these terms, I believe the answer is to use all three.

  1. Set a goal (Example: Become a runner)
  2. Break the goal down into objectives (Example: Walk then walk/run then run 30min)
  3. Experience the outcome for each objective (Example: Be Run 5K without sounding like I’m dying and wishing I were dead.)

Go Beyond Words For More Business Success 

In order to formulate your recipe for success, we need to add a plan and action to the ingredients.

The truth is that you can set all the BHAGs you want, but without a plan and action to make them real, you’re just dreaming big.

NOTE: A BHAG is an idea from Built to Last, Jim Collins’ classic business book. It means Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—a goal that’ feels scary and a bit too far out of reach.

Goals or whatever word you want to use on their own, won’t get you there.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I want to see you succeed. 

I’ve had years and years of practice and failed attempts, to help me finetune a basic success recipe you can adjust to your tastes. 

Challenge: Think of one goal you’d like to bake up with this recipe. If you already have one, then it’s an easy gold star for you. 

Nail your goal setting.

Have one?


Now I’ll walk you through how to crush this goal.

PS. What do you think about goals versus outcomes versus objectives? DM me on Instagram and let me know. 

Hi, I'm Mariana.

Hi, I'm Mariana.

As you've probably guessed already, I'm the heart and brains behind The Purposeful Entrepreneur.

Supporting entrepreneurs and business owners while teaching and sharing lessons learned brings me joy.

I love family time and do what I can to make the world a better place.

I'm very fond of coffee and puns. I strive to live life to its fullest, grow a little bit every single day, and inspire others along the way.

Let's explore how I can help you.

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