What’s the Difference Between a Goal and a Mission?

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Today we’re getting into the differences between a goal and a mission. Here’s a quick summary:

A goal is a one-time ambition that you set and work toward in a specified timeframe, while a mission is typically a statement of an individual’s or organization’s purpose, values, or strategy. Goals are often set and reset daily, quarterly, and yearly, but a mission usually remains constant over years.

I might have a goal to get to 15% body fat, for example, that helps me fulfill my longer-term mission of becoming a fit person.

The mission determines the actions that you take. Goals are those actions and the milestones that lead you to live your life’s mission.

Word Math: Goal vs Mission

To understand these two words better, let’s look at their definitions and synonyms. All definitions come from Oxford Languages. I call this word math, which you can learn more about here.

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

Synonyms: aim, objective, desired result

Mission: a strongly felt aim, ambition, or calling.

Synonyms: calling, pursuit, goal, quest, purpose

So combining this into a statement about the differences between goals and a mission, we get:

A goal is the object of your ambition or effort, while a mission is a strongly felt calling or purpose of your entire life. 

If I were to phrase it from the perspective of a business or organization:

A goal is the object of the organization’s efforts in the current quarter, while its mission is the calling or purpose for which the organization operates.

That seems pretty straightforward! Now let’s look at some examples.

Examples of Goals vs Missions

Here are some ways that someone might set a mission compared to a goal they might have that fulfills that mission:

  • The mission of a doctor is to provide the best medical care to patients and improve their health. This doctor might, as part of this mission, set a goal to get higher ratings on patient satisfaction surveys.
  • An entrepreneur may establish a mission to create a company that makes innovative products that have a positive impact on society. Their goal as part of this mission could be to launch one new product per year that makes life easier for people.
  • A teacher could set the goal to help each student improve their grades by one letter as part of their mission to help students reach their full potential and achieve their academic dreams.
  • A musician may have a goal to write one new song per month to fulfill their mission to create music that inspires and touches people’s hearts.
  • Parents might have established a mission to raise their kids in a loving environment that prepares them to be well-adjusted, contributing members of society. A goal to fulfill this mission would be to spend at least 30 minutes reading to their kids each night.

Goal vs Mission Used in a Sentence

Here are some ways that you might see the word mission used in a sentence:

  • As stewards of the Earth, their mission is to protect and preserve the planet’s natural resources and wonders.
  • Aubrey’s life mission is to help others reach their goals and find meaning and purpose in their lives.
  • Despite facing many roadblocks, Mike stayed committed to his mission of advancing medical technology.
  • Our team’s mission is to build a product that exceeds customers’ expectations and delights them.
  • With passion and discipline, he pursued his mission to become a world-class athlete and compete in the Olympics.

To compare, we might see the word “goal” used like this:

  • Her goal was to plant 100 trees per year.
  • He set the goal of losing 25 lbs in six months.
  • I’m going to work toward my goal of doubling my income by starting a side business and bringing it up to $2,000 monthly revenue.
  • We hit our goal of completing 97% of projects within a 24-hour timeframe last month.

Examples of Mission Statements

The word “mission” is also used in the phrase “mission statement,” which is a “a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.”

You can set your own mission statement by identifying your values and passions and summing it up in a single sentence. 

My current mission is to grow spiritually, socially, intellectually, and physically and to help and inspire as many people as I can do the same.

Often, though, you’ll see companies have mission statements. Here are those for some of the most popular ones:

  • Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company”
  • Apple: “To bring the best user experience to its customers through innovative hardware, software, and services.”
  • Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Microsoft: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
  • Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

Wrap Up

To summarize, a goal is something that an individual or organization works towards in a set timeframe, while a mission is their long-term purpose for existing. Often, people and companies will set goals that fulfill their lifelong mission.