If you are driving down the road to an unplanned destination without a map, directions or a GPS, where do you end up? Without knowing where you are going and how you are going to get there, you may end up lost. When you set goals and objectives, you are outlining your destination and your route so that you end up in the right place.
Your long term goals are your destination. There does not have to be a set time period for these goals, but George Washington University provides a good description, saying, "long-term goals are simply a description of what you want for yourself in the future — say about 3 to 5 years out." Long-term goals can include wanting to finish law school, have a child or become partner in a firm, GWU asserts.
Objectives expand on your goals. Objectives describe what actions you are going to take to achieve your goals, and when you are going to take these actions. For example, if your goal is to graduate college, a possible objective is to take and pass four courses per semester and graduate by Fall 2015. The "SMART" model is used to determine whether you have created a good objective. Is the objective specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed — or SMART? An objective must be SMART in order to be effective, according to the International Federation of University Women. Objectives are necessary, as they are your plan for achieving your goals.
Short-term goals are completed in a short period of time, such as a day or a week. Your short-term goals should combine to help you achieve your objectives and your long-term goals. For example, say you want to graduate college by Fall 2015. Short-term goals include receiving a B+ on your midterm, completing your coursework for a given day, or finishing a term paper. If you continue to create and accomplish these short-term goals, the goals combine and contribute to your long-term goal of graduating from college, and your objective of passing your four courses per semester. Sometimes, you develop short-term goals that are not related to your long-term goals. For example, you want clean your house by the end of the day. Short-term goals are necessary, as they help you achieve your long-term goals and objectives, and they keep you on track.
Individuals set goals and objectives to increase the likelihood of success and achievement. Oprah Winfrey once said that "luck is preparation meeting opportunity." This quote lends to the conclusion that success rarely occurs by chance; success requires planning, training and direction. Goals and objectives are planning tools that provide direction.