Goals, Objectives, Aspirations and Perspiration

I’m STILL struggling through essays, and suspect I will be for some time. I appreciate this does not make the most interesting blog material, so thought I’d share a rather broad question I’m currently grappling with. Perhaps others have wondered the same.

Many essays relate to your post-MBA ‘goals’. Or ‘objectives’. Or your ‘aspiration’. Having read these questions as a group, it occurred to me that there might be a larger difference to these than I had originally grasped, reading them all as basically the same thing. Please note: all definitions are courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary Online.

Goal – noun

1(in football, rugby, hockey, and some other games) a pair of posts linked by a crossbar and typically with a net between, forming a space into or over which the ball has to be sent in order to score. 

2 the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result:he achieved his goal of becoming King of England

Objective – noun

1 thing aimed at or sought; a goal:the system has achieved its objective

Aspiration – noun

1 (usually aspirations) a hope or ambition of achieving something:the needs and aspirations of the people

2 [mass noun]:the yawning gulf between aspiration and reality

Not the one I want here, but I hope this isn’t relevant in future!

So according to the OED a goal and objective are basically the same thing. An “aimed for thing”. If there is a difference between the two I can’t distinguish one (but then I am an Engineer, not an English student!). An aspiration is slightly different and a more accurate synonym is an “ambition” – something you hope to do, but perhaps less realistic or longer-term than a goal or objective.


This is important to me as I am much more comfortable writing about my aspirations than goals or objectives. Objectives seem to me to be rigid. Formal. Stuffy. Something badly defined so someone can hold you ‘to account’ later if it goes wrong.

An aspiration is about hope. A longer-term desire to achieve something greater or better. Something positive. Something I want to achieve.

That is why I plan to work most of my essays into discussions about my aspirations rather than my objectives. I’ll just hope the reader hasn’t read the definitions first!


One thought on “Goals, Objectives, Aspirations and Perspiration

  1. To my thinking, aspirations lend context to your career goals, else reading the essay would feel like swallowing rocks. Goals are quantifiable. They tell the adcom how you’re going to realize your aspirations. So they are very important too since the adcom can glean how well you’ve thought about this MBA thingie.

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