Mission Statements VS Goals: 5 Key Differences

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “he’s a man (or woman) on a mission”? It is vital in life to connect to an important mission more significant than ourselves. A mission focuses on what is most important, the thing that you desire to achieve in life.

Mission statements summarize your core values and the model you live by, or what your company seeks to portray. This lets everyone know what the organization is all about.

Once you’ve formed a mission statement, you set goals to accomplish that mission. Goals, targets, or plans change within any organization… but its mission usually stays the same. Here’s an example:

Bill opens a hamburger restaurant with the mission that his business will “Bring smiles around the world to every man, woman, and child – one burger at a time.” He now has to set goals and execute his mission. These goals may include perfecting his burger recipe and stepping up his advertising efforts. If done right, when you are successful at your goals, you will fulfill the mission you set out to accomplish.

In this article, we will continue to examine the mission statement and then talk about goals…. how they differ, but also help you succeed on your mission. Additionally, we will look at tools to help you stay on track, before concluding with the 5 Key differences between mission statements and goals.

(Side note: One of the best ways to get what you want from life is to create and set SMART goals. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.)

What is a Mission Statement?

The mission statement of an organization is a brief summary of its purpose. In addition, it is a statement of action that determines how that organization will be run and what it intends to accomplish by being in business. It is a company’s who, what, and why. Therefore, every decision made by a company should work toward accomplishing the company's mission.

The company's mission statements are short – yet impactful – statements that provide a clear picture of what the organization is all about. In any organization, its employees should be aware of the mission statement because it was clearly presented to them in the recruiting and interviewing process before they were hired. So, by the time they are hired and perform the tasks on the job, the employee is consciously working to help the business accomplish its mission.

Everyone should know the mission, from the CEO to the maintenance person.

What are Goals? 

Contrary to mission statements, goals are predetermined targets set by an organization to be reached by its employees in a set period of time. For instance, if you managed a department store, your particular office may have a target goal of 10 million dollars of revenue for the year. Goals are typically set for an organization and are usually also set or divided for each region, district, individual unit, department, and person within the team.

When looking for a distinction between a mission statement and goals, mission statements are like the North Star that tells us where an organization is headed. Goals lay out the specific way for the organization to get there. It also ensures that the company's particular plans match the overall mission. Goals should also ensure that the company's progress is measurable.  

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Goals are predetermined targets set by an organization to be reached by its employees in a set period of time.

Goals can be short-term and long-term. Short-term goals are like putting together a home brick by brick. They focus on shorter time-bound goals. On the contrary, long-term goals focus on the bigger picture.

For instance, a non-profit organization has a mission that simply says, “Providing nourishment for a multitude of families.” So, they have a long-term goal to feed 10,000 homeless and less fortunate families a year. So, their short-term goal is to provide for 2500 families every three months. By achieving or exceeding those goals, it helps the company succeed at its overall mission: “Providing nourishment for a multitude of families.”

Tools to Help You Stay on Track 

Successful people and businesses know how to see the big picture in their minds, even before they see it materialize in person. However, through many of life's ups and downs, those visions in our heads can become clouded, and we change our plans before seeing them through.

The good news is that there are tools we can use to help us stay on track with our goals, therefore fulfilling our overall mission. They include:

  • Vision Boards

Vision boards are a tool to visually help you keep the bigger picture in mind, especially when you would be willing to give up on your vision.

  • Journaling

Keeping a journal helps you reduce stress, see how far you have come in the process, and learn from past mistakes.

  • Meditation and Visualization

This process helps you clear your mind when feeling overwhelmed to allow yourself to think more clearly and make better well-thought-out decisions. Furthermore, it allows you to keep your vision for the overall goal in your mind. Everything we see in life started with a thought.

For example, the phone you are viewing this article on, a computer at your work desk, the building you are working in, and the chair you are sitting in all started with a thought. This tool also helps you have clarity, focus, and to reprogram your mind. This enables you to push through the process and see the reality of the mission.

Mission Statement VS Goals: 5 Key Differences

1. Mission Statements are what you are known for personally, and as an organization. Goals get you there.

A company or personal mission statement is usually summarized in a few sentences. Goals are the steps you take to get you there. For instance, I know a married couple who lives by the mission, “Serve God and serve people.”

They have given themselves to volunteering in their church each week and feeding the hungry, visiting the widowed, and buying and distributing clothes and shoes to the homeless. Their goal is to do this every month. As these goals are accomplished, they are fulfilling their mission.

2. A mission statement tells us the who, what, and why. Goals explain the how.

When you have a mission, there are steps to perform. In doing so, you are achieving or walking in it. Your mission should answer who, what, and why. For example, if your mission is to “Be the healthiest me I can be for my family – one plate at a time.” This statement answers the who (healthiest me), what (one plate at a time), and the why (for my family).

Moreover, the goal is accomplished one step at a time, explaining how the mission will be performed. For example, eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks throughout the day and staying under 1500 calories is the goal. Then, you take the steps necessary to fulfill your mission statement in achieving those goals. Before long, you will look like the mission statement you live by.

3. We can measure progress by setting goals; however, the mission statement is the guardrail that keeps our goals on track with the overall mission.

The following is an excellent example of a mission statement being a guardrail and goals helping an organization track progress. An auto insurance company in Missouri has a mission statement that says, “We are the go-to company to save Missouri drivers money and give them peace of mind.”

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Mission statements summarize your core values and the model you live by.

Missouri has 4.7 million drivers in the state. Those Missouri drivers mentioned in the mission statement are the guardrail. So, the organization's goal is to offer various auto insurance coverages in Missouri, giving drivers a clear conscience at a lower price than the competition. Furthermore, the company also sets goals to sell 2000 auto insurance policies per month, more than any other company around. So, as the company is selling auto insurance to Missourians, at a cheaper rate, at the desired pace, the company is holding true to its mission.

4. Goals and plans can change many times, but the mission usually stays the same.

Your mission statement is based on your core values. They are usually set, and we live our lives by those rules. However, the goals or plans to live out that mission can change. Many change their minds about their dreams and goals because they are not easily attained. In addition, circumstances in life change, and so do their priorities.

The pandemic is an excellent example of this. During the shutdown, many restaurants suffered by not opening for business or only being able to open at 25 or 50% capacity.  

With a company having a mission to “provide delicious Italian meals to the masses,” it had to change its original goals of packing out the restaurant and turning over tables quickly. So the plans changed, and the Italian eatery began to set goals of serving pick-up meals to-go. The mission of providing Italian meals to the masses stayed the same, but the plans or avenues used to get there changed.

5. Mission statements are broad concepts but can be vague in nature. Yet they focus on the future. Goals are narrow concepts, more uniform than mission statements.

A trucking company has a broad and vague mission statement of providing the highest quality service for its customers, ensuring their products arrive safely and securely. To accomplish this, the company requires its drivers to travel a set number of miles a day for safety. Another goal was to deliver products in a set number of days (meeting the customer’s deadline).

Mission statements in business should guide your team and help show clients what makes your company unique. They follow six rules:

  • They are specific (though broad)
  • Focus on the future
  • Provide protection
  • They should be unique
  • Be concise
  • Based on your core values personally or corporately

Goals should be SMART:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable 
  • A – Attainable 
  • R – Relevant 
  • T – Time-based

Final thoughts on Mission Statement VS Goals: 5 Key Differences

Whether personally or professionally speaking, mission statements and goals are each essential to accomplish great things. Although different, they rely on each other for success and are what sets us apart from others.

My grandpa always said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Our mission statement shows the world what we stand for and influences our day-to-day decisions.

Something else he always believed was that we should always do better tomorrow than we did today. To accomplish this in life and business, we must set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals to track our progress. SMART Goals allow us to celebrate small successes along the way.

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

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Mission Statements VS Goals: 5 Key Differences