Established, since 1997, leading UK based training provider.
Celebrating 25 years in business! CPD Member - The CPD Certification Service ilm Recognised Provider

The Difference Between a Wish and a Goal

The Difference Between a Wish and a Goal

The Difference Between a Wish and a Goal

Goals are the starting point of all achievement. Your goals define you. And you are defined by your goals.

Your goals, are not idle fantasies nor wishes. Your goals are more intelligently designed than mere wishes. Part of making your goals more intelligently designed is to ensure that they are constrained by being both achievable and realistic.

Some people ask, "What is the difference between a goal being achievable and it being realistic? Is that not just saying the same thing, twice? If a goal is achievable then isn't it realistic too, and vice versa?"

For example, I was in conversation with a gentleman, and I asked him my usual question, "What is your goal for the future?" He replied, "To win the national lottery!"

I thought, "That is not a goal, that is a wish!" Why is "Winning the national lottery" a wish, not a goal?

Because winning the national lottery is not something that depends on your daily performance. It is a pure chance event. So, we can safely assume that the lottery win is not a goal, but a wish.

Here is another example of a confusion between a wish and a goal.

I asked a lady at work my usual question, "What are your goals for the future?" She replied, "My goal is to be happy and successful".

Now, this reply sounds better than the lottery reply, but there is still something wrong with it. It is too vague. It is ill-defined. The statement is non-specific. We don't know what would make her happy and we don't know what would have to happen for her to define herself as being "successful". Maybe, she does not know herself, how she defines happiness and how she defines success.

Certainly, it is true that many people struggle to define these terms. Many people have big problems answering the question, "What does it mean to say that someone is happy?" and "What does it mean to say someone is successful?" Or to put it another way, "What goals, if you achieved them, would cause you to think that you were successful and would therefore make you feel happy?" or in other words, what are your goals?

The Definition of a Goal.

A goal (or purpose) is a specific statement of intent. Goals name the objective that our actions are intended to achieve. Goals may be tangible or intangible.

Tangible goals are those that consist of material things, such as a nicer house, or car, or a gold medal at the next competition, or a pass mark in the next exam.

Intangible goals are those things that are immaterial, such as more confidence, or more harmonious relationships with a loved one; or the goal may be gaining new skills and abilities.

Goals are powerful tools for change. Goals give you something to aim for and therefore something around which to gather your forces. Goals are a call to action. Goals give you hope for the future, they give you focus, motivation; something to plan for. Goals are to be taken seriously. They provide you with forward momentum. They provide you with meaning, and they map out the route for a better future. They give you a personal identity. You are defined by your goals, because, you become whatever you think about. Goals give you something interesting to think about when you are alone, and something interesting to talk about when you are with others. You should talk about your goals and ask others about their goals.

Wishes are not goals.

On the other hand, wishes are not goals. Wishes are idle fantasies, detached from reality. They may be figments of the imagination. They can be pleasant diversions and may give temporary relief from the demands of the real world. But wishes are not calls to action, it is a dream. "I wish I could lose weight. I wish I didn't have to go to work. I wish I had the answers for the next exam. I wish I could go back in time and do it differently. I wish I had more confidence."

Wishes are not goals, unless the person translates them into the form of a goal.

Motivation : The Difference Between a Wish and a Goal

Once you have decided on a goal rather than a wish, you need to ensure the goal is achievable and realistic.

Achievable Goals

Achievable by reference to your abilities, the person who has the goal. Almost all your goals will require that you increase your mental abilities in some way. You may need to increase your skills, knowledge and understanding. So, whenever you set a goal, make a list of all the skills, knowledge and information you will need to obtain, in order to achieve the goal. Then, make it a priority to find out.

If you don't know enough, then your goal will forever elude you. The more you learn about your goal, the more achievable it becomes.

Realistic Goals

Realistic relates to resources. Resources are things in the external environment. Resources means physical resources, those material things and people to which you will need to gain access, in order to achieve your goal.

In terms of physical resources the major sets are: Other people, money and technology.

If you have the right people around to help you, and if you have sufficient cash to implement your plans, and if you have access to the right technology, then you have a better chance of achieving your goal.

Set Your Goals With Our App

We have developed this smart Goal Setting app, for you to use to set your goals. Try it out for free and use it whenever you need to set goals.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

Blogs by Email

Do you want to receive an email whenever we post a new blog? The blogs contain article 5-10 minutes long - ideal for reading during your coffee break!

Further Reading in Motivation

  • The Myth of Natural Talent
    Success is crafted through deliberate knowledge acquisition and rigorous practice, dispelling myths of innate talent. 'Sixth sense' stems from experience, not magic. Persevere through setbacks; quitting is the real failure.
    Read Article >
  • How to Find Positive Motivation
    People who have positive motivation are more likely to feel empowered and be more adaptable in difficult circumstances. Find out how to develop a positive mind-set.
    Read Article >
  • How to Overcome the Fear of Failure
    We all experience fear at some time in our lives. Some fears are necessary for our survival, but fear of failure can hold us back from achieving our full potential. Learning how to overcome this fear is key to your success.
    Read Article >
  • Load the Dice in Your Favour
    Success requires all three dice; representing you, others, and circumstances, to score a 6. Your excellence, others' performance, and favourable circumstances must align for success. A challenging feat, over which you only have partial control.
    Read Article >
  • Motivation by Affirmation
    If you want to feel positive emotions, then you need to create them by holding positive thoughts in your mind, consistently.
    Read Article >

Looking for Leadership and Management Training?

If you're looking to develop your Motivation Skills, you may find this Leadership and Management Training Course beneficial:

Open Training Course Pricing and Availability

6 - 7 August
Online - Teams
£900 +VAT
19 - 20 August
London - Central
£900 +VAT
22 - 23 August
£900 +VAT
28 - 29 August
£900 +VAT
More dates and locations available
Save £100 on this course

Next Open Course Starts in 16 days, Online - Teams, places available Book Now >