Three Reasons Why Goals Benefit Our Lives

Defining Goals: When you conduct research to find the definition and meaning of a goal, there are many different interpretations. What is a goal? In this article, we will delve into the meaning of goals you have searched and thought about on OFFLIGHT and why goals are necessary and helpful.

What is a Goal?

Purpose vs. Goal


  • Represents the fundamental reason or intention behind an action or plan.
  • Explains the reason and significance of performing an action or plan, indicating why it is being done.
  • Associated with a larger vision or value and provides direction for an organization or individual.


  • A specific metric or target set to achieve a particular outcome.
  • Must be specific and measurable, allowing for the assessment of achievement upon completion.
  • Represents the desired outcome being pursued, often focusing on time-bound achievements or performance metrics.

In short, the purpose explains the fundamental reason why a specific action or plan is undertaken, while the goal represents a clear indicator or target set to achieve a certain result. The purpose provides the motivation and direction of the action, while goals indicate specific goals for which to strive.

his is the difference between purpose and goal, as provided by ChatGPT. It seems that the explanation was helpful, so let's summarize the meanings of each based on this. Ultimately, the purpose is the "Why," and the goal is the "How.” The process of setting a purpose and goal involves defining why you want to achieve something and how you will achieve it.

Even for the same action (to do, action, task, etc.), the goal (how) can vary greatly depending on the purpose (why), allowing for specific direction in behavior. For instance, let's consider Charlie, who wants to develop a daily exercise habit. Why does Charlie think this habit is necessary? Let's assume two scenarios, A and B:

A: I want to develop a habit of exercising every day because I want to have a great body to impress my partner.

B: I want to develop a habit of exercising every day because I want to increase my resilience to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

If Charlie's purpose for exercising is A, then the focus may be more on bodybuilding rather than improving exercise performance, and the goal and action plan can be tailored accordingly. However, if the purpose is B, the focus may be on enhancing exercise performance and endurance.

A: I want to develop a habit of exercising every day to achieve a body fat percentage of 17% within 3 months.

B: I want to develop a habit of exercising every day to build the stamina to sustain running at 12 km/h for 30 minutes within 3 months.

Why are goals necessary?

Now, we understand that a goal is "a specific object pursued to achieve a purpose." When people are asked about their reasons for living or working, most of them have their own reasons to some extent. However, when they are asked about specific goals, it's rare to find people who can explain them precisely. Nevertheless, do we really need to establish goals in order to achieve our purposes? Why are goals necessary?

The existence of goals is ultimately for achieving purposes. If goals contribute to the fulfillment of purposes, then it can be considered necessary to establish them. Let's think about why goals are necessary in the following two scenarios:

If someone has a clear purpose in life or work,

  • They would want to increase the likelihood of achieving that purpose.

If someone does not have a clear purpose in life or work,

  • They might say, "I just want to be happy."
  • I don't know, I just want to grow.

Can goals increase the probability of achieving a purpose?

We have heard many cases of people who set clear and ambitious goals and actually succeeded, so inductively, we might think that goals can increase the probability of achieving a purpose. However, even though we know this, we often fail to set goals effectively. This time, let's explore specific evidence to see if goals are really helpful.

Goal Setting Optimizes the Brain:

Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews explains:

First, emotional significance is evaluated preattentively by a subcortical circuit involving the amygdala; and second, stimuli deemed emotionally significant are given priority in the competition for access to selective attention. This process involves bottom-up inputs from the amygdala as well as top-down influences from frontal lobe regions involved in goal setting and maintaining representations in working memory.

This can be interpreted as follows:

  • The amygdala, responsible for generating emotions, evaluates how important the goal is to the individual.
  • The prefrontal cortex, responsible for problem-solving, defines the specific details associated with the goal.
  • The amygdala and prefrontal cortex work together to concentrate on situations and behaviors that facilitate goal achievement while simultaneously ignoring and avoiding those that do not.

Our brains possess neuroplasticity, meaning that setting goals literally changes the brain's structure to optimize for goal attainment. However, is it sufficient for our brains to become optimized simply by setting goals? If it were possible, it might seem like magic, but upon delving into other research, you would discover that additional conditions are required to optimize the brain.

1. Strong Desires for Goals:

According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, highly emotional goals, meaning goals with strong motivation for success, are perceived by participants as less challenging to achieve. In other words, when you strongly desires a goal, the brain perceives obstacles as less significant compared to situations where the goal is not strongly desired.

As mentioned earlier, the amygdala evaluates how important the goal is to yourself. Therefore, if the goal does not feel important to you, it becomes challenging to focus on the actions required to achieve it. Moreover, obstacles may be perceived as larger, hindering progress. The reason for the existence of goals lies in the reason for achieving them: the purpose. It's important to consider whether imagining the situation of achieving the goal makes you feel excited and joyful rather than just seeing it as "useful" or "a good outcome."

2. Set Challenging Goals:

According to research, ambitious goals are much more motivating and thoroughly structure the brain compared to easily achievable goals. For example, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people who set ambitious goals (in this case, reducing energy consumption by 20%) actually ended up saving energy. On the other hand, those who set easier goals (reducing consumption by 5%) ultimately consumed the same amount as before.

We do not fully engage our prefrontal cortex to solve easy problems. And, of course, we don't use the prefrontal cortex even for problems that we cannot solve at our level. When a goal becomes challenging enough but achievable, our prefrontal cortex seeks and utilizes more information and creates motivation to develop strategies. Therefore, before setting goals, it is important to carefully assess your own level and set challenging goals that match your level

Can goals make people happy?

Typically, when someone argues that goal setting is unnecessary, they claim that the process of pursuing goals is painful, requiring you to sacrifice current happiness for the sake of achieving the sense of accomplishment upon reaching the goal, or that failure to achieve the goal leads to feelings of self-doubt, thus focusing on present happiness instead. But is that really the case?

People indeed experience tremendous happiness, satisfaction, and pride through achieving their goals, but it is not necessary to wait until reaching the goal to be happy. According to numerous research conducted by scientists studying goal setting, the process of pursuing goals is closely related to an increase in happiness and well-being.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, stated, "By setting goals and engaging in positive activities deliberately, people can achieve greater happiness and well-being" in her book "The How of Happiness," based on decades of research on goal setting.

Similarly, Maier, G. W. and Klug, H. J. P. from the University of Bielefeld conducted a study titled "Linking Goal Progress and Subjective Well-Being: A Meta-analysis," which analyzed 108 independent samples extracted from 85 studies. The results confirmed a significant association between goal progress and subjective well-being rather than goal achievement.

Can goals foster personal growth?

It was not easy to find direct evidence of the relationship between goals and growth. Instead, there has been numerous research attempting to prove the relationship between goal setting and achievement. However, as the saying goes, "failure is a part of learning," indicating that growth does not necessarily come only from achieving goals.

Therefore, in this section, let's try to define growth in our own terms and discuss how the pursuit of goals can be helpful in this process.

Let's assume there are two types of growth: vertical and horizontal.

  • Vertical Growth: Understanding or becoming better at something within the current area of focus or work.
  • Horizontal Growth: Understanding or becoming better at something in a new area of life or field unrelated to the current focus.

Vertical Growth in Goal Pursuit:

There's a saying that success breeds success. As we set goals and achieve them, we tend to continue pursuing higher goals in the process of success. For instance, when nearing the achievement of a fitness goal to improve your physique, you might set a new goal to develop perfect six-pack abs. Through this process, you can continue your efforts to reach higher levels vertically, aiming for greater achievements.

Horizontal Growth in Goal Pursuit:

Furthermore, achieving a goal in one area of life can lead to pursuing different goals in other areas, allowing for horizontal expansion. For instance, after attaining financial freedom, you may feel confident in supporting the financial needs of your family, thus pursuing the goal of starting a family. Even after achieving personal goals, you may dedicate yourselves to helping others, and indeed, many successful individuals find fulfillment in such a life. (The famous anecdote about Facebook's origin, initially created to impress a person, is a case in point.)

In the process of pursuing goals, we expand the depth and breadth of our lives. Through achieving goals, we may discover purposes that we didn't initially have when setting those goals. Ultimately, the purpose of life or work often becomes an event of great significance to yourself. The process of achieving goals and pursuing higher ones, as well as exploring goals in new areas, can provide more opportunities to discover what truly matters to you.

This time, we have explored what goals are, how they differ from purposes, and whether goals are truly helpful. In the next article, we will explore the various methods of setting proper goals.

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