Aspirations and Goals

April 13, 2005  

In addition to goals, there are aspirations. Many people view these as being the same or similar, but they quite different. The origin of the word “goal” comes from the Old English word gal which means obstacle or boundary, and is related to the world gælan which is “to hinder.” Goals then, by definition, can inhibit. And we typically use goals as a way of overcoming these barriers. Think about sports, such as American football. You push hard and struggle to move the ball past 400 pound linebackers with the ultimate objective to move past the goal line; your destination.

Conversely, look up “aspiration” and you will find that its origins are similar to the words “spirit” and “inspire”. They are all derived at some level from the Latin word aspirare which means “to breathe upon.” It is believed that the connotation is “to breath life into” or “panting with desire.” Quite simply put, goals are logical and calculated. Aspirations are emotional and inspirational.

So there is a difference between goals and aspirations. Goals are about typically about convergence, narrowing, and focusing in on an outcome. Therefore they can limit and create a myopic view of the world. On the other hand, aspirations are expansive. They create new possibilities. There are many paths and options for you. And you have a wide peripheral vision, sensing new opportunities as they arise.

If you have goals and they feel freeing, expansive and full of possibility and passion, then that is great. Let’s not get caught up in semantics. Goals are only bad when you relate to them in an unhealthy way. Being goal-free mean being free from the burden of goals.