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This profound truth has really helped me see my life from a healthier perspective.  A friend recently shared this explanation with me but the original idea came from Encouragement; The Key to Caring, by Larry Crabb and Dan Allender.

A goal may be defined as a purpose to which a person is unalterably committed. He assumes unconditional responsibility for a goal, and it can be achieved if he is willing to work at it. 

A desire may be defined as something wanted that cannot be obtained without the cooperation of another person. It is an objective for which a person can assume no responsibility, because it is beyond his control.

A really good example of the difference between these two terms;

When I was involved in Toastmasters, a worthy goal was to prepare for and present the best speech possible because that is an outcome that requires only my cooperation to achieve. However, a desire would have been to win the speech competition because a desire is an outcome that requires the cooperation of other people to be achieved. ie. the judges.

Reaching a desire can not become the motivating purpose behind my behavior, because then I would be assuming responsibility for something I cannot fulfill on my own.

Get it? Got it! Good!

This is a wonderful distinction to understand and apply. When we make our goal and desire the same thing, we’re heading into trouble. Let’s face it – this world really hinges on desires. Many people put too much emphasis on their desires and end up going through a great deal of pain and frustration before realizing that they don’t have the power to fulfill them. The emphasis needs to be on pouring ourselves into our goals.

We need to be mindful not to make our desire and our goal the same thing – they’re very different.

Take a moment and filter your current life experiences through this grid.  See what you learn about yourself – it’s a worthwhile exercise.

Then go set some goals.

Goals are objectives toward which we should work. Desires are objectives for which we should pray. Larry Crabb

goal setting 2

1. Can you think of a personal example that clearly shows the difference between a goal and a desire?
2. Can you think of a time when you have made a desire your goal?  What was the result?
3. What do you think God thinks of your goals?

speak truth: But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3. 13,14



  1. Barb

    Thanks Diane. You’ve given me much to think about this morning!
    Never really thought about it before…not exactly that way.
    Hope you’re enjoying your summer by the water!

    • Diane (Author)

      Definitely some wise words from Crabb and Allender – two of my favourite authors.
      Yes, we are thoroughly enjoying this summer by the water. In fact, as soon as I finish this comment, I’m heading out for a long water walk with a neighbour!

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