Goals vs Missions: there’s a lot in a word

I have heard divers use the words mission and goal interchangeably. You’ll find in my classes that I distinguish between the two, and so to help us all get on the same page, here are the definitions I use.

Mission is an obligation and the primary objective. In the context of the diving we will do together, the most important priority is the successful completion of our mission. Every member of the dive team shares this responsibility, and this will be true for all the dives we do as a team. Our mission, the overarching obligation we share, is that everyone involved in our diving comes home safe: Everyone who gets into the water get’s out in the same or even better shape than when they went in.

My suggestion is that you adopt this as your personal mission for the rest of the time you dive. We are not Combat divers, and no degree of “attrition” is acceptable. Nothing is worth gambling your health or your life for. And this is true regardless of whether you are laying new line in an unexplored cave, conducting public safety dives or taking a point-and-shoot camera on a reef dive to 10 metres.

Goal describes the specific wants for a particular dive or series of dives. Goals are variable. Goals are realistic and sometimes unrealistic. One dive may have several goals, but often only one. Goals are attained or lost; and both results are perfectly acceptable.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of goals we might be able to associate with for our coming dives. At some point, we are all going to get into the water and run a series of drills to demonstrate control over buoyancy, trim, awareness, and that sort of thing.

I’ll tell you what’s on the agenda… perhaps an imagined scenario. Your goal will be to satisfy that agenda. You’ll probably discuss how best to meet that goal with your fellow team-members. “If he gives me drill X, I’ll respond with reaction Y and that means the team has to switch to configuration B.” Or at least something like that.

A realistic goal for you would be to make a brave attempt at getting X,Y and B in the correct order. An unrealistic goal would be for you to expect to get things perfect first time.

My goal for that same dive would be to learn something about your current skill levels, the way each of you reacts to the stress of task-loading, and how badly each is affected by instructor induced narcosis. Given this last item, an unrealistic goal from my perspective would be for me to expect to gather correct information for each of you on just one dive.

In the final analysis, it really does not matter much if we reach our goals after one dive or if it takes several. The benefit of having some flexibility with regards goals is that stress levels are kept in check. This attidude helps us to protect the mission.