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Do you feel the need to Achieve?


Achievement is a marmite word I find. Some people find it positively motivating and associated with a sense of pride. Other people find it pressurising and restrictive, feeling like they need to live up to someone else's sense of Achievement. So, why is Achievement important and what does it mean?

We all have a genetically inbuilt need to achieve. It's one of the "Human Givens" (the need to become competent and achieve) identified by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell which is captured in their book Human Givens: the new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. They point out that the brain is programmed to reward learning or achievement of any kind by releasing dopamine. As our learning progresses and we achieve what we set out to achieve, the brain "turns down" the dopamine release so that we strive to find something new to learn and achieve.

In fact, Achievement features strongly in most heavily researched motivational theories so we can take it as read that it's important.

Well, if you're a self-confessed "high achiever" then you have nothing to worry about. No doubt, you're getting your dopamine in regular mood-enhancing bursts. BUT, what if you find it more difficult to latch on to this sense of Achievement. Does this effect your motivation at work? I believe we all go through times when our self-esteem is low and it's difficult to connect to that sense of Achievement.

How can you get it back? Here are some tips to help you reconnect with your own sense of Achievement.

Tip One: put it into context

The first (and most important) thing to realise about Achievement is that it is entirely subjective. If I think about my close circle of relationships, I think that everyone would have their own version of Achievement. Yesterday, my 83-year-old mother relined her garden pond without being able to bend or kneel down. Her email to me this morning was brimming with a sense of achievement. I am currently learning the guitar and get a sense of achievement each time I learn a new chord sequence or song. My husband is rubbish at DIY and gets an enormous sense of achievement from building the simplest of self-assembly kits.

So, achievements don't need to be related to wealth, qualifications and other lofty accolades. If you were to ignore everyone else's opinions, what gives you a sense of achievement?

Tip Two: get feedback

Another important part of feeling a sense of Achievement is getting positive feedback on what we do. Sadly, this is not always forthcoming in the workplace and there is evidence to suggest that COVID has exacerbated this as we no longer receive that "in the moment" feedback we get just by being with other people in person.

If you're not currently getting positive feedback at work, reach out to your Cheerleaders (those who know you and love you) for some feedback. When I was worried about my business at the beginning of the pandemic, I was working really hard and didn't feel like I was getting anywhere. A word from my husband, telling me that he was really impressed with how I was responding, buoyed me up for (if I'm honest) months!

Who are your Cheerleaders? Why not ask them "what do you see as my greatest achievement"? This will not only boost your self-esteem, but it will also reconnect you with the knowledge that you have achieved things in the past (see Tip Three).

Tip Three: reconnect with past achievements

For a self-esteem boost, take some time to reflect on your achievements of the past. If you're a regular subscriber to this blog, you'll know that I love the power of a good meditative walk. Why not go for a walk out in nature and reflect on your achievements from the past. Or you could sit down with a paper and pen (or computer or phone) and free write about your past achievements.

And if you're completely stuck, reach out to your Cheerleaders as described in Tip Two. Asking the question mentioned in Tip Two is part of the massively impactful "Ask 5 People" exercise that I do with 121 coaching clients and inside the Flourish membership. You will be moved and motivated by what people think of as your life's achievements.

Tip Four: learn something new

Learning something new is always an opportunity to feel a sense of achievement. If you can't learn something new at work, then try something in your personal life. Perhaps it could be a long-term learning project like a new foreign language or musical instrument. Perhaps it is a shorter, more focused learning project like finally nailing the recipe for banana bread or getting started with Couch to 5K.

However big or small, learning something new opens us up to feeling that sense of achievement.

What now

Achievement is a large part of having a fit and healthy career. I have identified 14 factors that contribute to a fit and healthy career, and I NEED YOUR HELP PLEASE. I'd like to identify which factors have the biggest influence on you and whether there are any other factors that are important.

Can you help me with my research? It will take only a couple of minutes of your time to rank these 14 factors for me. Please participate in this (2 minute) survey and you could win a free 121 "career health check" session with me.

Thanks in advance for your help and support.