Episode 213: Achievement Myths
Achievement vs. Fulfillment
Today my friends, we are going to talk about achievement versus fulfillment. This seems like maybe kind of a vague idea that as we get into it, I hope that it resonates with you the same way that it resonated with me when I first heard it. I want to start by sharing a little backstory.
Mamo + Poppa Pass On
A couple years ago, my grandfather unexpectedly passed away. He wasn’t ill. He was so wonderful and it’s probably the best way to go. He fell asleep and didn’t wake up in the morning. His wife of over 60 years, of course was heartbroken, but really strong and we came together and went to his funeral in northern California. We honored his life and I got to see my whole family and just reflect on what a really brilliant, wonderful, good, good man he was.
Less than a year later, his wife, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and quickly deteriorated and she passed away on their anniversary. I wasn’t there at the bedside with my mom and my sisters, but I remember them telling me how they were all sitting around holding her hands. She wasn’t super with it, not super conscious. She was in hospice care and was losing energy. They were encouraging her that it was okay to go because she could go be with her husband, and so she passed away on the evening of their anniversary. They never spent an anniversary apart.
I first of all think that is just the most sweet heart warming story. It’s also kind of a poetic way to end your life, this life surrounded by family, encouraging you to go be with the one that you loved and we’re dedicated to for so long. For so many years.
I packed up and headed out to my grandmother’s funeral. I flew out to Reno and was picked up and drove the hour up into the mountains, into Quincy, California to be there for my grandmother’s funeral. Less than a year from when I had been there for my grandfather’s funeral.
The Worst Advice We Receive
As I was driving in the car, I was listening to a podcast with Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins. Tony Robbins introduced the idea that one of the worst pieces of advice that’s given in our society is that accomplishment is what matters most. That success is achieved by reaching your goals. He said that was the worst piece of advice that has been given and given just all the time to everyone, almost everywhere.
This is what we learned from the time we’re little. In America and in other cultures, I think that it may be similar. I know that it’s different in a lot that the way to be successful is to set and achieve goals. That is something that we’re taught. He introduced the idea that achievement without fulfillment is nothing. As we accomplish goals, if we are not absolutely conscious of our day to day fulfillment and happiness and contentment along the way, that we have not achieved anything at all.
I was driving to go to the funeral of my dear grandmother. Then, all through the weekend, attending the funeral meeting with family, going to the graveside, celebrating her life, and at the same time, the life of my grandfather. We were celebrating their lives of the wonderful family that they had built and the dedication they had to each other and to the community, just the really wonderful people that they were.
It came to me over and over again that achievement was not something that my grandparents were striving for in their lives. They were really wonderful people living in a small community, making an impact in the lives of the people with whom they came in contact, but I don’t know that they won any big awards or you know, traveled the world or ran a marathon.
They did lots of really great things in their life and more importantly than the things that they may or may not have achieved. They seemed so fulfilled. They loved each other. They loved their children. They loved their grandchildren. They did the things that lit them up and inspired them. We know what my grandmother and grandfather cared most about because it is what they spent their life doing. It was filled with music. My grandmother played the piano beautifully and she would play for the local churches and listen to people seeing and accompany them. My grandfather was a biologist and he adored nature. He was an avid bird watcher. He loved fish and was a fisherman, and so for every holiday we would either give him something fish or bird related, and we knew that he would just love them as we celebrated their lives, and I had just listened to this idea.
It really rang true to me that my grandparents had understood were real happiness came from and that that is what they had strived to live during their lifetime. As Tony Robbins introduced this idea, a couple of the things that he mentioned seemed really interesting to me.
Achievement is Science, Fulfillment is Art
First was that achievement is a science. There is a science to achieving things at high levels. The science makes it so that achievement can be replicated by almost anybody. You follow the steps and you are able to meet the goal. I know that that seems a little bit simplistic and it probably depends a lot on your willpower and your drive and your determination and a lot of luck as well, but the idea is that achievement is something that can be replicated and that is not necessarily specific to you.
Fulfillment, on the other hand is an art. Fulfillment means living the best life for yourself and your family. It is determining what lights you up, what brings you joy, what makes you happy in the deepest, most internal sense of the word. As I have thought about fulfillment and achievement over the last couple of years, this idea has kind of been a touchstone for me as I set out on accomplishing goals.
Making Goals That Are Process Focused
I have been really zoned in and focused, although not perfectly. I’m still working on this and making sure that the things that I set as goals are not only because I want to achieve something because I think that that will make me happier or better or more successful. And that the things that I set in my sights as goals are things that I can enjoy the process of experiencing all the way that even if I don’t meet the goal and accomplish the thing that I set out to do. That it has not been a waste, but that the journey and the process is fulfilling.
“I like to think that goals set the direction for the path that I want to walk, but that fulfillment is the purpose and the process.”
Goals and achievement of goals gives us something to work towards. But if we are postponing our contentment until that goal is achieved, then we are missing the mark.
Three Myths About Achievement
I have written down three myths about achievement that I want to share and three truths about fulfillment that will help round out this idea and help us think about the goals and processes and systems that we are choosing.
As we embark in 2019…I know we’re still in January, a lot of us are still thinking about what it is that we want to accomplish this year. I want to flip that a little bit so that we can think about not only what we want to accomplish, but how we want to feel this year. What we want the day to day systems and process of our life to look like so that we can choose contentment and joy and abundance every single day.
1. When you get there, you will feel different.
The first myth that I came up with about achievement is that when you get there, you will feel different. This is something that all of us hope for as we’re setting goals. I want to lose 10 pounds. I want to run a half marathon. I want to have a bestselling book. I want to make it through a week without yelling at my kids. We think to ourselves when I get there, when I have done that thing, all of the sudden I will feel different and that is a myth.
You may have a momentary feeling of elation or enthusiasm or excitement as you check that box…and then you realize that you are still the same person that you were. And that’s probably a good thing! You are a wonderful person and no amount of checked boxes or goals achieved are going to mean that you are better than you are right now. No amount of checked boxes or achieved goals are going to mean that you get to become happier than you are right now. Isn’t that kind of a release?
“You are a wonderful person and no amount of checked boxes or goals achieved are going to mean that you are better than you are right now.”
I think it’s kind of relieving to know that achieving all of the things that we want to achieve in our life could be really great and it might not be necessary for us to feel the way that we want to feel in our life.
2. Achievement is lasting.
The second myth about achievement is that achievement is lasting. A lot of the goals that people set out to achieve have specific measurable outcomes and that’s good in the world of goal setting. That means that you know when you’ve gotten there. Make a million dollars. Have a six pack . All of these really specific momentary things. Maybe you finally get down to your goal weight of 130 and then you realize that you are there right now, but unless you are able to maintain for the long term of your life that that goal, that accomplishment was but a moment. It is not lasting.
Because you have checked the box doesn’t guarantee that it is checked over and over and over again. So many of the common goals that we create in our society are either weight or body image related goals or financial goals. Things that we want to get to a certain place and we think that once we get there that that means that we will maintain. And that is a myth.
Most people who diet down to a certain weight gain the weight back eventually. It is not uncommon for people who have reached a huge financial goal to blow it and feel so comfortable because they’ve checked that million dollar box that they turn around and end up filing for bankruptcy. I’m always blown away when I hear about someone, a celebrity or a football player or someone who had literally millions of dollars that ends up losing it all, spending it all, losing it all, and I think, Gosh, I guess the goal of making a million dollars doesn’t mean a whole lot. Does it? It’s not all that lasting is it?
So the idea that achievement is lasting or that once you get somewhere that that’s where you get to stay is a myth.
3. We can control the outcomes.
The third myth about achievement is that we can control outcomes. This is a real problem when setting goals that don’t only depend on our own actions. It’s not uncommon to set a goal like I want to sell 10,000 copies of my latest course, or I want to have 50,000 instagram followers in the next six months. Whatever it is. A lot of times we set goals for achievement that have nothing to do with our own actions.
The problem with that is that we give away our ability to feel excited and to feel happy and content to someone else. We say when everyone else has responded in the way that I hope that they will, that’s when I will get to feel the way that I want to feel. Instead of turning around and realizing that the achievement of that goal is not going to make you feel the way that you want to feel, anyway.
“You get to choose how you feel with or without the goal.”
That is what fulfillment is about. You get to choose what you’re thinking about and how your emotions are so that you feel all the feelings that you want right now without having achieved anything.
So my three myths about achievement are:
1. That when you get there, you will feel different.
2. When you get there, you will stay there.
3. You get to control all of the outcomes.
Those are myths about the goal setting and achieving mentality that a lot of us have adopted, myself included. I have to tell you, I am like a champion goal setter. I love writing down the things that I want to accomplish. I love checking that freaking box. I love it so much and I realize how when I’m so focused on that, that it takes away from my ability to focus on things that are internal, the feelings that I have right now, living in the moment, enjoying the day to day that happens on the way to the goal, enjoying the minutes that happen as I work towards being the type of person that I want to be. But I get to feel all of the things that I want right now. And in fact, when I do that, when I pair my fulfillment with the idea of seeking out good goals and pointing myself in the right direction, then I get to do both. I get to feel content and happy and fulfilled and I get to take steps towards becoming the person that I want to be, but it has to happen in that order.
It has to happen with a focus on fulfillment first and then through that lens, seeking for learning and growth in ways that matter to me.
Three Truths About Fulfillment
Next, I want to talk about three truths about fulfillment, about living a fulfilling life.
1. You can feel fulfillment in your life right now.
Number one is that you can feel fulfillment in your life right now. You do not have to do anything. You don’t have to be married, you don’t have to have children. You don’t have to have that new job. You don’t have to have any job. You don’t have to run a marathon, you don’t have to have a full bank account. You don’t have to have a new car. You don’t have to live in a big house. You don’t even have to own a house. You don’t have to do anything different. You just have to be who you are and you can feel fulfilled right now as you recognize the abundance in your life through the lens of gratitude today.
2. Fulfillment allows growth over the long term.
The second truth about fulfillment is that it allows growth over the long term. So, one of the myths of achievement was that it’s lasting, but that’s a myth because when you hit that box or you peak out, then there’s nothing to support what happens next. Where fulfillment allows you to grow over the longterm and enjoy the process as it happens to feel fulfilled daily, to recognize that this growth is incremental.
That goal, those longterm things set you on the direction that you want to be headed. So you know kind of where you want to end up, but the fulfillment, seeking out fulfillment in your everyday life allows you to grow over the long term.
3. Fulfillment benefits everyone.
The third truth about fulfillment is that it benefits everyone, not just you. So a lot of goals, personal goals that we set are very personal. They’re individually focused, run a get a certain number of something, you know, reach a certain level. All of these things are so self improvement focused and that’s absolutely the way that goals are set up to be. They’re designed to create what we think will be the life that we want to live individually.
This truth about fulfillment is that as you feel it, as you are fulfilled, you spill that happiness and contentment and centerdness that anchored feeling of joy out into the world. If you are fulfilled, everyone around you will benefit. Do you have someone that you can think of that you know of that is living a really fulfilled life, that is excited about the things that they’re doing that has passion in the endeavors that they’re facing, that has drive and enthusiasm and just lights up the room.
This is how my grandma and Grandpa were. These are the people that they were. They had no shortage of heartache and trial and obstacles and difficulties throughout their lifetime, and they were happy. They loved each other. They loved their family, they loved their hobbies. They pursued things that lit up their lives, and by doing that, they lit up the lives of people all around them.
This last week, I was listening to an old podcast from Rachel Hollis, the Rise podcast. She gives this analogy of a vase, glass vase with things being poured into it. Goodness and energy and love and fulfillment, and how a lot of times our nature is to tip it over, to spill it out to other people. To tip it a little bit this way as goodness comes into our life, we tip it over to share it and that what happens when we do that is that we fall over and break. But if we stood up tall and received all of that goodness and fulfillment and happiness and joy that can come into our lives, what will happen? The vase fills up and it overflows.
That is what it looks like when someone is living a fulfilled life. It doesn’t matter if that person has checked any boxes. It doesn’t matter if that person has reached any big goals, but when someone is living a fulfilled life, it spills over to impact the lives of everyone around them.
“When someone is living a fulfilled life, it spills over to impact the lives of everyone around them.”
As a quick recap, my three truths about fulfillment are these:
1. You can feel it now too.
2. It allows growth over the long term.
3. Fulfillment benefits everyone, not just you.
I want you to take a minute and think about the goals that you’ve set for this year. If you’ve done that already, if you haven’t done that, great, now’s a good time to think.
Are your goals getting in the way of your fulfillment?
Are your goals created in a way that will allow you to enjoy the process?
Do you know that you will not feel differently or be better, or more successful or more worthy if you achieve your goals?
Are you aware that your worth is not tied to any sort of achievement and that your happiness is available to you now?
“Do you know that you will not feel differently or be better, or more successful or more worthy if you achieve your goals?
Are you aware that your worth is not tied to any sort of achievement and that your happiness is available to you now?”
A Tree Grows Deep And Tall
Now, I want to leave you with a quick visual that I think is really impactful.
Several years ago I was at a conference, a women’s conference. It was a spiritual conference and Marilyn Faulkner, who is Alison Faulkner’s mother. So if you are familiar with The Alison Show, who we all love. Awesome with Alison has a great podcast and Alison’s Brand School and I’ve been involved with a lot of the work that Alison has done over the last couple of years and I love it. Her mother, as you can imagine, is equally incredible.
The Branches Are Achievement
She was teaching us about growth and one of the things that she mentioned was comparing growth to a tree and how so much of our growth we think of as being external. The leaves and branches. Those are the achievements. Those are the things that other people get to see and applaud. They are things that we strive for that we think will always bring satisfaction and success. Those are the things that we strive for when we’re focused on accomplishment. That’s the next goal, the next biggest best thing.
The Roots Are Fulfillment
Then she talked about the roots. The part of the tree that we never get to see. The part of the tree that is buried deep within the earth, stretching out, anchoring the tree, gathering nutrients and supplies and growing ever as importantly as what is visible. I think of the roots of the tree as being our fulfillment. The personal day to day development of our emotions and our thoughts and the way that we consider the things that happened to us and that happened for us and around us and how we act, how we talk. How we love those are all things that contribute to how fulfilled we feel in our lives.
Do we recognize what lights us up? Do we create opportunities to share and to serve and to enrich the lives of other people around us? A tree with lots of branches and leaves looks really impressive, but if that tree doesn’t have deep solid roots, it will fall over in the first wind storm.
This is why we have to focus on our fulfillment first, enjoying the life that we lead every single day. Not waiting until we meet that goal to begin living, but to love the life that we have right now and through that lens is our roots go deeper and deeper. If we want to spread our branches out and grow a little bit up top, then that’s good too, but it is what is beneath the surface in the mundane every day systematic pieces of our lives that we find the fulfillment that matters the most.
Thank You For Being Here!
Thank you so much for being here. I hope that there is something that I’ve mentioned in this episode that has resonated with you and helped you think about how you’re going to head into this new year a little bit differently. I know that I want to look at the goals that I set for myself through the lens of whether or not they will build lasting fulfillment into my life.
“I want my goals to create direction, but I want my everyday life to be filled with the same love and joy and satisfaction that I hope to feel when I get there.”
Wherever there is. I say this every week, but I can’t thank you enough for tuning in, for listening, for being here. If you have enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend or family member. That word of mouth, actually telling someone, Hey, have you listened to this show? It’s something that I’m really enjoying. I think you might like it too!
Or grabbing your sister’s phone or your mom’s phone or your friend’s phone and downloading the podcast app and showing them how to use it so that the next time they’re doing dishes or vacuuming the floor, that they have something interesting to listen to you that might inspire them to live a more creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle.