Here are several ways that Accomplishment contributes to well-being:
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
What struck me most about Accomplishment is that it is quite literally the gift that you can give to yourself that keeps on giving. Often we find ourselves at the end of the day or the week and we know that time has passed, but we have little notion where most of it went, which is sad indeed, because this represents pieces of our precious life that went missing without record or recognition. If however we devoted our time to a specific task or goal, the time is easier to recall, to remember and to re-play in your mind. You can enjoy and savor the rewards of achieving a goal over and over again. The first time the gift of accomplishment makes you feel is good because you achieve a goal you set out to do, and thereafter, your recollection or memory of that happy moment can be replayed and enjoyed for the rest of your life. It is like having a cookie jar filled with good feelings next to you: just dip in, pull out a memory of an accomplishment, and hey presto! You will feel good without having done a thing, based purely on invoking a memory of past accomplishment.
This is because the words “accomplishment” and “achievement” are often retrospective, as people look back at their lives or the immediate past at something already completed.
One of the easiest ways to achieve your life goals is to look to the people who have already helped you. Thank each one personally and privately. Expand beyond the basic thank you by telling them why they are important to you and how their help in the past helped you to succeed at something. Keep these people in your corner by showing your gratitude and they will likely help you again. University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson wrote in his book, A Primer in Positive Psychology, “In our experience with many dozens of gratitude letters…they ‘work’ 100% of the time in the sense that the recipient is moved, often to tears, and the sender is gratified as well.”
In a sense gratitude is a gift too – also giving more than once. Gratitude researcher Robert Emmons recently reviewed the growing evidence that feelings of gratitude improve the quality of our lives. By being grateful, we feel good, possibly even happy, and the person we are thanking also experiences positive emotion. Double value! Emmons found that people who “wrote up to five things for which they were grateful or thankful” on a weekly basis “exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week.” Seligman and his colleagues also discovered that when people took a few minutes each evening to write down “three good things” that happened to them during the day, their happiness increased and their depressive symptoms decreased. So gratitude it seems, helps with positive rumination – this ‘how to’ hint for ditching depression is a keeper!
Emmons found in another study that people who feel gratitude are more likely to help others. He wrote, “Gratitude leads not only to feeling good, but also to doing good.” It seems therefore as if gratitude transcends depression and self focus and allows us to move beyond preoccupation with ourselves and our problems. It allows us to reach out to help others.
Savoring Accomplishments Leads to Strengths Identification
Positive Psychologist David Pollay observes that when you reflect on the most significant accomplishments in your life, it is easy to spot which of your top strengths helped you achieve those successes. This makes it possible for you to see a pattern in your life: you will discover that many of your greatest achievements were made possible by engaging your top strengths. Accomplishment helps you to spot the underlying patterns of your personal strengths and how they have contributed to your successes in life. This is dynamite insight about yourself and your abilities - yours to freely use for the next challenge and goal to be accomplished.
Appreciate Your Own Accomplishments so Others can Too
Strengths expert Kathryn Britton points out that we sometimes make our accomplishments look easy. This may be because for us they are easy - by virtue of leveraging our signature strengths. Or maybe we are just being modest. Point is, others - such as our partners, peers, bosses and spouses won’t readily recognize our accomplishments if we don’t. If the way we work makes it look easy it does not always lead to appreciation. If you appreciate your own contribution and recognize how it is different from those made by others you will develop a habit of appreciating and savoring your own accomplishments leading to some great joy-in-the-present equity. When someone else is acknowledged as a hero for solving a difficult problem, perhaps you can think of times when you prevented problems from occurring by planning ahead. Take notes. Keep track of satisfied customers. Write about it in your journal. Take photographs to savor later. Collect evidence of ways you have influenced important outcomes. It is always easier to illustrate your value with specific instances that show how you have made things work than to show how your actions prevented problems from occuring.
Projected Appreciation as a Tool for Goal Achievement
Projected Accomplishment is an excellent energy source for achieving future goals. Yeager writes that people who scrapbook their future goals with illustrations, photos, articles, give themselves a little bit of 'Achievement-savoring-in-advance'. This may help to energize the person to go ahead and better achieve their goals. Similarly, people who scrapbook about past accomplishments give themselves permission to explore and examine their remembered pleasures in their journey.
Accomplishment is also about keeping something in store for the times when in-the-moment positivity is difficult to find. One cannot help wondering how many times folks like Nelson Mandela or Viktor Frankl would have had to dip into either past or future savoring to help them get through difficult times or to keep their hopes alive for the future. It is indeed a broadening experience – to borrow the term form Barbara Frederickson – to be able to Accomplish and later to reflect on that Accomplishment again in order to be able to fuel goal achievement or to broaden one's resilience against adversity even more.
Accomplishment and reflecting on Accomplishmnet builds positivity, it strengthens resilience and it gives us an idea of what we are good at. If we reflect on past or future accomplishments we can easily experience gratitude which spins off a whole cycle of positivity for ourselves and others. Achievement lasts forever and it cannot be taken away – not even by death. It is worth celebrating daily, for our own wellbeing as well as for those around us.
1. Seligman, M. E. P. (2004), Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
2. Gratitude and Giving Will Lead to Your Success. David J. Pollay. Positive Psychology News.
3. Positive Core and Strengths at Work. Kathryn Britton. Positive Psychology News.
4. Make Your Goals Come Alive through Imagery. J M Yeager. Positive Psychology News.
5. Peterson, C., (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology New York, NY: Oxford University Press.