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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

The Balance of Achievement and Fulfillment

There is a serious and dangerous paradox of success that sometimes can entrap us.

Some people measure their success based on their achievements. They look at their resume, the previously used goals lists with many checkmarks or maybe the awards that line across their shelves and walls. All of these things represent great achievements. Is this what makes a truly great life?

Let me give you another scenario. Perhaps, you are not at the top of some mountain of achievement currently, are you possibly believing that you would suddenly feel deep joy inside yourself when you have as many achievements as the first example I gave. That is what happens to us many times, our thoughts go something like this: “Boy, if I have achieved all that person has done, I would be pretty excited and happy!” Really? How many people do we read about or hear about who have had a million selling song or a hit movie and the next thing we know, they are trapped in alcoholism or drug overdose? Don’t confuse enjoyment and happiness with achievement. They don’t always go hand in hand.

Don’t confuse enjoyment and happiness with achievement. They don’t always go hand in hand.

It can be pretty easy to become addicted to success. Business or artistic success is a high that consumes high performing leaders every day as if that success is their sole purpose in life. We are not born into our lives with the purpose of only experiencing success and achievement. That is certainly something that we have the potential to do, but it cannot be our sole purpose in our lives. Our lives are supposed to be enjoyable and joyful as well. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said, “If you are highly successful but you are not happy about it, then you are doing something wrong.” Such a great truthful statement. I can’t tell you how many highly successful leaders I have worked with and coached who had a long list of achievements but such a short gratitude list.

A truly great life is not solely built upon great achievement but also in great fulfillment. When you have high achievement and low fulfillment, it is not a joyful or happy experience. It’s the enjoyment and fulfillment of your achievements that make your life whole and happy. Each person not only deserves a chance to convert all their potential into goal achievement but also a larger sense of fulfillment, a satisfying feeling that all aspects of your life are rewarding and satisfying. A great marriage, a great family, great relationships and great adventure can also be part of a high achieving career and business. When you are a leader, key executive or CEO, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of your life and get target fixation only on your professional and business goals.

Too many successful people (and some not as successful also) defer and delay enjoyment. They think they will take vacations with family, later. They think they will exercise and eat better, later. They think they will spend more time with their kids, later. Or perhaps, pick up an enjoyable hobby or interest, later. They get stuck on the career destination of Someday Isle. Someday I’ll do this and someday I’ll do that, they are forever marooned on Someday Isle!

Right now, it is within your power and ability to enjoy all aspects of your life if you allow yourself permission. It’s amazing how many of my leadership coaching clients that I have questioned during a coaching session like this:

Me: How many vacations are you going to take with your family this year?

Highly Successful Client: Do you really think I can afford to be gone right now?

Me: Yes, it’s vital to the business and your own well-being for you to take vacations this year.

Highly Successful Client: Well, do you really think it will be ok if I take off?

As their business consultant, they are actually looking for permission to go and enjoy time off with their family. There is no doubt you must adapt a strong grind-it-out mentality to succeed at a high level, but you also must have the other side of the coin thinking to give yourself a chance to have a very enjoyable and fulfilled life. I would say a high percentage of successful executives have trained themselves to delay pleasure until objectives are achieved and there’s nothing wrong with that. Others fear not being able to get back into the performance zone if they take time off to relax. You may need help with this, it’s a very common issue in my practice with my clients that they need help permitting themselves to enjoy life now.

If you want a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment, you need to plan for it, just like you plan for goal achievement. This includes defining how you want to feel about yourself and your life and avoiding the pain and regret later once you have time to slow down and reflect backward.

If you play your cards right during the present time, then you can look back decades from now with joy and happiness that you mastered your career and life with a healthy balance of achievement and fulfillment.

For more leadership coaching resources, sign up for Tony’s Monday Morning Coaching Memo.

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