Achievement AND Fulfillment  

Today I was listening to a podcast on my blazing hot ride home (like I always do). In it, Tony Robbins was being interviewed about living life at the top of your game (click the title to hear the interview). He said a phrase that struck me. Please excuse the crude a quote that is about to follow:

“Most of us are living our lives for achievement, but not for fulfillment”

By achievement he means success. And he is right about that. Google how to be a successful… fill in the blank, and you will see what I mean. But fulfillment loosely translates to happiness. From my experience, this is where many of us get stuck, and Tony talks about this as well. There are always people who achieve all the goals that they set for themselves and then they look and say…is that all there is?

I know about that one. That is what happened to me a few years ago. It is one of the reasons that I decided to quit my job and learned how to code. I wanted to be excited about learning again. I wanted to be able to make what I wanted just because the thought entered by head.

I had been on a success track for so long, that I just wanted to be happy again. I was longing for the kind of happiness that you get as a kid when you are playing all afternoon. When I was a kid, that play often did involve building things from other things and making a whole system of things work (thanks mom and dad for getting me legos, train sets and hot rods for that one). After mulling over these thoughts for about an hour, I developed a theory:

Maybe this achievement over happiness problem is why there aren’t more people in STEM.

It may seem like a leap, but bear with me. Stem subjects rely heavily on quantitative measures. There is a lot of talk about how people are afraid of this kind of work because it is hard and we just don’t want to do hard stuff. But…maybe it is much more about it being so closely tied to methods of achievement. When you are doing quantitative work, there often is a RIGHT way to do it. And when that happens, it makes it easy to grade everyone along a continuum.

When that happens, achievement addition sets in. You have an A in math, you don’t want to blow it. Or you have a D in math and you decide this isn’t for you. Isn’t that why kids today are all over scheduled? So that they can have enough extra curriculars along with good grades to get into great colleges and then great jobs. Achievement front and center.

Whereas artsy type subjects are less objective and more subjective. Doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting graded, but there is not necessarily a RIGHT essay or a RIGHT case study. There are ones that are better than others depending upon the variables. Maybe, what is really so attractive about these subjects is that there is some room to interject yourself and your own ideas about what you want. Maybe this is a small way to find your own fulfillment.

I think that what is really going on is that many of us in an unconscious protest. We don’t want to just be evaluated on whether or not we achieved our goals, we want to be fulfilled and happy as well. I know that I do.

So the moral of the story is, don’t just go after your goals. Goals are great for orienting you and maybe even motivating you. But to live a full and exciting life you have to be willing to let go and find your fulfillment. That could mean letting your heart lead or following your bliss or some other corny statement. What is important about this is that you don’t make your life a linear progression towards some goal.

You need to live in full color.

Tony says that there is a method for this. It is about getting your head in line with your heart and feeling the gratitude for everything that is great about living. Maybe he is right. I think it is worth it to find out.


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Last week we were assigned a lab that required us to create the game blackjack in Ruby. This has been the bane of my existence ever since. I am still not done (and it was due today). I have struggled and written, deleted and rewritten... Continue →