Achievement and Success

How many times have you heard this: “Of course he is successful; look at all he has done.” Or “Once I do x, then I will be successful.” In other words, the speaker is matching being successful to accomplishing something. But accomplishment and success, although related, are not the same thing. Accomplishment is a completion, whereas success is a state. Let me explain.

Accomplishment implies that something is finished. If you have accomplished something, you have gotten something done or finished something or solved something. In each of these cases, the main idea is a particular task is completed. There is a sense of completion; the task which was to be accomplished is closed, and closed well. Accomplishing something is a source of pride, but accomplishment is not what makes someone successful.

Earl Nightingale proposed one of the most widely accepted definitions of success: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal.” According to this definition, success is not tied to achieving a goal but working towards a goal. Someone who is trying to write a good book is successful, even if the book is not completed. But there are other ways to be successful, such as working in your desired profession. Success is being on a good journey, not arriving at a good destination.

Both accomplishment and success are tied to worthy ideas. An accomplishment implies that the result achieved was worthy, and success implies that the destination of the journey is worthy. But accomplishment is what you have when the journey is complete, whereas success is what you have while the journey is in progress.

To get both, you need to decide on a worthy objective. What would make you feel proud when it is complete? Why would that completed result make you feel good? Once you have set the target, then you can begin the journey, feeling successful while you are the journey and proud when you have finished it.

Both accomplishment (and the associated good feelings) and success depend upon the quality of the destination. The destination justifies the journey, providing the journey is done according to your core values. While the end does not justify the means, it does justify being on the journey. Doing the journey according to your core values provides a dimension of pride to the sense of accomplishment, which makes everything that much sweeter.

Understanding the connection and differences between accomplishment and success makes both more valuable. And more powerful.

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