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The Biggest ‘Lies’ We Tell Ourselves About Achievements and Successes

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How do we feel after our achievements?

In life, we all achieve successes that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This happens in all facets of life, meaning that it could be a new job, good exam grades, or an anniversary. It should be a profound and uplifting experience that causes our body to tell us ‘this is all we want to achieve’ to be happy.

When we put in the hard work and eventually achieve the desired goal, what are we supposed to feel? Should we feel satisfied? This can cause people to wonder if satisfaction really “lasts”.

Why is this? We work so hard for these achievements, so why do they often leave us unfulfilled? Why is that initial euphoria dissipating so quickly?

This happens because of a phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik effect.

A Russian Scientist, Zeigarnik, discovered that “waiters seemed only to remember orders that were in the process of being served”.

If we should associate the same idea above to our achievements, it is clear that we tend to focus on our achievements the most while we are achieving them.

Once we achieve them, we take them as done, so we forget about them. Why we chose not to celebrate these achievements is usually because of the LIES we choose to tell ourselves

The LIES that hold us back

1. If we celebrate our achivements we ‘won’t be hungry for more’.

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Each individual has a different personality. “Achievers” in particular are susceptible to this, meaning that they strive for greatness by always taking on the ‘next thing’.

There is a general misconception that if we choose to celebrate success, we will lose our drive for the next thing. This is quite far from the truth. If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the figure below, it is noted that achievements form part of our self-esteem.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — 1954

It is ONLY after celebrating our successes that we reach self-actualisation — that is to realise our potential. Therefore, we should make time to celebrate and relish our successes. When I say celebrate, I mean, it’s essential to take time to reflect on what you did. Look back at the journey. What did you achieve? How did you achieve it? How many hours did you spend on it? More importantly, remember to pat yourself on the back.

The irony with the lies our mind tells us is that we think we are trying to promote greatness. This can lead to repetitive behaviour because it often leads to results. However, what we do not feel is fulfilled. It is the positive experience from a celebration that reminds us we need to continue the work hard to achieve results. It helps us take things to the next level so we can reach a new level of motivation. More importantly, this goes a long way in helping us feeling fulfilled.

2. If I achieve ‘this’, I dont need anything else

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When we hinge so much of our happiness and desire on one achievement, we struggle to be happy. It is simply because we are correlating success and happiness, which should not always be the case.

Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs above, people will have a variety of needs extending from the fundamental (housing, water, sleep etc.) to the complex (enthralling and compatible relationships) to ultimately be fulfilled. We require the right combination of our needs to ultimately feel fulfilled.

Achievements alone for their own sake seldom lead to happiness and often feel like an addiction for over-achievers who keep looking for that next goal in the hopes that it will be soul-satisfying and lead to deep happiness.
Laura Huckabee-Jennings, Contributor

I wouldn’t put it as harshly as Laura but as she correctly pointed out, achievements can become addictions. This causes us to continually chase the next best thing, which ties back to the Zeigarnik effect.

We need to focus on constructive goals, break them down and then decide if achieving them will bring about any sort of lasting fulfilment.

How can we tackle these lies?

1. Start with the end in mind

Think about where you want to be in 20 or 30 years. Think about how your family, friends or children would want to remember you. Do you want to be remembered for that incredible work presentation or as a happy and kind person? Why not both?

This is incredibly empowering in the sense that life gives us a blank canvas every day to choose what we do and the person we want to become.


You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.’
Alan Watts

So when we think about the end, we can start choosing how we want to live in that moment. We choose goals that we want the current version of ourselves to be proud of. When we achieve them, we feel more fulfilled because those goals are part of us overall, as opposed to a compartmentalised version of ourselves.

2. Reflection

Reflection is incredibly powerful to decide on what you want and how you can get it.

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

Jim Kiwk said that the average human has 60,000 thoughts every day. With the volume that high, how can people navigate their thoughts unless they adopt this reflective process?

Which begs the question of what reflection means. Let’s think of it almost formulaically (as Ray Dalio put it).

“Pain + Reflection = Progress”


With every journey or task, there will be some amount of pain. The level of pain changes, depending on what is being achieved. This could range from emotional challenges such as a breakup, getting fired, or sacrificing a night out with your friends to study.


This is the tool to help us overcome the pain and ultimately create the best version of ourselves. To do this, we need to question our thoughts.

Reflection may take several forms.

1. Listening — Conversing with a variety of people, which can assist in avoiding confirmation bias. It is about acknowledging their perspectives to gather information. You need to use this information to further synthesise your own thoughts.

2. Writing — Write down what is on your mind. Try putting things in words even if doesn’t sound right at first. Eventually, you will find your words and turn your scribbling and notes into art. When we write things down, we are forced to make a somewhat permanent stamp of our feelings and label emotions.

3. Speaking — Try explaining how you feel. This can be to your colleagues, your friends, a mirror, or even a puppy.

This can help you work through your thoughts and get a greater understanding of your emotions, your desires, how you can improve, and most importantly how to CHERISH SUCCESS.

Key Takeaways

1. We often feel a lack of fulfilment when we finally achieve something we have been chasing. This is because of our minds ability to remember the journey more than the outcome.

2. We tend to fixate on achieving greatness by telling ourself if we celebrate achievements we won’t be hungry for more. This isn’t true, because, we are depriving ourselves of an emotional need.

3. Similarly, when we fixate on one goal or one achievement as the ‘key’ to being happy, we will continue to remain unfulfilled. We require our unique combination of primary and complex needs to be fufliled ultimately.

4. By focusing on how we want to be remembered, dissecting our specific goals that characterise who we want to be. By focusing on broader goals for your improvement, every step feels more enriching and uplifting. Remember ‘Inch by Inch is Sinch, Yard by Yard is Hard’ — Jim Kiwk

5. Also, by spending time reflecting, we can determine what we want and how we can get there. We can do this by listening, speaking or writing. Each of these triggers a different part of your brain, forcing us to develop. Remember ‘ in the absence of reflection, history often repeats itself’ — Daniel Segal



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Raman Singh

25, finance professional and law student. MY LIFE IS A MASSIVE Work in Progress (WIP)