Accomplishment without purpose diffuses your efforts; you’re moving with no set destination. Purpose without accomplishment is just talk. But when you combine purpose with accomplishment, you can make progress toward a specific end.TheExceleratedLife.com
Heads or Tails?
I used to play a game with my daughter, Lizzi, when we’d go out for a walk. Whenever we came to an intersection, I’d flip a coin. Heads we’d go right, tails we’d go left. I found this fascinating, wondering where our walk would take us today. Lizzi, on the other hand, was never fond of the game, mainly for this reason: any given walk could take five minutes or it might take an hour. Some trips, we would walk a couple of miles; sometimes we’d only walk around the block.
These random walks were an accomplishment – we took our walk. Lizzi preferred a route with a specific path and length. She wanted a walk that was an accomplishment with a purpose.
When we accomplish something – walks, steps, tasks, goals – we are making progress toward an end. Accomplishment is “a pretty broad category” and can refer to achievement, performance, competence, success, progress toward a goal, or mastery of a skill. [Grenville-Cleave]
Dr. Martin Seligman, a major founder of the Positive Psychology field, includes accomplishment as one of the five basic principles of well-being (along with positive emotion, engagement, relationships, and meaning). There is accomplishment in specific achievements, says Seligman, and then there’s “the ‘achieving life’, a life dedicated to accomplishment for the sake of accomplishment, in its extended form.” [Seligman] In Excelerated Accomplishment™ terms, we might call this “purpose”.
Making Progress in the Desired Direction
If accomplishment is making progress, purpose is making progress in the desired direction. In the Excelerated Life™, we recognize two facets of purpose: Universal and unique.
We all have a Universal purpose in common. Our Universal purpose is to realize our potential and give our best in Service to the world.
Then we each have a unique purpose. This comprises your personal Service based on your talents, skills, strengths, interests, and abilities.
You brought something with you when you came to this life that makes you uniquely suited to fulfill your purpose. No one else who has ever been born or who will ever be born can fulfill your purpose. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. How will your unique purpose enable you to realize your potential and give your best in Service to the world, the Universal purpose?
How Do You Know Your Purpose?
Purpose is not something you select or choose or decide on. Purpose is a thing you discover. It’s there all along, you only need to find out what It is
If you are wondering what your true purpose is, consider that there may not be such a thing. While the Universal purpose is constant, your unique purpose may show up in different ways at various stages of your life. If you want help in discovering your current unique purpose, you can use the “Find Your Purpose” worksheet in the Resources section of TheExceleratedLife.com.
How do you know when you’ve identified your unique purpose? Here are some clues.
- You feel a strong connection with the purpose you’ve written down.
- You have a great desire to fulfill it.
- You feel deep pleasure when you act in accordance with it.
- Your interests naturally go in that direction.
- You feel if you do this, it will give your life meaning and inspiration.
How Purpose Leads To Accomplishment
Do you know what a cattle prod is? It’s a long stick or metal rod used to get a stubborn animal to move. You use the prod to poke a recalcitrant cow to get her to move toward something (e.g., the barn) or away from something (e.g., the garden).
Now, think of a magnet. A magnet pulls things to it. It draws. It attracts. (Although, admittedly, not cows.)
Compare these two pictures. One is a picture of prodding, pushing, forcing, expending energy. The other is a picture of attraction, of effortlessly pulling, of drawing toward one the things that are attracted to it.
Purpose is the magnet that draws you to accomplish those things that allow it to manifest itself. It inspires you. It draws you. Purpose leads you and encourages you in accomplishment.
How Accomplishment Leads To Purpose
We can define accomplishment as purpose in action. Accomplishment allows you to clarify your purpose, as you identify which actions lead you to feel “on purpose”.
Accomplishment amplifies purpose, gives it “legs”. Purpose without accomplishment is a weak shadow of what it can be. It’s a magnet sitting in the middle of an empty table, nothing to attract to itself. But when you combine purpose and accomplishment, now you’re doing something worthwhile, your actions take on new meaning.
Combining Purpose and Accomplishment
Accomplishment without purpose is one-dimensional. Imagine you started on a journey by taking a step forward, then a step to the right, then a step to the left, then a step backward, and you continued in this way taking steps in random directions throughout the day. At the end of the day, who knows where you will be? This is accomplishment without purpose.
If you have purpose without accomplishment, you’re talking a good game but you may have little of real value to show for it. I can talk to you all day about what I’m gonna do, but if talk is all I do, you won’t have much faith in my abilities and justifiably so.
But when you combine purpose and accomplishment? You know where you are going and you have a plan for how you’ll get there.
The first step toward harnessing purpose and accomplishment is to know your purpose. (The “Find Your Purpose” worksheet can help.) Understand that your unique purpose may change or become clearer over time. But you need to know what it is for you right now.
Thinking of your unique purpose, list 3 ways you can live into it. What are three accomplishments that help you live your purpose?
Pick one of the accomplishments and set a goal to bring it into reality.
Make a plan to achieve the goal.
Take the first step.
Flipping coins to decide where your walk is going to take you may be interesting but it is not a good method if you want to go to a specific destination. Knowing where you want to go allows you to plan your route and to keep track of where you are in the journey.
Accomplishment without purpose is flipping the coin to decide where you’ll go.
Purpose without accomplishment is standing at the front door, without ever taking a step in any direction.
But combine purpose with accomplishment and you’re on your way to your chosen destination. Now you are living an Excelerated Life™!
Excelerated Accomplishment™ — achieving meaningful objectives — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Grenville-Cleave, Bridget. Positive Psychology: A Practical Guide. New York: MJF Books. 2012.
Seligman, Ph.D., Martin E. P. Flourish. New York: Free Press, 2011.