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The Achievement is not the Prize

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

2023 is on the heels of 2022…and approaching quickly!

As you head to the finish line …whatever that may mean for you this year, here are some reflections on “achievement” and some tips for staying the course. This is especially important for those of you who are working on long term goals, where the end of the year may not signify completion for you. You know, the trophy moment.


The prize, trophy, the medal, the certificate, all are markers of completion. The symbol of the last piece in the puzzle, the final milestone being met. If you ask anyone to tell you about one of their achievements, chances are that they’re not going to run over to their drawer and pull out their medal and show it to you. Rather, they’re going to tell you a story. Why? Because, it’s the road they took to get there, that was full of potholes, hills and unexpected gravelly spots that made it an achievement. That’s what makes it a story.

Celebrating the road that led to the achievement is what really matters. Learning to recognize when you made progress, noticing what may have gotten in the way, and how you were able to get moving again. The obstacles met that you overcame. No one’s going to tell you about something that went off without a hitch…where’s the story in that?

Think about the word “achievement”. By definition, it’s something that’s challenging and worthwhile…in other words, an accomplishment.

As 2023 is quickly approaching, perhaps some reflection would be useful.

As you reflect on the past year, ask yourself:

  • Am I where I thought I would be when I set out in January of this year?

  • If I was going to tell a story about how I got to where I am now, what kind of story would it be? A drama, mystery, comedy?

  • Are you satisfied with how the story played out? If not, are you further along, behind, or did you course correct and decide that the goal you had actually wasn’t important anymore? Just notice.

This is life. You don’t have a crystal ball to let you know what will happen so you make a plan and start from there. Some might call this a strategy. The thing about strategies is, if they’re too rigid, you risk missing the opportunities that are right under your nose. A plan or strategy that has a backbone, direction, and also flexibility, leaves room for course correction. Options. Because a plan without options well…. sounds…. Kind of rigid.


Think about one goal you achieved in 2022.

At some point, you started with a "direction", something you wanted. A setting of your compass. You didn’t have to know every step, it started with the first one. It might have been a phone call, an email, or to register for that first course. It was all about setting the wheels in motion and, as you continued to take steps, the compass may have started to shift and lead you somewhere else. Notice the feeling of progress as you moved towards your goal. It’s the working towards your goals that gives you a purpose, not the completion. That’s the celebration.

Achievements give you a chance to notice the patterns that emerge when you’re working hard towards something you want. Perhaps noticing that taking even the smallest of steps towards your goal, rather than doing nothing at all made a difference, or noticing the things that got you stuck, and what skills or resources you drew upon to get going again.

Now think about a goal that will take you beyond 2022 to achieve.

If your goal is a long-term one, as you continue on your quest, remember to stop and look around every now and then and savour all of the experiences that present themselves. Celebrate the small victories along the way. This will provide the fuel to keep going.

At the end of the day, it is the experiences along the way that make it worthwhile. That’s why it’s an achievement!


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