A is for Achievement

Over the last four editions of the Messenger, we have explored Martin Seligman's wellbeing model PERMA. We started this series of articles focusing on Relationships, then moved to Positive Emotions, Engagement (Flow), and last time considered Meaning. For each of these wellbeing factors, we have learned a little bit about them, including their benefits on objective wellbeing measures. We've also looked at ways to build the relevant skills, identify opportunities to put them into action, and savour the moments resulting. Today, to avoid being left with an 80s style PERM, the fifth and final factor for us to consider is 'Achievement.'

Adapted from

Achievement, which is often used interchangeably with the term 'Accomplishment,' is all about setting, working towards, and obtaining goals. Sometimes these goals may not have a clear sense of purpose or meaning associated with them. When we set meaningful goals or goals linked with our values, no matter the size, it brings on a feeling of satisfaction. Furthermore, having reached the achievement, we can reminisce later and, in doing so, savour these moments. 

Rather than being about winning, goals may relate to attaining knowledge or information, acquiring a new skill, progressing towards a personal value, or being social (e.g., joining a new club). Goals may also include developing any of our strengths, skills, or talents, whether they be physical, cognitive, social, or emotional. 

Having set a goal, we will often encounter some hurdles or setbacks along the way. In these moments, if we can employ a growth mindset, we are more likely to persist to achieve the given goal (i.e., to show grit).

Whether large or small, short, medium, or long-term, setting goals for ourselves is associated with experiencing positive emotions (e.g., confidence, satisfaction, motivation, and happiness), higher resilience, and enhanced wellbeing. It is particularly true when the goals set are intrinsically valuable to the individual and based on achieving mastery in a particular area. When goals are not inherently valuable, setting appropriate performance-based goals (e.g., personal bests rather than relative to peers), while not as beneficial for one's wellbeing, can also encourage persistence. 

The following activities that you or other members of your family may choose to undertake as part of exploring the Achievement factor of wellbeing.   

Hints and Tips:

  • Set yourself a goal. Remember, it doesn't have to be significant. Use the SMART goals formula (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound), which tends to provide a sense of direction and motivation. 
  • When setting goals, consider your strengths and how they may help you achieve whatever goal you've set for yourself. 
  • If you're still unsure, you could ask yourself the following questions: What activity would I pursue even if I didn't win/earn/succeed in it? What do I enjoy doing just for the sake of it?
  • Celebrate your achievements. Take the time to acknowledge your successes and savour them, focusing on your actions to reach the goal.
  • Listen to the Music for Wellbeing: Achievement playlist (see details in the Further Reading/Listening section).
  • What Went Well. Identify three things that went well during the day, reflect on your effort and strengths used to achieve these things either through conversation or writing.
  • Undertake a growth mindset exercise such as: sharing a story about yourself when you were stuck and used hard work and the help of others to overcome a challenge, celebrate mistakes as something that make our brains stronger, think about something that was once difficult and with practice became easier, notice your mind say "can't" and replace it with "not yet," highlight the effort, strategy, progress, hard work, or persistence you see in others or watch this three minutes clip on the growth mindset

Wishing you all the best in your on-going pursuit of wellbeing for yourself and those you care for. 

Further Reading/Listening

  • Institute of Positive Education
  • Music for Wellbeing: Achievement available through the ABC Listen App presented by Greta Bradman
  • Seligman, M.E.P (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York City, NY: Atria Books
  • University of Pennsylvania's Authentic Happiness resources
  • Wellbeing and Resilience Centre (Western Australia)

Educational and Developmental Psychologist