Seeking Durable Accomplishments

Often we can do incredible things only to finish them and feel empty and left with a lack of purpose.

Maybe there’s a quick “congratulations” from friends and colleagues and an acknowledgment of all the hard work we put in, but after that, silence.

I’ve seen this play out repeatedly in myself and in clients I work with. Many of them have done absolutely phenomenal things – published books, founded and sold companies, and achieved high levels of athletic, academic, military, or career distinction.

But shortly after these accomplishments, they are out looking for the next fix of an incredible thing to do.

The theme I see repeatedly is that no matter what we do, an external accomplishment is transient and won’t make us happy for very long.

Status and wealth in particular fall into a category of “black hole” emotions. When we get them, we generally want more of them. In fact, the very act of chasing status and wealth can make us feel strongly less-than and scarce.

Once those negative emotions are wired-in and running hot in our system, it can be hard to turn them off even when the status or wealth finally arrives.

That’s why if you talk to people with a ton of wealth or status, they’re often far more scared of losing it than people with very little. It comes to rule them.

So while it’s tempting to lose ourselves in the external things we’re creating, it’s worth investing time and energy in the “important but not urgent” work of creating a tangible and close-to-home life we love.

The life we truly want is rarely one that’s enabled by external circumstances. The external is only a tool. What we’re usually after are the internal states that the journey will create within us.

This is also what the people closest to us will value. They care most about who we are, not what we do.

The people close to us rarely care about our accomplishments. Instead, they care about who we are: how we respond to them, how much we care about them, and our energy levels when we’re together.

So if you want a life you love, it’s much better to make durable investments, not in things like accomplishments, status, ego, or wealth – but in cultivating time-tested emotional states like service, trust, and abundance (which can exist even with no money at all!).

The more we can get used to feeling abundant, helpful, and trusting before we have any evidence to back up the feelings – the more quickly and readily we can bring those emotions to every spot in our lives and create what we love.

This concept was made much more real to me over the last few months by my friend and mentor the coach Robert Ellis, who pointed out my own scarcity and status-seeking.

It was painful, but he woke me up, and it’s led to dramatic changes in my own identity and how I show up for friends, family, and clients.

Often all it takes is a little tap on our identity – asking questions like, “Once I create this, who will I become?” – to start unraveling an attachment to accomplishment and creating a long-term relationship with a better way of living.