Motivation Self Help

The Psychology Behind Achievement


What do you consider an achievement? Although, the definition of achievement differs from person to person. In this competitive world, everyone is in a rat race, trying to achieve the best from the rest. This fierce competition has become a top priority for a large amount of the population. This achievement motivation among the general population has been a source of happiness and many suggest they find achieving new heights everywhere empowers them mentally and emotionally. But there are always two sides to a coin, which is the same for human perspectives.

Read More: How Can Achievements lead to Happiness?

While achieving new heights brings happiness and joy to many, many of us go through the fear of losing at a competition. The fear of failure often leads to some unexpected circumstances in the life of an individual with high expectations and achievement motivation. But how does a material or non-material achievement bring happiness or joy to a person? Why do people have a fear of failure? Let’s know how…

Setting a Goal for Achievement

It is known to everyone that setting a goal is the first and foremost step to achieving something. The goal serves the purpose of directing the person to their desired outcome. Goals can be further divided into two different types; Purpose and Objective. As the name suggests purposes are larger goals that are never-ending, they can take the shape or form of different things but they will be a part of life. Purposes are often considered lifelong goals. On the other hand, objectives have achievable endpoints. It is comparatively short-term and has a point to meet, unlike purposes that don’t have an endpoint. For example, a doctor’s purpose in life can be saving lives and making people live a better life. But his/her objective can be to find a cure for cancer.

Read More: Psychology Behind Goal-Setting

Here, his/her purpose will continue to be with him as long as he is in the profession but his objective goal can be achieved at any point of time in his life. Another key contributing ingredient to an individual’s achievement is the motivation or drive that they have. The motivation for achieving heights in life can be from two different ways, either intrinsically or extrinsically. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and drives individuals throughout the process till they achieves their desired outcome. Extrinsic motivation is something that originates from the outer world and guides the individual to walk the path of their desired outcome.

Read More: 4 tips to Set High-Achieving Goals

Factors Influencing Achievement

  • Situational factors: this can include the risk and complications of the task, the rate of success, the incentive etc.
  • Goal factors: the goal should be challenging but achievable, it should be moderately difficult. People motivated to achieve high tend to take calculated risks.
  • Personality Factors: people who achieve more have several traits or dispositions that influence achievement motivation. Persistence of an individual defines if they can consistently work towards their goal. Accept the gratification delay, competitiveness with others and themselves for betterment, self-fulfilling prophecies etc.
  • Neurochemical factors: there is one such neurotransmitter that is directly connected to achievements is “dopamine“. Dopamine often called the reward hormone, is related to the achievement and success of an individual and makes him/her take up such challenges again and again. Another neurotransmitter that is associated with the idea of achievement, is “Serotonin” (also called a happy hormone). It creates a feeling of happiness and joy in an individual and this pretty much explains the happiness after we achieve a desired goal.

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Where does the idea of achievement come from?

Several contributing factors have generated the idea of achievement in an individual. Let’s look at it from different perspectives of learning. In the theories of learning, we have learnt about model learning or social learning theory. It is essential to address the importance of social learning theory in our achievement motivation. Children generally follow the footprints of their adult caregivers. As they model the other person for playing a particular role it becomes a part of their life and idea. So the idea of achievement most of the time comes from adults whom the kids are looking up to.

Read More: The Psychology Behind Choosing Your Role Models

If the adult they are modelling treats achievement as an essential part of their life for which they might sometimes go a little beyond the physical and mental boundaries, the child will also associate hard work with compromising their physical and mental health. But if the adult they are modelling is taking care of their lives and treating achievement and work as a part of their lives the child will automatically take up the trait of balancing one’s life. Another theory that comes into play is the operant or instrumental learning theory, where all the learning that takes place is associated with a reinforcement or punishment either positively or negatively.

This means that if you are constantly praised for your achievements, chances are high that your behaviour will increase and you will become more inclined towards achieving your goals. This is one of the major ideas behind the goal setting of an individual. The material or nonmaterial things the person desires are directly linked to the journey of the person’s achievements. The reinforcement will further increase or decrease the behaviour. So, it is easy to say that people who are highly motivated to achieve their life goals are,

  1. Taken calculated risks
  2. Believes in their self-efficacy
  3. Are encouraged by their parents
  4. Rewarded for attaining success
  5. Taken moderately difficult goals to attain
  6. Associated achievement with the efforts and no luck
  7. Have associated positive feelings with achievements

Read More: Psychological reason behind future goals

How to Increase the Achievement Motivation in You?

  1. Set smaller goals: setting up smaller goals and fulfilling them acts as a reinforcement that will help you achieve your bigger goals easily.
  2. Work on your self-efficacy: belief in creating a change and having control over your motivation and behaviour is an integral part of self-efficacy.
  3. Take up a challenge daily: challenging yourself regularly instead of getting comfortable in one place helps an individual learn new skills. Challenges are an essential part of our lives, and they make us move out of our comfort zone and create one for ourselves.
  4. Celebrate achievements: everyone has a different outlook on the things they consider as an achievement. But celebrating the joy of attaining even a small task like cleaning the bookshelf or cooking your favourite food will act as a reinforcement that will make an individual believe in themselves.

Read More: Understanding Commitment and How to Maintain It

To conclude, we can say achievements are a part of your life and if someone fails to attain a certain goal that doesn’t make them a failure. It’s just about a particular goal, not your entire life. The current obsession of people achieving almost every single thing that comes to their mind in some way or another leads to a state of anxiety. So, it is better to look for sustainable development and growth in an individual rather than mere achievements that come with a very limited source of happiness.

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