PERMA – A  is for Accomplishment/Achievement

This blog brings us to our last element of the PERMA model; Accomplishment/Achievement. Given this is the last element, I want to point out that the order of the elements are not a hierarchical but rather possible ingredients in various doses that lead to a positive outcomes associated with a good life. To review, we learned about Positive Emotion being associated with how we see and evaluate our level of happiness in an emotional state; Engagement as a way to tap into our inner potential through FLOW or to simply be engaged in everyday life as a means of connecting and feeling connected; Positive Relationships that are a support network that are nurtured through giving and receiving; and Meaning as a way of connecting one’s self to a high purpose1.

Within the definitions of the PERMA model, Accomplishment/Achievement is described as a way of reflecting on the attempts of doing something, and the degree in which it provides a positive sense of accomplishment or achievement. As discussed in the last section, Meaning, this element again is very subjective; keep in mind that a sense of accomplishment while doing the same task can mean different things to different people. For example; several years ago, when we first moved to Hawaii, I went to watch the surfers at the North Shore. Like dots in the water they patiently waited for that perfect wave and when it finally appeared off they went like jewels gliding effortless down the slope of glistening water. I would imagine a huge sense of achievement and accomplishment is felt at the end of a ride like that. Weeks later I found myself in a position to try surfing at the Waikiki beach. The swells were much smaller and I practice the “art of standing up” on the board. After a few hours of practice I took the water and was able to stand up! One, two, three, four seconds went by and before I went tumbling into the water. I was not disappointed with my effort in the least. I was over-whelmed with a sense of achievement and accomplishment. I doubt at my age that I will ever master the North Shore waves, but I am completely content with what I was able to accomplish by getting past fear and making the attempt and having the experience.

Two important lessons come from this story. First, that it is important to acknowledge your goals and your sense of accomplishment, not to compare to others’ goals and accomplishments. Second, there is a wonderful positive psychology concept called “to savor”, or as my mother would say “to relish in the moment”. The goals we create in life do not necessarily have to be long term or have an astronomical bar height. Goals as set by self can be captured moments to fulfil an inner aspiration to attempt something that provides a connective piece to accomplishment. Goals attained, whether large or small feed into a belief in one’s self, internal motivation, efficacy and even resilience. The second part of this is the conscious way in which we grab hold of that moment, and like a three dimensional piece of art, we see it, we feel it, and we appreciate it. Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff (2007) describe savoring as the ability to notice and appreciate experiences, events, feelings; simply the good in one’s life. There are many times we experience good or memorable events but we lack the consideration to lock them into the vault of great things we can re-experience over and over again. As noted by the author’s the component that must exist is “conscious attention to the experience of pleasure” (p. 5) 2. Get giddy, get happy, have fun set to your own bar; enjoy the moment and what it provides for you and consumer yourself in the moment. Regardless of whether we become a world champion surfer or are just able to “stand up” on a surfboard, the sense and feeling of achievement/accomplishment is within each of our grasps if not suppressed by unreasonable comparing or shrinking the experience.

Achievements and accomplishments are what we create for ourselves through attempting, engaging and trying something, anything apart from what we already know how to do. This also includes how we recognize what we have done by not down-playing the achievement in comparison to others and by celebrating in an appreciable way that gives us the ability to build on achievements and to recall the types of motivation and feelings we experienced from achievements and accomplishments.

[1] Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Published by Free Press.
[2] Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


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