“The thrill of victory—and the agony of defeat.”

Isn’t that the truth? When we achieve something we have been striving for, oh, the thrill! And when we miss – it truly can be agonizing. When I was learning to water ski as a teenager at summer camp, I had weakling arms and hard a hard time holding onto the rope as the boat took off. I’d never been behind a ski boat before (remember I grew up in a gymnasium). I went down, time, and time again. It was discouraging, especially when other kids around me were able to get up and stay up…not to mention the boat was being driven by the ‘cool’ kids from southern California with their bleach-blonde hair and strong, tan physiques. Once the ski rope handle sprang back and smashed my fingernail, which later turned a lovely dark purple. I fell forward, I fell backwards, I caught an edge and flipped over completely, water up my nose and feeling like a drowned rat. Needless to say things weren’t going well. But I was determined to figure this out! After four classes chock-full of failed attempts, my feeble arms were finally able to hang on and found myself up on top of the water, gliding along, water spraying off the sides of my skis. The cool instructors in the boat cheered and I was grinning ear to ear.  Oh, the thrill of victory!

Now transition from sports to the corporate world. Think back on the projects that you have successfully completed – what a thrill it is to accomplish something you’ve worked so hard on for weeks! But along with victories come discouraging moments when our efforts do not pan out–and the frustration that accompanies our defeats can be agonizing.

Possessing a strong achievement drive is a competency of emotional intelligence and is a quality that is well worth developing. People with the competency tend to have a strong set of personal and professional standards and are always striving to improve. They seem to have an expectation of excellence in everything they do and are committed to continual learning. They are not quick to quit. They are able to try, try, and try again until they reach their objectives. Do you know anyone like this?

Not all of us can boast on this as a strong point. I may have been determined to water ski that summer, but there have been many projects I have started and haven’t finished, like writing that book, or learning that new skill, or continuing to move toward a goal at work when I received a lot of push back. Achievement drive is a quality I without doubt need (and want) to cultivate and grow.

The good thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be learned and developed, with the help of good self-assessment and solid coaching, and there are some developmental tips we can begin working on to start the growth process. Obviously we need to start by setting a goal. Use the “SMART” acronym can help you clearly define your goal and make it attainable.  Ask yourself, is my goal, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed? (Learn more about SMART goals here:  http://topachievement.com/smart.html)

But establishing a goal is often not the hard part – it’s the getting there that presents the challenge. Here are some steps to take to move toward accomplishment:

  • Determine the whys behind your desire to achieve the goal. What emotional pulls are driving your desire for success? Write these down. Knowing what these are can be a huge motivator to spur you forward.
  • Jot down the risks you face in working toward the goal and compare those with the joys of achieving the goal. Which carry more weight for you, and why?
  • Each day, attempt to do at least one thing that moves you toward your goal, even if it is a very small step. It may be as simple as researching a website, or picking up your phone to make a call to get information. Every move toward that goal is a piece of the success.
  • Track your accomplishments. Keep a daily log or journal to mark achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

I love what Harvey Mackay, columnist and author, says about goals:

“A dream is just a dream.  A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.”

As a side note — sometimes, the journey toward achievement can take you down a few paths that may seem like rabbit trails. And they well may be. Think of how often you get online to ‘check’ something and end up watching you tube videos (of the Wide World of Sports from 1978!)  While you do not want to be deterred from your goal, don’t be afraid to explore these trails, always keeping the endgame in mind. Sometimes the discoveries along the way will open new doors and give you fresh ideas as to how to enhance the excellence of your goal. The important thing to do is to keep moving.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

We’ve all heard how many times Edison failed before he got the light bulb to work.  But I like how he framed the process: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Don’t get discouraged when you hit roadblocks. You will hit them and they will slow you down. But there are always ways to get around them and if you stick with it, you will find them, so you may keep heading down the road to the thrill of victory.