The fifth element of the PERMA acronym is accomplishment, also known as achievement, mastery, or competence.

Having a sense of accomplishment means that we have worked towards and reached our goals, achieved mastery over an endeavour, and had the self-motivation to complete what we set out to do. Accomplishment contributes to our wellbeing when we are able to look back on our lives with a sense of achievement and say ‘I did it, and I did it well’ (Seligman, 2012).

The researcher Angela Duckworth introduced the concept of ‘grit’. Grit is defined as ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’ (Duckworth, et al.,2007).

People who exhibit ‘grit’ don’t just finish what they started, they persevere at their goals over time. Having perseverance and not giving up in the face of adversity or setbacks illustrates the success stories of many famous people including:

  • Albert Einstein, whose parents and teachers thought he had an intellectual disability
  • J.K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, was a divorced, single mother living in public housing before becoming one of the greatest publishing success stories.
  • Michael Jordan, the NBA basketball star, who was kicked off his high school team for lacking talent. He has been quoted as saying “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Research findings on accomplishment

  • Achieving goals has been found to enhance wellbeing over time (Brunstein, 1993)
  • Individuals who exhibit conscientiousness (demonstrated by a strong sense of purpose, obligation and persistence) have better job performance than those who don’t (Barrick & Mount, 1991).
  • People who have a more pessimistic explanatory style (“It’s my fault I failed”, “Nothing I do goes right”) are more likely to give up (Seligman & Schulman, 1986).
  • Those who pursue goals that match their personal values and interests are more likely to attain those goals (Sheldon & Houser-Marko, 2001).
  • Achieving intrinsic goals (relating to growth and connection, rather than money and status), produces larger gains in well-being (Sheldon 2004).

How to build accomplishment: 

  • Set yourself achievable goals – remember SMART goals (Systematic, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound)
  • Goals don’t have to be big. Learning how to do a Sudoku puzzle could be enough!
  • What strengths have you used to succeed in the past? Can they help you again?
  • Look for ways to celebrate your achievements - with yourself as well as with others
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again!