Why is achievement so alluring?
I recently cycled with my brother from London to Istanbul in 17 days, travelling further than the Tour De France in six fewer days – quite the achievement, all things considered.
I did it to raise money for charity, and to chase clichés: I ‘sought an adventure’ that would ‘push me to my limit’ and ‘show me what I’m made of’. The ride delivered those clichés, and I found what I was made of at my limit. The problem was, I didn’t like what I found.
I was beyond stubborn, willing to sacrifice my emotional wellbeing and strain my relationship with my brother almost to breaking point to pursue something I was increasingly unsure was worth chasing. I became joyless, barely celebrating the finish.
If this was me in extremis, I didn’t like it.
It wasn’t a complete surprise, of course: when I became a Christian, I accepted I’m flawed. I’d just thought I wasn’t that flawed!
It left me wondering, why do we do this to ourselves? Did I really achieve anything in this cycle ride? A line on my CV or an unhumble brag? How shallow.
Endurance events are proliferating, but achievement-seeking isn’t all lycra-clad. It looks different for different people. It’s on Instagram, viral in the workplace, and the beating heart behind chasing milestones. Although not all desires to achieve are bad, they can be easily twisted into a search for identity and meaning.
We are embedded in an achievement-driven culture that often tells us we need to earn our value, and prove that we are worthy of love.
The song ‘How Deep the Father’s Love For Us’ suggests that, as Christians, there’s a different way to live.
Jesus died so we’d know we’re already loved beyond all measure. His love is patient, kind, and doesn’t reward CV-bragging achievements. The lyrics present me – and all of us – with a challenge: ‘I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom.’
Being so deeply loved by the Creator of the universe that he’d pay the ultimate cost for all our stubborn flaws is something actually worth boasting in!
That’s what my ‘heroic’ achievement showed me. I hope I remember it now I’m home.
Between cups of tea, Ben chases footballs, follows Jesus, obsesses over Ted (his dog), and does the Marketing and Communications for XLP.