Achievements do make us feel good, usually, on average, all things being equal, if we look at the bright side, when things are going our way, while we carry a spirit of gratitude. You get the idea. We have to add caveats to make the statement true, because there are ample examples to the contrary. Your beliefs and comparisons dictate whether something gives you satisfaction.
When people goal set with regard to health or fitness, a great followup is, “why is that valuable to you?” You can get fit and then take it for granted. You can acquire wealth and take your ease of lifestyle for granted. You can become world champion and decide NOT to appreciate that accomplishment every day thereafter. We see exactly this varied response in studies on wealth and happiness: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/…/money-happiness-large.ht…
I once coached a couple who could not perform 10 consecutive kneeling pushups when we met. Less than a year later, they each could do handstand push-ups. But all the while, including when this was a regular part of their repertoire, they both said the oddest response: “I don’t feel like I’m making any progress.”
This went on for months. I dismissed it as a joke for a while. But then, it appeared to have a serious tone. It perplexed me. Both people got incredibly more athletic, way leaner, doing activities they couldn’t ever do. But they kept saying, “I don’t feel like I’m making any progress.”
They couldn’t bow forward with a 45lb bar and any control when we met. Now, both were deadlifting 1.5-2 times bodyweight. Nonetheless, “I don’t feel like I’m making any progress.”
So I asked, “compared to what?” I said, “what exactly is it that would confirm for you that you’re making progress?” With painfully disappointed tones, they replied, “well, you see, we still get out of breath.”
Lol. Ah. Nonsense comparisons and expectations will do that to you. When you go hard relative to your ability, you will always get out of breath. I take Division I athletes and make them cry in about 3 minutes. The more athletic you are, the harder you can push, and the faster I can annihilate you. You may at first get out of breath jogging 3.0 miles per hour, because your max is 3.1. Two years later you’re still going to get out of breath when we go 9.0 miles per hour and your max is 9.3. Usain Bolt still gets out of breath when he runs 26 miles per hour.
You see, objective and even relative improvements and achievements don’t correlate to appreciation unless your frame of mind is proper. The average American is losing a pound of skeletal/muscle/tendon/ligament/cartilage mass per year. People who lift buck this trend. But I’ve known people who are doing a great job bucking this trend and still quit investing in health and fitness, because they think health and fitness is losing 50lbs when they’ve only lost 5-10. Their comparisons are detached from science and reality.
And I believe strongly that the same people would quit even if they’d achieved precisely their incorrect definition they contrived in their imaginations. You cultivate a spirit of gratitude; or you cultivate a spirit of malcontent. A spirit of malcontent cannot be overcome by any worldly success.
Why does the US consistently rank so low in mental health and happiness when it’s so wealthy? For the same reason. It’s easy to take wins for granted. It’s easy to forget successes, advantages, progress. We fixate on how much better it “could be” or “once was”, and we’re sad, indignant, malcontent.
I don’t disagree that there are things which should change. There are wrongs worth righting. There are health and fitness goals still out of reach. But if you cannot appreciate the abundance you have now (always thinking of it as so little, so insignificant, so what), then you will never appreciate more. You already have more. More “more” isn’t worth fighting for when you already aren’t grateful for “more.”
Take the wins. Breathe in thankfulness. Revise comparisons. Then, progress is a natural phenomenon borne out of empowerment. Moreover, you’ll be in a frame of mind to actually be fulfilled by the progress, because, after all, there isn’t a linear correlation between the achievements and happiness anyway.