Achieving vs. Receiving


As part of my graduation as a Professional Certified Coach, we were given the task to develop a power tool. Exploring two opposing perspectives. I wrote mine of Achieving vs Receiving and desired to share it here on my blog. Enjoy!

There is a powerful shift in perspective from a person’s need to achieve into the state of allowing a person to receive.

 Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.”~ Brené Brown

The Cambridge Dictionary describes achieving as follows: to succeed in finishing something or reaching an aim, especially after a lot of work or effort.[i]

When we are constantly achieving but are not openly receiving the benefits or help offered in return for our work or effort, we can get stuck in a perpetual cycle of doing and busyness. Within this state of achieving we can get disconnected from the present moment, get lost in doing without a purpose and the insatiable need to achieve can lead to chronic stress and ultimately leading to burnout. 

On the other hand, allowing yourself to receive openly, allows us to settle back into the moment, find a deeper level of trust, confidence and satisfaction with what we have achieved.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes receiving: to get or be given something.[ii] When we allow ourselves to receive help, to receive the satisfaction from accomplishing a task, to receive love, to receive new perspectives and support, we are able to find deeper levels of fulfillment and purpose.

Both achieving and receiving have a place. When we learn to balance our need to achieve with allowing ourselves to receive, we can create an effective balance for a rewarding life.



“The more you achieve, the more successful you will be”

“If you want to make it, you have to work really hard”

“Winners never quit”

These are just many of the viewpoints and myths floating about around what it means to succeed. And while many of us do not intend to work-till-we-drop, many of us find ourselves constantly plugged in, sleep deprived, and still feeling behind. And so, we continue to push, strive and are fuelled by the constant need to achieve.

Despite many new reports that overworking and over achieving will ultimately make us less productive[iii] , many individuals continue to be driven by the need to achieve their goals and never stop long enough to feel the feel the ground beneath their feet. As a result, we create a life out of balance by leaning too much into an active, doing state in which we are always in motion. Always doing something. Life becomes a lateral approach to “what’s next” and celebrating win’s and enjoying the journey become secondary.

But what lies beneath this need to achieve? What drives us to achieve at all cost?

When we dig a little deeper, there is an underlying belief at work.

Consider this scenario: Meet Mary. She is well liked by her peers, always ready to take on a new project and task and she responds to work emails at any waking hour. She is an exemplary member of the team, the first one in and the last one out. She doesn’t drop the ball; she knows what she wants, and she goes for it. And she climbed the corporate ladder fast and made it to the Executive level. But she often complaints about working all the time and feeling tired. She’s so busy she says, she doesn’t even have time to take a lunch. Yet in every meeting, she’s the first to volunteer to take on a new project or help out a colleague who’s falling behind. She says she wants to create more work-life balance but blames her career as the reason it’s not possible, she says that her employer expects her to be available. She believes that being always available is

just the prize she has the pay for the success she craves. Even when offered help, Mary declines it, she has high standards and meeting them is of utmost importance to her.

What might be an underlying belief that’s driving her need to achieve?

Just reading this scenario and “listening” to what’s said and not said, there are endless possibilities that drive Mary’s behaviour. These include the choices she subconsciously makes when answering her emails on her weekend, evenings or vacations. Mary operates on assumptions she is making about her employer and her beliefs around what it means to be a successful executive.

Until the underlying beliefs are uncovered, explored and reframed they will drive our actions. We may be able to find creative reasons or surface excuses as to why we need to keep achieving, work through our lunch break or have to answer emails on weekends. And it may be easy to decide that these reasons “are true”, but is it truly our reality or just the one we have created?

“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them” ― Byron Katie

As Byron Katie suggests, when we place blame or judgement on someone, and I may add something else, we are rendered powerless to change our experience. When we are caught in the perpetual cycle of doing and “needing to achieve” without taking responsibility for our own contribution to our experience, we cannot create the experience we desire. Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts, words and actions contribute to our experience of life.

We are the ones in the driver’s seat.

Creating awareness around the beliefs and judgements and taking responsibility for our choices will provide us with the opportunity to create the rewarding life we desire.

In Eric Barker’s Book “Barking up the Wrong Tree” he suggests that in order to combat the urgent need to do more, we need to start by identifying the type of success we are after by developing our own personal definition of success, using the following four measures:

  • Happiness: Feeling good
  • Achievement: Accomplishing our goals
  • Significance: Having a positive impact on others
  • Legacy: Establishing accomplishments or values that will benefit others in the future [iv]


“The truth is this: It is as unbalanced to give without receiving as to receive without giving. For others to experience the rewards of giving, we must learn to graciously receive.” ~ Lolly Daskal

With a high emphasize and value placed upon giving and achieving within our society, it can be difficult to learn to receive. However, without giving there could be no receiving and while the act of giving and achieving within itself can be rewarding, life is about balance. For many people, this balance is uncomfortable. But leadership, and life, are about balance. To fully give as leaders, we must also learn to receive as leaders.[v]

What if we found a way to put our need to achieve aside and learned to receive without the need to constantly do?

What would open up if we would allow ourselves to receive?

In Mary’s case, what would open up for her if she gave herself permission to step back, slow down and receive the balance she desires?

What would happen if she received help with grace and gratitude instead of declining it?

To create more balance in live, we must learn to skill of receiving.

Many of us are well versed in the doing, yet the BE-ing and receiving has become a rarity in our society.  Our appreciation for achieving and giving will be amplified if we train our receiving muscle. By slowing down and being present to each moment, celebrating our progress and successes we receive joy, gratitude and fulfillment from the effort we have put into our work.

When we receive help, support, acknowledgement and love from others, we allow ourselves to feel cared and loved for, which has a positive effect on our overall wellbeing and our ability to generate the energy to give back and achieve our goals. Receiving fuels achieving. While this passive approach seems counterintuitive to achieving, it actually creates the foundation and engine to achieve with purpose.

A few ways to start your receiving practice are through the practice of gratitude, paying attention to the little gifts and joys that surround you, taking on compliments and responding with a genuine “thank you”, show gratitude towards yourself by taking time for selfcare and self-reflection and notice how your energy shifts and finally asking for help when you feel overwhelmed or stretched thin.

Application for Coaches

As a Coach we can help our client transition from the need to achieve into allowing the client to receive by supporting the client through a caching process to tune inward, gain new self-awareness around their actions and empower the client to choose the action resulting from the gained insights within the coaching session. This Action planning is self-directed and intentional. The coaching process within itself is both an act of achieving and receiving.

Both as a Coach and as a Client we need to be open to the coaching process, receiving the information and then responding based on what transpires instead of leading actively. We do this through active listening, direct communication, presence, powerful questioning and curiosity. Through this process, the client is fully in her/his power, while we support the client in uncovering deeper beliefs, new perspectives and possibilities to help the client achieve their desired goal, however in a receiving way.

Exploring together with the client what is behind the need to achieve and what would open up if they allowed themselves to receive will create the pathways to transformation and a greater sense of wellbeing. Receiving within itself, then becomes a goal to achieve and within this new perspective the client is able to welcome new opportunities and possibilities.

Reflection to dive deeper:

As a Coach spending time to tune inward and understanding your own relationship with achieving versus receiving is critical. As the coaching approach is self-directed and lead by the client, it is imperative that as a coach you are able to step back and simply receive the information. You simply then respond, supporting the client to identify the session goal and trusting that the client has all the answers and knowledge within them.

Look back over your life for a moment and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you ever felt the need to achieve more?
  2. Have you ever worked hard, been mindlessly busy and told yourself there is no other way?
  3. How often do you check your work email on your weekends? If yes > Did anyone specifically ask you to do so?
  4. Did you put blame on someone to be responsible other than you?
  5. What caused you to want to achieve your goals?
  6. What did you learn from this experience?
  7. Wat is your own definition of success?
  8. How could you support a client that is stuck in the cycle of “needing to achieve”?
  9. What would you like to receive more of in your life?
  10. What would open up if you had a more balanced approach to achieving and receiving?

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