When achievement doesn’t provide fulfillment — and when it does

Whenever we achieve something special, we may feel elated. Yet often achievement turns out to be anticlimactic; the thrill is short-lived. 

Why achievement may not provide fulfillment: Often, the world sets certain goals for us and we pursue those goals like  programmed machines and then we wonder why fulfillment eluded us. If those goals speak to our heart, then naturally they won’t fulfill us. In the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna stressed that the most cherished achievement for warriors — attaining unrivaled power — wouldn’t remove the emptiness devouring him from within (02.08). This candid recognition and declaration made him receptive to the wisdom of the Gita that revealed to him the path to ultimate fulfillment. It explains that we all are part of the all-attractive divine, Krishna. We all have our own parts to play based on our spiritual individuality and our psychophysical nature. If we play our part wholeheartedly, irrespective of how big or how small that part may be, we can find fulfillment. 

Why fulfillment requires achievement: Even while playing our part, fulfillment comes when we achieve something that is meaningful to us, even if that achievement is not noteworthy in the world’s eyes. A recovering alcoholic may feel fulfillment if they remain dry for a hundred days. For somebody who has never taken alcohol, abstaining for a hundred days might mean nothing; for a recovering alcoholic, it may mean a big thing. Similarly, for each one of us in our particular situations, according to our particular dispositions, if we do something that has significance for us, then that achievement can give us great fulfillment.  

Therefore, rather than letting the world dictate to us what we should achieve, we need to understand what provides us fulfillment and strive in that direction. 

One-sentence summary:

All achievement doesn’t lead to fulfillment, yet all fulfillment requires some achievement. 

Think it over:

  • Why may achievement not provide fulfillment?
  • Why does fulfillment require achievement?
  • What achievement can provide you fulfillment?


02.08: I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to dispel it even if I win a prosperous, unrivaled kingdom on earth with sovereignty like the demigods in heaven.


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  1. Hari Bol… excellent analytical explanation of the verse. Thank you for this.

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