LSI 1 Series: Achievement

Lorraine McCarthy, Counsellor/Coach, Human Synergistics Australia

After eight weeks of focussing on Defensive Styles I am finding it very different to now consider a Constructive Style. The former represent a huge potential cost to self and I have been able to explore the items in order to highlight the self-defeating nature of the way we describe ourselves.

Thinking in the Constructive Styles on the other hand greatly enhances our enjoyment and effectiveness. It is the opposite. It rewards us – gives us satisfaction.

I did not always have complete access to Achievement thinking. I was distracted by putting energy into efforts which achieved extrinsic outcomes such as feeling in control or pleasing others. Now that I understand it and endeavour to apply it to my life and work, I realise that at times it gives me a feeling of euphoria which is wonderful. It’s pure. It’s rational. It makes sense. It enables us to understand why things have happened and the part we played in making them happen.

This understanding gives us an opportunity to do things more effectively next time, ‘Learns from mistakes and corrects’, this requires an absence of defence. We are ‘realistic’ therefore in terms of the complexity of the situation and the parameters of our ability. We have the self-knowledge and confidence to ‘think for (our)self’ and ‘go to the heart of the matter’. This aspect of Achievement is enhanced by qualities of its neighbour, Self-Actualising. It is underpinned by an enduring belief that our effort can make a difference. We can readily describe ourselves as ‘achieving’ and ‘enthusiastic’. A happy state.

Goal setting is essential in Achievement thinking. A focus on our purpose is important. I find it most useful to ask myself what I am hoping to achieve in a situation and to be conscious of using my energy where it will make the most difference. Someone with a moderate to high extension in this Style therefore is likely to have responded to items such as ‘sets own goals’, ‘usually thinks ahead’, ‘enjoys planning’, ‘explores most alternatives before acting’, (having) ‘good analytic skills’, ‘enjoys a challenge’, ‘enjoys difficult tasks’, and ‘likes tasks which require skill’. Note the amount of liking and enjoyment that is going on here. Very satisfying!

Just as Self-Actualising, a belief in ourselves, enhances Achievement, Humanistic-Encouraging, a belief in the worth and efforts of others, add to its power to produce effective outcomes. A leader high in Achievement is ‘results oriented’ as well as focussing on developing and supporting people. Amongst the three items most highly correlated with effectiveness are ‘shares responsibility well’, and ‘earns others confidence and respect’.

I have noticed that many people don’t score themselves highly in ‘ambitious’ or ‘high level of aspiration’, defining these items narrowly in terms of their life in the corporate world. In discussion however they talk about the wider aspects of their life, such as their vision of effective parenting or their beliefs about leading a fulfilling life. LSI stands for Life Styles Inventory not Leadership Styles. Dare to dream. Believe in your ability to achieve and go for it.

This morning DB (Senior Consultant at Human Synergistics) walked past my desk as I was writing this. When I told him what I was writing he pointed to Clay Lafferty’s ‘Achievement Creed’ hanging on the wall and said, “It’s all there”.

He’s right.

It is included below:


I believe excellence in all things is an obtainable goal. It is something toward which one strives and aspires, but it is not something that can be demanded of others; for the very fact that it is demanded and not self selected destroys the essence of the achievement motive.

I believe that achievement thinking lies in the realm of the possible, of improving things, and making anything better. It is not dissatisfaction with what is, but rather a constant vision of what is possible.

I believe that accomplishment, understanding, and improving oneself and ones’ surroundings is an intrinsically positive force in human affairs.Man is a goal setting creature with imagination and vision. While this may not characterise the bulk of the population, it is characteristic of all human potential.

I believe that this phenomena of striving for a better way is unique to mankind and, thus, the need to satisfy this drive remains deeply rooted in our very makeup. Accomplishment in and of itself is an intrinsically positive force that is nearly indomitable.

I believe being effective at what one does, in the broadest sense of the word, is a way in which all human beings build self esteem and self value.The opposite of success at what one does is not failure, but rather indicates a greater need to learn, improve, and try again – because it is possible. I further believe that this manner of building self esteem is uniquely within individual control and is not subject to the capricious judgements of other people or time. That someone did it better does not mean I failed.

I believe that the artificial focus upon winners and losers obscures the accomplishments of many and unnecessarily rewards a performance that may only be minutely different. Such an overemphasis upon one winner tends to blur the abilities and the accomplishments of many. This blurring diverts attention from the process of excellence and draws it to winning, which is by comparison superficial.

I believe that knowing, doing, striving, cooperating, creating and understanding are all worthwhile activities in their own right. I believe it is a fundamental mistake to embellish the act of achievement to the point where the extrinsic factors are more recognised than the intrinsic factors. Such over-reaction causes a focus upon the wrong stuff and upon the wrong method of recognition.

I believe in a fundamental way that my effort, my thinking, my knowledge, my actions can make a significant difference in the quality of my life and in the quality of the life experienced by those around me or in my area of influence. While I have every right to take pride in my accomplishments, I do not believe that such achievements elevate my sense of worth over other people; the worth is my own. Conversely, my failure is not the measure of the man, but of the response to the situation.

I believe that the human being is the highest form of life and, as such, each has an indisputable worth. This belief is to me the absolute mainspring of human progress. Without such a belief, there is little basis to judge anything.

I believe that it is from the mode of cooperation that we can progress beyond our self-centred selves and attain some synergistic effect from the combination of individual effort. Competition does not contain any such powerful effect, yet it is applauded and nearly worshipped.

I believe that the nature of man is more cooperative than competitive, and more compassionate than aggressive, and that our worst selves emerge from fear, threat and anxiety – not from our basic nature.

J. Clayton Lafferty
Ph.D. Founder


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