To achieve is to accomplish; to perform with success; to attain with effort or despite difficulty. Achievement is either the act of accomplishing or the thing accomplished. Achievement is especially the successful performance that reaches or exceeds a standard level.
A distinction between effort and achievement is noteworthy: effort is trying which may or may not result in success, while achievement is effort resulting in success. In other words, effort is of tremendous importance, but unless (or until) effort results in meeting goals, it does not met the criterion of “achievement.” In an educational setting, the goals of assignments are set by educators (as part of a larger community) to be observable objectives. In a graphic design environment, goals may tied to sets of clients’ specifications. In the fine arts, artists’ achievements may be gauged by gallery sales and the judgments of viewers (especially of art critics, art historians, museums, and posterity). In each of these and in all art arenas, as in life’s endeavors of every kind, the most fundamental gauge of achievement is ultimately one’s measure of personal satisfaction.
The reception of praise, awards, or cash payments should not be confused with achievements (unless those have been the principal motivating factors, which would tend to devalue them), although these things recognize achievements. Renown, whether fame or notoriety, is another indicator of achievement, potentially both helpful and problematic. Historically, the works for which artists first become famous, have persistently influenced how later works are received. So, although renown may be achieved, what you wish to be renowned for is more worthy of your attention than the striving for renown itself. Vandals and forgers may become famous, after all, but are those reputations anyone needs?!
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