Do you have accomplishment amnesia?

Accomplishment amnesia is a common ailment that strikes many of us, particularly those of us that are highly conscientious, responsible, talented, and highly sensitive. It seems to run in parallel with these traits.

What is accomplishment amnesia?

Accomplishment amnesia occurs when we get so busy meeting our obligations and moving on to the “next thing” that we quickly forget what we’ve done in the past (however distant or recent) that has value.

I find this malady particularly comes up when we get into a place of self-doubt — we can’t remember a single thing we’ve done or accomplished. We feel useless, talentless, valueless.

We might even feel creatively blocked or numb because we are devaluing the work we’ve done but are not appreciating.

A darn good job

I’ve been going through a rough patch lately, and I noticed recently that as I’ve been starting to feel better, I’ve been berating myself for not having done more lately. “Why am I so behind? How have I let things get like this?”

I stopped myself and noticed what was really going on: I had accomplishment amnesia.

I quickly reminded myself of all the personal challenges I’ve faced over the last couple of months, including having surgery on my wrist, and shifted the conversation to noticing what I have done: filed my taxes, settled a car accident claim, dealt with an intensely difficult emotional time, never missed writing a blog post, coached my clients, continued running my Writer’s Circle, and carried on writing my screenplay no matter what. Wow! I’ve accomplished a lot under very difficult circumstances.

Sure, there’s more, there always is. But look at what I’ve done!

Does this happen for you too?

Most of my clients have this kind of accomplishment amnesia. They’re so focused on what they haven’t done, that they forget to celebrate what they have.

Here’s how you can start to shift out of this delusion that you haven’t done anything worthwhile:

1. Catch accomplishment amnesia early.

When you notice yourself falling into the pattern (like I did), stop and take stock. Is it really true that you haven’t been doing enough? Take a few minutes to review what you actually have done. You’ll be surprised.

2. Don’t buy into the standard definitions of success and accomplishment.

Don’t limit yourself to society’s success definitions. Instead, think about what you’re proud of. Create your own definition of what it means to be successful.

Just yesterday, my writers and I were discussing what it means to claim the title of “writer.” Many of us are discovering it has much less to do with being a published or sold writer (though many of us are striving for those), and everything to do with showing up and doing the writing regularly — having a writing practice.

3. Set small milestones.

Increase your sense of accomplishment by setting and celebrating small milestones as you attain them. Instead of only celebrating when you complete the book, whoop it up for every chapter. Then when you do hit the finish line, make sure you celebrate that point too.

I’m rewriting my screenplay using Chris Soth’s “Mini Movie Method,” which lends itself nicely to this sort of milestone assessment. Every 15 pages I complete another mini-movie, so it’s easy to create a sense of accomplishment as I go.

Look for similar small milestones in your own work.

4. Celebrate your accomplishments in the moment.

I watched a fun video of Tamara Ireland Stone, author of the young adult book, Time Between Us,* which I just finished reading and very much enjoyed. She had just received her box of copies of her book and made a point to celebrate with her husband and friend and glass of wine. I hope she’ll do the same for every future book as well.

When you do have an accomplishment, STOP what you’re doing and celebrate. Build the muscles of appreciation for yourself and your work.

5. Create a “brag book.”

I’ve forgotten where I first heard this term, but the idea is to create a scrap book of your accomplishments so that you can go back and remind yourself, “Yes, I’ve done some amazing, wonderful things.” And you have. Include anything and everything you can think of that you’ve accomplished. On my list: birthing my son, finishing my first screenplay, completing graduate school and earning two master’s degrees, nurturing an incredible friendship with my best friend, becoming a certified life coach, etc.

Bottom line

It’s all too easy to think of ourselves as never reaching the finish line when there’s always so much more to do. Rather than thinking you’ll never get there, remember to enjoy what you’re doing along the way. It’s the journey, after all, that counts.

Your turn

Click here to tell me what you think. I always love to read your feedback.









  1. I love the term accomplishment amnesia! This has happened to me many times in life, it’s like all of a sudden I draw a blank. Many of the things that I consider accomplishments may not be valued in our society. I think when we ask ourselves that question and we have fallen out of sync with ourselves, then we may judge ourselves by other people’s standards. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Hi Jenna! Happy Birthday!

    Thank you for your weekly articles. I always feel like you are speaking directly to me. I get alot of clarification and new insights that are very helpful. Thanks again. Cheers!

    • Thank you so much for the birthday wishes! You’re right, I AM speaking directly to you. :) Glad to hear you get so much from my articles.

  3. I totally agree with the two people above. I follow your blog/emails and this one is so timely. At the end of the year I think alot of people are probably thinking about what they have accomplished and it’s so easy to think about the things that haven’t been done. Very very sound advice. Thanks Jenna!

    • It’s so true that we judge ourselves by society’s standards and probably don’t even realize it. Success and accomplishment is in the eye and the heart of the beholder….it can be what ever you want it to be. What freedom! :)

      • Tineke, you’re right about not realizing we’re judging by society’s standards. Tricky isn’t it? Good thing to notice and do something about.

    • Fiona, I’m glad to hear it is timely for you. And you’re right, for many of us, it’s a time of review, isn’t it? Thank you!

  4. Hi Jenna,

    I am a sensitive, and I definitely have accomplishment amnesia every week.
    I was at Barnes & Noble last night wanting to purchase a nice journal and couldn’t warrant spending the money on one until I had something special to write in it. Maybe I will buy one now to write my accomplishments in.

    I really related to a comment in your Surviving the Holidays e-mail. When I am having a challenging day, I really struggle around people in the grocery store and even in my car stopped at a red light. It can be really overwelming. My good days are great, but I just broke up with my LAST misogynist boyfriend. According to the book, “Men who hate women and the women who love them”, I will feel better if I can stay away for 6 months. Lol! I laugh because it feels good to laugh at how overwelming it is sometimes.

    I think I really need to buy that journal today!

    Do you know of any groups of sensitives that try to build healthy relationships with each other near Newport Beach, Ca?

    • Victoria, I hope you WILL buy the journal for yourself. Your plan to record your accomplishments in it sounds lovely. I’m so glad you liked my holidays email too. :)

      I don’t know of any groups in the area you mentioned, but have you checked That would be the first place I would suggest you look. Good luck!

  5. Dear Jenna
    I do forget the wonderful things I have achieved in my past. I am lucky to have great family and friends to remind me. When I feel like I am not hitting it out of the ball park I just think of all the times I have and then I can be still knowing that it will come again.


  6. So THAT’S what I have! It makes sense now that I know the connection to sensitivity. I started a portfolio of not only accomplishments, but also kudos from other people. Printed emails included. That way I can go back and see that I made a difference and was appreciated. Very helpful.


  1. […] I read this post about accomplishment amnesia and I realized that this is me. This year has been a bit of a rough patch for me, and I noticed […]

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