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Arrival Fallacy

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Arrival When do you know you’ve made it?


If you are here, you are probably hard-coded with a growth mindset.


Accepting challenges is a part of your DNA.


You don’t accept the status quo, and you are always looking for what you can do, and how you can get to the next level.


Let me ask you a question. Have you ever said to yourself…

  • Once I make six figures, I’ll finally feel financially secure. Or,

  • When I lose those pesky 10 pounds I’ll be happy with my body weight and wear my bikini that has been hiding in the back of my closet! Maybe you have said

  • When I have VP in my title… I’ll know I’ve “Made it.”



I have definitely been there.


I remember the first vision board that I created when I was a Health and Wellness Coordinator. It had a beautiful white kitchen on it, with huge granite countertops, the words DIRECTOR, and $80,000 all from magazine cutouts. I kept this over my computer so I could look at it every day, and I just KNEW that once I had all those things - in my home life, and my work life, I would be HAPPY and CONTENT.


But then what?


I accomplished everything on my vision board! And more! I actually never even had the “director title”. I jumped OVER the top of that, and quite quickly! And yes, I have a gorgeous beautiful white kitchen with granite countertops.


Why do those feelings of success and happiness and contentedness so quickly dissipate - and is so replaced with these feelings of “Is that it? What should I be doing now?


If you are anything like me, you don’t stay content for long, and that hunger for growth and goals creeps back in quite quickly. It is like that itch that you can’t quite scratch!


This confusing feeling actually has a name. It's called the “Arrival Fallacy” and it's a psychological thought trap that those who are high achievers - like me - like you- like US - have most likely experienced.


This term was introduced by positive psychology expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, in his book, “Happier”.


Arrival fallacy is rooted in the concept that when we focus on future goals, we actually BELIEVE we will reach them. Sounds like a good thing right? That sounds like confidence to me! Now that alone triggers the reward centers in the brain, and produces this feeling of accomplishment that actually becomes a part of our identity.


The tough piece of this, is that we adjust so easily to this “new you” that when we actually reach the goal - it's kinda like “so what? What is the big deal? I have been living this for a while now!”


When we lose those 10 pounds - when we get that VP title - or the white kitchen, or the $80,000 annual salary, that achievement is an endpoint. And that endpoint leaves us wanting more.


The question is, what is it and where can we find it?


The key is to enjoy the journey. Yes, this sounds a little woo-woo - but life really is about the journey. We all have the same destination in the end - but every single journey is different. This doesn’t mean that you should settle for less than, or live a life of mediocrity. But rather, to enjoy every step of the way. Every promotion, every win, every loss, and all of the lessons that it offers.


So you’re probably saying “yeah yeah - I get it, Erica. But for real - what can I do about this? How can I celebrate the wins, and enjoy the journey?


Enjoy the goal setting. What is more likely to make you happy is actually setting the goal, and the efforts and actions you put into place to achieve the goal, rather than the goal itself!


Make it a mindset. It doesn’t have to be about achieving an endpoint. It could be about constant improvement. Maybe you want to get faster? Your first goal could be to run a 10-minute mile. Then increase that to 2, 10-minute miles. There are a million ways you can continue to IMPROVE your running goals, without ever coming to an end!


If it is a career goal, don’t make it about a title or a specific salary. Instead, make it about skill enhancement. (You can never stop improving executive presence, brushing up on the industry changes and challenges, or adding to your skills!)


Take a moment to appreciate the positives in your life! We can’t enjoy the HIGHS if we don’t experience the lows. We can’t enjoy the sun if we don’t get caught in the rain. We can’t understand how wonderful the light is if we haven’t seen the dark. So if you are feeling those bummed-out low moments, take a deep breath and think about something that makes you happy. And get specific! Maybe it's the way your dog snuggles up to you on the couch and noses your hand for more pets, close your eyes and focus on that!


One practice that I have for goal setting and truly trying to experience the journey is something I do every night. When I close my eyes at night and lay my head down on my pillow, I visualize a goal, and I really get granular with it. I focus on the details. What my hair will look like, what outfit I’ll be wearing, how hot or cold it might be that day, and is the sun shining or is it night? I imagine my confidence, and how I’ll feel - and I do that until I fall asleep.


Extra benefits are that it also helps me fall asleep, and decreases my stress too - so give it a try!)


The message here isn’t to STOP goal setting. Don’t stop dreaming of that VP title. Working hard does feel good! Achieving goals also feels amazing. Just focus on the journey. Focus on the feel-good moments throughout the process. And when those dark days to come, and you are settling into the mundane, know you won’t be there for long.



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