The arrival fallacy: why we should decouple our happiness from our goals - Deepstash
The arrival fallacy: why we should decouple our happiness from our goals

The arrival fallacy: why we should decouple our happiness from our goals


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The arrival fallacy: why we should decouple our happiness from our goals

“When I achieve this goal, then I will be happy”

We often mistakenly believe that achieving our goals will make us happy. 

Whether you're aiming to run a marathon, get a work promotion or buy your first house, when meeting the goal, you will initially feel delighted, but soon after, you find yourself back at your usual level of happiness or even have a feeling of emptiness. 

The disappointment of experiencing the expected happiness only briefly can impact your well-being. Instead, it's important to reframe our goals so you can avoid the anti-climax.


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Our ability to imagine how something will make us feel is often flawed because of the impact bias. 

The impact bias leads us to overestimate the positive impact the accomplishment of a goal will have and underestimate how other events or feelings may influence the way we feel. After reaching a goal, you'll be happy for a short while, but despite reaching your goal, another goal will appear, and you'll assume that achieving the next goal will lead to more happiness. Yet, the list of goals is never completed.


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The impact of the arrival fallacy

The arrival fallacy affects us in multiple ways by influencing future decision-making and emotional well-being.

For instance, if the initial thrill of finishing a marathon fades after two days and leaves you feeling empty, you may conclude that aiming to excel is not worth the hardship. Or, you may immediately start exploring new challenges to reach that short-lived peak of happiness again.


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 You can't reach happiness after achieving a goal. Achieving a goal may give you a short-term boost, but your levels of happiness will continue to rise and fall according to the internal and external events you experience.

Everyone falls prey to this fallacy, from ordinary individuals to highly-educated people. 


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How to avoid the arrival fallacy

The key is to repackage your motivation to change your perspective, making the process of achieving your goals as important as a result.

  • Avoid when/then happiness projections. Instead of thinking, “I will be happy when I...", practice mindfulness and take note of what currently makes you happy.
  • Focus on the journey, not the outcome. Enjoy the process so that you are not only hoping for joy at the finishing point. This way, regardless of the product, the journey will have been worth the work.
  • Celebrate minor milestones.


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