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What is Arrival Fallacy: Causes and tips to overcome it

By Aayushi Bagga

• Introduction

Were you ever striving for something that meant a lot to you? A goal, perhaps like getting your degree, buying the newest iPhone or losing/gaining weight

Now has it ever happened that once you had reached this goal, you were only excited for a day or two and surprisingly underwhelmed by how you felt? Soon, you chase another goal to be happy again.

So why doesn`t our happiness last when we get what we want? And how do we deal with it?

• What is Arrival Fallacy

According to Tal Ben-Shahr, a happiness expert who coined this term, the arrival fallacy is the illusion that "once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness." The erroneous belief is that we should not expect happiness until we achieve our objective or arrive at our destination.

He explains that people who have the arrival fallacy tend to be unhappy people who work toward a goal in the hope that achieving it will make them feel better.

The arrival fallacy is the mental and emotional illusion of long-term happiness following a long-awaited goal, only for that happiness to gradually fade away in empty waves of shallow hopelessness shortly after the goal is achieved.

Ben-Shahar says that frequently individuals who experience the arrival fallacy begin as miserable and try to go after a goal that they think will fix their sadness. However, they may end up feeling even more hopeless and depressed when they discover that success in meeting their goal does not alleviate their unhappiness. The arrival fallacy frequently only makes our dissatisfaction and mental health worse.

Arrival fallacy is a form of cognitive bias which occurs when people anticipate that a future event will consistently bring about positive emotions. This bias causes people to have unrealistic expectations about a future event while ignoring all of the challenges and difficulties that may arise afterwards.

It gives us the false impression that once we accomplish our goal, we will no longer need to suffer or worry because we will have experienced lasting joy.

It encourages people to believe the happiness myth that "when I make it, then I`ll be happy."

The happiness fallacy, destination fallacy, and summit syndrome are other names for the arrival fallacy.

• Causes of Arrival Fallacy

The arrival fallacy and its causes have received little attention, but a great deal of research has been done on what makes people happy.

Chemical, physical, and emotional sources all contribute to this problem.

1. Chemical contribution:

One contribution to this cause was by Dr Tasha Eurich. She says, "When we start making progress towards a goal, our brain begins rewarding us by releasing the feel-good (and motivating) hormone dopamine. The closer we get, the more we`re rewarded. Since the trouble and obstruction, we experience while extending for an objective must be outweighed by the result of getting it, our brain assists with keeping us spurred and in the game by compensating us on our advancement."

Since the trouble and resistance, we experience while extending for a goal must be outweighed by the result of getting it; our brain assists with keeping us inspired and in the game by compensating us for our advancement.

2. Physical Contribution

Fatigue and exhaustion are also factors causing arrival fallacy. You`re pushing yourself to the mountain`s summit, which is slowly depleting your energy.

When you reach the top, you`re usually running on fumes, with no energy to enjoy the moment fully. Let`s be honest: fatigue and weariness can make even the best thing in the world feel mediocre.

3. Emotional Contribution

The expectations and "if only" stories we have constructed in our minds frequently exacerbate the feeling of disappointment. My life would be so much better if I could lose 30 pounds, obtain a raise, or land my dream job.

However, when the "if only" become actual, you are disappointed to discover that you are not really as content or happy as you thought you were. Your fantasy about "showing up" (and all that will change when you do) transforms into a vacant commitment.

• Ways for Overcoming the Arrival Fallacy

If you`ve made it this far, you probably know in some way why you might have fallen for the arrival fallacy. It is essential to comprehend that the disappointment you experience upon achieving your objectives is due to your conception and expectations of happiness.

1. Prioritize the journey rather than the destination: You need to recognize that the journey is more important than the destination. You will miss out on the stunning view and the wonderful company if you spend your journey worrying about how and when you will reach your destination.

2. Learn to live in the now: Avoid focusing on the future and instead concentrate on the present. Instead of waiting for the big wins, celebrate the small ones. You will miss out on all the things you can be happy about right now if you constantly think about the future.

3. Make a list of the things that make you happy: We all want to be happy, but the idea of happiness can lead us astray. Make a list of the things that make you happy to know what makes you happy. Write down exactly what brought you happiness whenever you feel happy.

4. Reduce your overly optimistic expectations. Despite the fact that high payoff expectations can propel us forward in the face of unforeseen obstacles, they can also ruin the actual payoff.

It`s important to keep in mind that we`re terrible at anticipating how we`ll feel in the future. This dynamic, which is referred to as affective forecasting, demonstrates how we frequently imagine a payoff that is significantly superior to the outcome. We repeatedly prepare ourselves for disappointment.

Something is rarely "so awesome" that it can rival the anticipation. We overlook the fact that fantastic outcomes frequently bring with them their own (new) unanticipated issues. The promotion may result in additional work and stress.

As a result, you must force yourself to be more realistic and intentionally lower your expectations. It`s important to combine this step with the next one.

• Conclusion

You should be aware that you are not alone if you have ever encountered the arrival fallacy or are currently battling it. After achieving a goal, it is common for people to experience feelings of depression, disappointment, anxiety, stress, and even hopelessness. Reaching out to a therapist or counsellor for support is a good idea if you`re having trouble coping with your emotions or setting goals for the future.


Aayushi Bagga


Aayushi is a counselling psychologist and a seasoned content writer on all things mental health. She holds a master’s degree in Counselling Psychology, and her interest lies in family and relationship counselling. Her passion for spreading mental health awareness is immeasurable.

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