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Arrival fallacy and how to conquer it

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Harvard psychologist, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, coined the term "arrival fallacy" which means “the false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness.”


We’ve been conditioned by family and society to believe that once we do the thing, or the thing happens, everything will fall into place. Do some of these sound familiar or similar to goals you've had in your life?


"Once I reach the goal, I’ll be happy."

The fallacy is that the present isn’t enough and that on the other side of the goal, there is happiness. And really, on the other side of the goal is another present moment. A present moment that will never be enough until you begin to show gratitude for it by loving it for what it is.


"Once I get a partner, you have your person for life."

The fallacy is that you can “have” anyone and relationships are continuous commitments to love and respect one another, every day and every moment is an opportunity to share and receive love. Love is a verb. It is cultivated and you can only cultivate in the present. If one doesn’t remain in the present the opportunities to share and receive love are missed, overlooked or taken for granted.


"Once I get a “steady job with security,” you can live your life."

The fallacy is that the steady job with security will give you the freedom to live your life when it may end up costing you a large chunk of your time and energy. Sometimes a steady 8-5 job really serves people and for others it is life-sucking. Tune-in to see if your job is benefitting you mentally, emotionally or physically. You have one life and you, more than anyone, want to enjoy it.


The “once I’s” kill our ability to be in the present moment. And the reality is that sometimes accomplishments/success comes with their own consequences that we cannot perceive until they exist.


The “once I” mentality may have developed as a coping mechanism to get through a traumatic or harmful situation by hoping for better, or maybe to help bolster the ego if you didn’t feel enough love or recognition as a child. (Insert time for self-introspection)


Regardless of how it manifests, this coping mechanism works to our detriment when it comes to living in the present moment.


From an energetic perspective, it quite literally lifts our energy away from our grounding roots, and toward our mind where we can potentially overthink and contemplate ourselves into a grip of arrival fallacies.


Some arrival fallacies I’ve held myself recently are:

  • Once things can open again…

  • Once the vaccine comes…

  • Once the numbers go down…

  • Once it’s the new year…


And to have compassion for ourselves, acknowledging that these are the parts of us that hope for better. But when the hope begins to take you away from the present moment, and leaves you longing, that’s where we draw the line.


Arrival fallacy is an illusion that essentially flips off the present, claims that it's not enough, and turns toward the future for happiness.


Feel the present moment. It's December 2020 and it was a hell of a year. Instead of looking to jump off the 2020 boat, look how far you've come and celebrate your achievements (big and small!)


One of my favorite yoga teachers and people, Kiara McBain, shares:

"I work with mine by celebrating my achievements. I constantly achieve a goal and immediately look to the next without relishing a job well done, effort put in or a feeling of accomplishment. Just last week I finished something BIG. To not just jump to the next thing, I took a few days off and spent that time reflecting on my accomplishment and commending myself for a job well done. By doing this, I slowed down and appreciated the present. I find that having given myself that time, it cut rushing off at its knees. The contentment has extended several days passed. It feels good!"

Conquer arrival fallacy by wholeheartedly taking in the present moment and actively loving it, whether it be reflecting or celebrating! Maybe it’s through:

  • Taking inventory of the people in your life who, despite this year's conditions, made sure that you were healthy, loved and safe,

  • journaling about your resilience,

  • carving out a space to rest and receive,

  • sharing with friends and family “hey, I love that you exist,”

  • singing your favorite song,

  • reflecting on aspects of life that you're grateful to experience and may miss,

  • or just standing back and taking in the moment.

And as always, wholehearted love and gratitude for the win.


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