"The Arrival Fallacy": The Journey > The Destination
by Live Better
We've all heard the age old saying, "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey." Have you ever stopped to think about why the journey provides so much more meaningful benefit to our happiness than actually achieving that thing or proverbial mountaintop which we've worked so hard to get?
We speak and preach all the time about the importance of goal-setting and actionable ways to achieve "success," which on the surface seems like we are praising the end result of "success." However, consistency is the key takeaway from most of our coaching, and the magic of consistency is in the day to day work (the "journey"), not the glory of success (the "destination").
The "arrival fallacy," first stated in Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar (but first read by me in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin), is the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you'll be happy.
Rubin also writes the following on this topic:
"The arrival fallacy is a fallacy because, though you may anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes you as happy as you anticipate.
First of all, by the time you've arrived at your destination, you're expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. Also, arrival often brings more work and responsibility. It's rare to achieve something (other than winning an award) that brings unadulterated please without added concerns."
The only thing I would disagree with her on is if that "arrival" is some form of physical end game, like finishing a marathon for the first time. For most, we're really not quite sure if we'll finish or not. The joy in arriving is certainly palpable.
However, for almost any business endeavor, the pursuit is always sweeter than the destination. Work really hard to get a promotion? Awesome, along with the increase in pay and new business cards comes all the responsibility of a new job. Once we start to earn more money, we want even more than that. What you actually enjoyed was your hard work paying off in the form of recognition; a nicer car or home is simply a by-product of that recognition.
So how do we "realize" happiness along the way? That's the real question - how do we actualize tangible happiness along the journey instead of saving it up to spend upon arrival (when it's rarely as fun as expected)?
Our goal is to increase the number of "moments" we remember along the journey, leading to a meaningful arrival.
In the book The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, the authors define a "moment" as a short, memorable and meaningful experience. Think back to your last great accomplishment - what "moments" stand out to you? Was it truly standing on the podium at the end, or was there a "peak" experience you remember that made you feel good or a tough challenge you overcame to "win?"
We at Live Better are going to highlight three actions along your "journey" to help you create more "moments":
1) Increase your "anticipation" for reaching your destination.
By anticipation, we mean excitement. If you're not saying "hell yes!" to whatever you're doing, find another strategy (or end game altogether). It's not to say there won't be tasks, days, or even long stretches of time where things aren't difficult or you won't have things you don't want to do, but it's about finding positive, exciting things to place your focus on. This is the mental game; staying focused on what's exciting instead of being dragged down by the tough stuff. This separates the amateurs and the quitters from the professionals.
2) Increase your "presence" by focusing on each task/day individually.
This creates "memorable" moments. How will you ever remember that wrong turn you took on your last perfectly planned down to the minute itinerary driven vacation that led to an EPIC sunset on the cliff...if you are stuck worrying about not reaching the other cliff you planned on arriving at?
Before you pull out your phone to capture the moment there, take a few mental pictures. Feel the sun on your face or the breeze in your hair. What does it smell like? What does it sound like? These memories live deeper in your mind.
Being in the now creates a moment in and of itself...that's what presence is. Want to try something crazy? Instead of watching the next concert you go to through the lens of your iPhone, try actually just listening (and dancing) to the music with no phone. Now THAT is something nobody is doing. If you don't believe me, just wait until the artist plays their hit song; I promise thousands of little phone lights will simultaneously illuminate (and if your rebuttal is "but I want to create a memory that will last forever on my phone!"...please tell me the last time you went back and listened to all those videos you took more than once).
Learn to embrace the challenges; iron sharpens iron. Without struggle and sacrifice the sweet moments lose sweetness. Think back to the last thing you really worked for - it wasn't just handed to you. If we "embrace the suck," those moments we hated were really the moments we loved; they "made the memory."
3) Increase your gratitude by taking time for appreciation.
This creates "meaningful" moments. We must give weight to a moment to make it meaningful; it's false to think that every moment can be incredible or epic, but I'm sure we let a few slip by because we didn't stop to appreciate the "good" at that time.
We can do this on a micro level (daily habit to practice gratitude for being on the journey) or on the macro level (once we've reached the destination). Even though we might have assimilated all of the joy of reaching our destination into our expectations, we can still be extremely happy with the end result. This gives our process and end result meaning, allowing the memory to stand out amongst the journey.
The "best day ever" mindset is really appreciating the journey for what it truly is...life. Each destination gets reached (or, not), which just starts a new journey. If you're skipping by every Monday-Thursday looking for Friday-Sunday each week, you're missing out on a majority of life.
Learn to love Mondays for what they are. They'll never be Saturdays, but we need them to put in the work to earn our weekends, just like the hike up validates the view at the top.
Earn your weekends. Earn your turns. Earn your wins.
Enjoy the ride.