The Arrival Fallacy

My later years as an elementary school teacher were pretty miserable. The hours were long (7am-6pm most days), the pressure was unrelenting, and the entire system was designed to reduce a child’s value to their test performance. I couldn’t do it anymore.

I wanted a change and convinced myself that becoming a web developer would be the thing to make me happy.

I had been learning web development while teaching to create an app to help with my day-to-day tasks. I loved how coding made me feel and thought this career shift would be the solution.

”When I get my web dev job, I’ll be happy. Things will be so great once I accept that first offer.”

I woke up early every morning before school to go through coding courses, fixated on the finish line. It was a miserable time, with extended work hours and long learning hours, but it would soon pay off.

When I finally got the job, I was thrilled. For a couple of days at least.

After a while, I was disappointed. It couldn’t live up to the great expectations I had placed upon it. I became more depressed than before I got the job.

For a year, I had delayed happiness for myself. Instead of finding enjoyment in each day, I told myself I’ll have enjoyment when I got the job.

But as soon as I got the first job, I turned my sights on the next job. This job was fine, but the next one will be what really makes me happy.

I was setting myself up to chase a carrot on a stick, always inches out of reach.

And you know what? I still do this all the time.

I tell myself I’ll be attractive after gaining muscle or getting my teeth fixed.

I’ll be happy when I buy a house, when I get this project done, or if I buy the new iPhone.

This is textbook Arrival Fallacy.

The Arrival Fallacy describes the illusion that we’ll find lasting happiness when we reach our goal. Life doesn’t work that way.

We experience happiness in the moment, and it’s fleeting by nature.

So if goals will only make us happy for a short time, what should we do instead?

We need to find some joy in the journey toward our goals. It’s good to have goals, but the real value comes from the process, not the product.

Appreciate today’s workout. Find joy in today’s time spent learning. Don’t delay your happiness for some future that might not even come to pass.

If I had found more joy in each day spent learning JavaScript, I would have had a year’s worth of happiness, even if I had never got the job.

So ask yourself if you’re tricking yourself with the Arrival Fallacy, and see how you can find joy in the process today.