I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar describes the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy. (Other fallacies include the “floating world fallacy,” the belief that immediate pleasure, cut off from future purpose, can bring happiness, and the “nihilism fallacy,” the belief that it’s not possible to become happier.) The arrival fallacy is a fallacy because arriving rarely makes you as happy as you expect.
Usually, by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. You quickly become adjusted to the new state of affairs. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals a new goal. There’s another hill to climb.
There are two strategies that I use to combat the very powerful effects of the arrival fallacy.
First, I remind myself to appreciate the happiness of the process, in the atmosphere of growth afforded by making gradual progress toward a goal (technical name: pre-goal attainment positive affect). The fun part doesn’t come later, now is the fun part. One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is “Enjoy the process.”
Second, I discipline myself to relish the moments of arrival when I reach them. Instead of immediately taking an accomplishment for granted, and moving the bar higher, as I’m wont to do, I pause to enjoy the view.
I’m following my resolution to “Relish the moment” right now, in fact. As of this week, The Happiness Project has been on the New York Times bestseller list for ten straight weeks since publication — it hit #1 and has never dropped below #4. Yay! And that makes me extremely happy. I’m taking the time to revel in it.
A happy memory from my childhood: To celebrate a very big moment of professional “arrival,” my father bought my mother, my sister, and me a special present, to celebrate. We each chose what we wanted. I still have the gold chain that I picked out.
Hitting a goal is an element of happiness, and so is the process of working toward a goal. Nietzche explained it well: “The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”
How about you? Do you have trouble relishing the moment, when you’ve arrived at a particular place? How do you remind yourself to enjoy the view?
* I was mesmerized by this strange, beautiful stop-motion video featuring shells and the beaches of Wales.
* In a book group? If you’d like a copy of the reading-group discussion guide for The Happiness Project, just email me at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com]. (Sorry to write in that odd way; trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “reading group guide” in the subject line. I’ll send it right off.