243: The Arrival Fallacy Trap: Why Future Goals Don’t Guarantee Happiness

243: The Arrival Fallacy Trap: Why Future Goals Don’t Guarantee Happiness


In this episode, I introduce you to the concept of the arrival fallacy, explaining how the pursuit of future milestones can prevent you from experiencing present moments of happiness. I stress the importance of experiencing joy and satisfaction throughout your academic, career, and life journey, not just when achieving goals.

To learn more, check out the following books:

  • Happier : Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. 2007. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  • Happier No Matter What : Cultivating Hope Resilience and Purpose in Hard Times. 2021. New York: Experim2021.

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243: The Arrival Fallacy Trap: Why Future Goals Don't Guarantee Happiness


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome to the top rated and award nominated Grad School Femtoring Podcast, the place for first gen BIPOCs to learn about all things grad school, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Doctora Yvette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your Femtor, providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school and beyond.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: For over 13 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their academic and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Doctora Yvette here. Before starting today's episode, I want to announce that my co authored book, Is Grad School for Me? Demystifying the Application Process for First Gen BIPOC Students, is available for pre order. [00:01:00] It officially comes out on April 16th, and between now and the rest of the year, my co author and I are available to speak at your next event.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: We are excited because this is the first book that provides first generation, low income, and non traditional students of color With insider knowledge on how to consider and navigate grad school. It's the book that we both wish we had when we were undertaking our own grad admissions process at UCLA many years ago.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The book is both a corrective and a calling card to the lack of clear guidance for historically excluded students, navigating the onerous and often overwhelming process of applying to grad school. We walk you through the process from first asking yourself whether grad school is even the right next step for you, to then providing you with step by step instructions on how to maneuver every aspect of the grad admissions process, including providing you with sample essays, [00:02:00] templates, and relatable scenarios.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If you're interested, we encourage you to pre order your copy today or have your local library order a copy. You can also reach out to us for bulk order discount codes. Lastly, we are available for book talks, workshops, keynotes, panels, and even book club visitations. Go to www.gradschoolfemtoring.com/book to learn more.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Dr. Yvette. Today I have a short solo episode introducing you to the concept of the arrival fallacy and why it is holding you back from experiencing happiness. Yes, uh, that's right. I wanted to introduce you to this concept that I have mentioned multiple times [00:03:00] in conversations, when I give talks, in my group coaching program, in my one on one sessions, I find that a lot of us are working towards big milestones.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And yet in the process of working toward the milestone, we have this idea that once we reach that milestone, we will be happy. And it is less common for me to find folks prioritizing, and planning, experiencing moments of joy. In the process, that is, that is what happened to me when I was a grad student. I thought, you know what, eventually I'm going to get my PhD.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Once I get my PhD, I'm going to get the job that I want. Once I get the job that I want, I'm going to get the pay that I need. Once I get the pay that I need, I can finally start living my life. So it felt like I put my life on pause during graduate school. And at one point in my graduate school journey, I forgot what it was like to [00:04:00] experience joy.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I forgot the things that I enjoy doing. I lost myself in the graduate school process and that's not something I want for any of my listeners. And therefore I thought, well, every time I have introduced this concept to people, it's been an aha moment for them. And who knows, it might be an aha moment for you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Maybe you've heard about it. If so, this is just going to be a reminder. If you haven't heard about it, I'm just letting you know, I did not coin this phrase, the arrival fallacy. I have heard about it in discovering the personal development world and the personal development world borrows a lot from both, um, the fields of psychology.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Positive psychology in particular, and even from spirituality and different forms of religious systems. But in short, this [00:05:00] phrase, arrival fallacy, comes from someone named Tal Ben Shahar, who wrote a book called, Happier, and this book was published in 2007, and as far as I know, he's the one that coined this term.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Uh, I may or may not be right, so don't quote me on this, but I know that I, uh, have borrowed the term arrival fallacy from this book, and in this book, this book is all about, uh, How to increase your sense of happiness and joy and pleasure in your life. And when. He, he talks about this, he mentions the phrase, the arrival fallacy, and according to him, this phrase is this mistaken belief that some of us fall into of thinking that [00:06:00] we will be happy once we reach a certain goal.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So again, reaching, waiting until you reach milestones to experience happiness. How many of us have thought to ourselves, Oh, you know. When I get that degree, when I get that job, when I get that income level, when I get that house, when I start a family, when I travel the world, when I, and just name all the big life goals that you have.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And you think to yourself, once I have reached that milestone, I'm going to be good, or I'm going to be happy, or I'm going to be satisfied. And let me tell you, as someone who Has been there and done that. Once you get there, sometimes for some of us, not for everybody, but for some of us, we reach these milestones.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And we think to ourselves, hold up, this is it? This [00:07:00] is the thing that I worked so hard for? Is this all that there is to life? And if you find yourself feeling those feelings and thinking those thoughts, then odds are there's probably some misalignment in your life. Because I'm now at a I'm at a stage in my life, even though I'm relatively young, I'm still in my mid thirties.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Some of my friends argue that I'm closer to 40 than mid thirties, but it doesn't matter. I am still in my mid thirties and, um, and I'm at a place and stage in my life where I feel. Despite my circumstances, despite things not being perfect, I feel really, really good about what I do. I feel really, really purposeful.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Um, I feel like I am every day getting closer to doing things that feel like a calling. And if I'm not doing things that feel like a calling, those things are calling me [00:08:00] and I'm getting closer to doing those things. And because of that, I am experiencing more joy and more happiness and I will have to say, of course, I have a lot of mixed feelings, too, in that I am also someone who lives with a great deal of everyday pain, physical pain, sometimes mental and spiritual pain, but a good amount of it is physical pain from my chronic illnesses.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Despite that, I have reached a point where I feel like I can accept myself for who I am. without resigning myself to my circumstances. I am still pursuing healing. I am still pursuing growth. And yet I still accept myself wholly in all that I am in all of my imperfections right now. And I am being [00:09:00] intentional about having.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Moments in my life that feel joyous and there are things that I do, of course, that help to increase my moments of joy. I have made it a practice to, um, to be grateful or to practice gratitude as an everyday thing. I, um, also have slowed down and in slowing down, I've been able to be more self aware. And notice the things that feel good and don't feel good to my body, mind, spirit.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And now I know that I cannot wait for the day. I'm a very impatient person. Like I'm that person that Just tell me what to do so that I can do it now, because I want to reach that milestone now. I'm very, very impatient. If I want to write a book, I want to do it now. If I want to buy a house, I want to do it now.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If I want to, whatever the thing is, you know, make a certain level of income, I want to do it [00:10:00] now. I get really, really impatient when some things just Don't go as planned or aren't going according to the timeline that I had in my head, but now I know better. Now I know that, you know what, once I get there, that doesn't mean that my life will be substantially more joyful or that I will experience a substantial amount of more pleasure.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Because that's just not what life is like. Life is a mix bag of things and feelings and thoughts and Circumstances. You're always going to have a multitude of emotions, a multitude of experiences. We hear it all the time. Some folks are at the top of their career. Uh, they've reached certain peaks of their career and then something devastating might happen to them.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And at the same time, you might just be getting [00:11:00] started and you can still experience. a good amount of, like I said, happiness or joy. So this episode is just me making you aware of this concept of the arrival fallacy. I don't want you to put your life on hold. I don't want you to put your happiness on hold.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I also know that we're living in a very, very, what is the word? Very precarious world. And that because of that a lot of us are walking around trying to pretend like everything is okay and it's not. And you're allowed to feel your feelings. You're allowed to experience multiple feelings. And at the same time, you're allowed to prioritize your joy.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You really are. No matter what your circumstances are, [00:12:00] there are things that you can do day to day that can help you to increase your chances of feeling And this is not, um, this is not me trying to be overly positive. I, I know that toxic positivity is also a thing. I believe in honoring all of the feelings, but I also don't think that you need to.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Feel miserable just because of whatever stage you're at in your career in life. I don't think that graduate school necessarily has to be an awful experience for everyone. I hope it's not. I think that it can be a mixed bag of experiences that can include a good amount of joy, pleasure, satisfaction. And that's my reminder to you that don't get caught up in what some people call happiness traps.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Don't get caught up [00:13:00] in the waiting game and instead see what you can do, even if it's a small thing, to honor yourself, to honor your joy. To honor your ancestors, to honor everybody who's a part of you and your circle, your community, your loved ones, in a way that feels good to you. We deserve to feel good.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: We deserve to have good things. We deserve to have a good life. We tend to have negativity biases and because of that we tend to remember more of the negative than the positive. But I hope that I can make it so that you can start to remember more of the positive. Not because of the toxic positivity, like I said earlier, but because life is worth living if we, you know, make it that way.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: We get to choose. We get to choose what kind of life we have. And I'm reminded actually, this is, [00:14:00] I'll end it on this note. I have a very close friend, one of my best friends, who I can't share details, but has recently in the last year experienced some of the most devastating losses that one can experience in life.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And that's not just one, but multiple losses. It is completely unjust and horrific, some of the things that she has had to experience. And I also get to witness her choosing every single day to survive, choosing every single day to thrive. And I think to myself, I wish that she didn't have to be this strong.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I wish that she didn't have to be This resilience. I want all the [00:15:00] best things for her. I want all good things, all the softness, all the tenderness in the world. I want to send that her way. And me witnessing her choosing to live every single moment being intentional about I'm going to live my life in a way that feels good to me no matter what is happening to me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That motivates me to keep going because I think if she chooses to live every single day, I get to choose to live every single day. I don't, I don't need to have life happen at me because I do have a choice and a say, and there are always things that you can do that are within your control. We do still have some agency in this world, and That's what I wanted to leave you with today.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Don't fall victim to the arrival fallacy. Don't let that take over where you're just living day to day for this future event that might or might not happen. Instead, find moments to be more present [00:16:00] today, to experience more joy and contentness, satisfaction today. That's it for today's episode. I will talk to you all next time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I know you thought the episode was over. I did too. But after I finished recording the episode, I realized that I have a correction that I need to make in terms of the coining of the term arrival fallacy and where it came from. So I mentioned that the term was coined by someone named Tal Ben Shahar.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: He's a self described author and teacher. with expertise in the areas of positive psychology and the psychology of leadership. So I was correct. He did coin the phrase, the arrival fallacy. However, it doesn't directly show up in the book Happier. The book Happier introduces ideas related to it, but doesn't actually bring up the phrase arrival fallacy.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I went through my own rabbit [00:17:00] hole, was doing my own reading, was trying to make sure that it was accurate after the fact. I, because it was bothering me, I was like, let me just double check. I went back, double checked, and recalled that the book talks about the myth of success and happiness, and the book talks about studies related to disproving that success leads to happiness.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So, um, There's a lot of intersections and connections between what we know to be what arrival fallacy is and what is discussed in the book, Happier, but the book itself is not where you find the arrival fallacy coming up for the first time. So if you want to learn more, the book is called Happier, No Matter What, Cultivating Hope, Resilience, and Purpose in Hard Times.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm going to link it in the show notes, but I just wanted to make that clarification. If you're looking for the arrival fallacy in that book, it doesn't show up, but you can still learn a lot, a lot of helpful ideas in [00:18:00] this book related to promoting more happiness in your life and ultimately at the end of the day, promoting more wellbeing in your life, which is something I'm a big fan of.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So go ahead and do your own research. Like I said, everything that I share on the podcast. You can take it with a grain of salt. I try to share what I'm learning, but as I'm learning, I may make mistakes. So that's why I needed to come on here and clarify, make that correction. I appreciate your patience.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And that is it for this week. Okay. I'll talk to you all later. Thanks so much for joining me in the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. The second way is to get your copy of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit, [00:19:00] which includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at gradschoolfemtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name. The last way to show your love is to sign up to work with me via my Grad School Femtoring Academy, my group coaching program for first gen BIPOCs seeking to work on their personal growth and gain sustainable productivity skills.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You can learn more at gradschoolfemtoring. com slash academy. Thanks again for listening and until next time.

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