Have you ever had a goal that you have been working so hard for and then when it finally happens, you feel a little empty or disappointed? It might have been related to a work goal like getting a promotion or reaching a certain salary or associated with health like reaching a goal body fat percentage or completing a race you’ve been training hard for or even something life changing like we have just been through, moving to a new country. That sadness or emptiness is perfectly normal and something, if you are goal oriented, probably feel quite often.
Three days ago, we arrived in Mt Crested Butte, Colorado after travelling over 20,000 miles from Australia via New Hampshire and North Carolina. It has been two months of travel and five plus years of planning and we are finally here. So how do I feel? Honestly, absolutely stoked. I have had moments of ‘OMG, what have we got ourselves into?’ but that is nothing compared to the feeling that I am where I should be. We have a lot of hurdles to overcome but I feel more confident now than what I did when we left Australia. Eliot on the other hand has been feeling very different.
This has been Eliot’s dream for many, many years. To raise a family in this mountain community has long been his vision. Getting here was the biggest step and all the weight of that crashed down on him once we arrived. It was a combination of feeling like making it a success being his sole responsibility and probably exhaustion (we drove the last 14hrs through the night) but I feel some part of his despair can be attributed to arrival fallacy.
Arrival fallacy is a term coined by Harvard psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar and refers to the belief that once you attain a goal, you will be happy. The truth is for a lot of us, that once we reach our goal, we feel a bit lost as to what to do next. The striving towards and visualization of what it is going to be like is what is making us happy. That’s why you might feel a bit empty when you achieve that promotion or when I felt that way when I finished the f45 challenge and why possibly Eliot felt that way when we arrived here.
So should we throw all our goals out the window because when we achieve them, we’re not going to be happy? No! We just all need to realize that we need to enjoy the process of getting there and understand that this is what is making us happier as we are growing and learning and possibly more so than the finish line. I know I enjoyed the gradual improvements in my health and delicious meals in the f45 challenge much more than the scales at the end and I know I enjoyed lots of parts of the process of getting to Colorado as well as the actual being here.
So as Gretchen Rubin says, if you find yourself focusing too much on a future state of happiness, remind yourself to ‘Enjoy now’. Then you won’t need to count on the happiness that might or might not be there when you reach your destination.