What is arrival fallacy?

September 18, 2019
arrival fallacy

You achieved what you wanted. So why aren’t you happy? Suffering with arrival fallacy

A few years ago, I ran my own business as a sideline selling vintage jewellery. It started to take off; celebrity stylists got in touch for their a list clients in both UK and Hollywood, I got featured in glossy magazines and made a bit of cash.

And yet despite all that, I just felt flat.

I’d achieved everything I‘d set out to. I’d proved I could start a business with less than a hundred quid. I was noticed by celebrity stylists and fashion journalists. But instead of being happy about it, I felt a bit deflated and I wasn’t sure what was making me feel this way.

According to Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard trained positive psychology expert, I had arrival fallacy.

The mythical feeling success will make you happier

Arrival fallacy is based on the idea that external recognition of our achievements doesn’t make us happy. Ben-Shahar who coined the phrase describes it as: “the illusion that once you make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach everlasting happiness.”

Essentially I had got what I wanted – and yet it didn’t give me the feeling I thought it would.

How many times do we think we’ll be happy when we get a promotion, a new job, a partner, a new house etc and then feel unsettled when somehow things still haven’t fallen into place?

How many times have I said to myself, I’ll be happy when I lose a stone without thinking about the fact I wasn’t doing cartwheels with joy when I weighed 8 stone?

We set our goals higher and higher and then when we achieve them, we feel deflated because it didn’t give us the happiness we thought it would.

Remember happiness comes from within

Yes, I know I’m rocking out a self-care cliche but it really is true: happiness comes from within.

Sure, a compliment can be a nice boost and being recognised for doing a good job makes you feel appreciated – but fundamentally only we can make ourselves happy.

It’s good to recognise the smaller moments in life. The little wins where we felt proud of ourselves and the good things that happened along the way. It’s also important to reflect on how we’ve changed and grown. We all evolve.

Being in the moment is important

I do feel it’s useful to think about the future and not drift along aimlessly hoping for someone to pluck you out of obscurity and transport you to a better life (hello 20-something me). In my experience, you have to work towards something to make things happen in your favour.

However, it’s also important to think about how those goals and what you think success really looks like? Is it always about the achievement of goals or what you’re learning and experiencing along the way? So have you grown? Do you feel different? Has the experience shaped you? What have you learnt along the way?

For a filmmaker, does happiness come from receiving an Oscar and listening to the applause from an adoring crowd? Or is it being able to bring people together and create your vision?

Likewise, for a writer, is it about winning prizes, or the enjoyment of crafting words to put on a page?

Now, I’m not saying external recognition isn’t important – none of us can live off fresh air alone. I’m just using this to illustrate how we need to look at what actually makes us happy.

Can we help ourselves to be happier?

So if achieving our goals don’t make us happy and we know that arrival fallacy exists, then how do we make ourselves happy? Are there ways we can inject ourselves with a dose of happiness?

There are times when things are truly rubbish and I personally feel, those feelings should be validated. I’m not a big fan of the idea we should always be thinking positively whatever the situation. I believe you need to process your emotions: good and bad.

There are other times though, when there’s not really anything terrible happening – but it feels like nothing really great either. Life is just a bit blah. It’s those moments where we can change our mindsets.

For me, gratitude practice is one of the quickest ways to help me notice the smaller things that work in my favour. I feel grateful for the slightly delayed train, which means I don’t have to wait for the next one when I’m running late and it makes me realise life can be on my side. Once you start noticing these little moments, you see them more and more and your mood elevates overall.

I prefer to practice gratitude in the morning – other people prefer to think about what went well at night. Some people do both. Whatever works for you really.

Some people get more from journaling and using to to identify common themes and issues which can be looked at and changed where necessary.

Other people write notes with affirmations, listen to motivational podcasts and/or meditate to help cut the chatter in their minds. Some of us do as much as we can.

Happiness isn’t reached by a tick list – it ebbs and flows – but it’s always within our grasp.


How to silence your inner critic

August 17, 2019
How to silence your inner critic

I’m far too busy judging myself to worry about judging you.

Quite often (and generally in a work context), I will be talking out loud and a voice will start in my head saying, ‘stop, you sound ridiculous, Just stop before you embarrass yourself any further’.

This voice tells me I look too fat in my clothes, that I’m ageing and wrinkled. It likes to analyse situations and tell me where I’m going wrong. This can be in the moment or after the event – it doesn’t discriminate. It points out my inadequacies and then really hones in on what I could have done better. It only focuses on the negatives, never the positives and really enjoys making me feel bad about myself.

This voice is my inner critic.

If things don’t go my way, my inner critic will tell me it’s because I’m stupid / useless / annoying / a bad person (delete as appropriate). And when things do work in my favour, my inner critic will still find a way to put me down. It’s the last kind of person you want on your team.

I’m sure all of us have an inner critic, particularly as it’s impossible to go through life without experiencing self-doubt at some point. However, if this situation does apply, then I need to meet you and discover what you’re doing differently to the rest of us..

The difference is for some of us, our inner critic can be debilatating and it can stop us from reaching our full potential.

This is why we need to learn how to silence it (or at least put it on mute).

Why the critical voice in our head stands in our way

Listening to our inner critic point out our every ‘failure’ fundamentally leads to low self-esteem and feelings of poor self-worth. It’s hard to feel confident when a little voice is telling you you’re not.

My inner critic tends to be at its most vocal when I’m feeling a bit down about myself anyway. This then becomes a vicious cycle because the lower our self-esteem, the more our inner critic attacks what confidence we have left.

Our inner critic helps us build up patterns of limiting beliefs. This is where we tell ourselves we’re not good enough or a course of action wouldn’t be right for us. Our limiting beliefs are defensive mechanisms where we try and stop ourselves from getting hurt or looking foolish. But ultimately, they stand in our way and don’t let us take new opportunities or progress.

The important thing to remember though is that your inner critic isn’t real. It’s just a stupid voice in your head.

How to silence your inner critic

The best short term way of getting rid of your inner critic is to become aware of it. Remind yourself it doesn’t mean anything. Recognise it’s unhelpful and try to dismiss it as just that.

Longer term, mindfulness and learning how to calm your mind will help to silence your inner critic. It helps us to observe our thoughts and let them go whilst recognising they’re not our reality.

Gratitude also helps me. It makes me feel more positive about myself, in control of my own life and can recognise the good things that are going on (rather than just the bad).

The better I feel, the more able I am to tell my inner critic to pipe down.


365 days of happiness (or how to make yourself happy)

June 12, 2019
365 days of wellbeing

365 days of happiness

Jacqueline Pirtle believes happiness is a practice and wrote ‘365 days of happiness’ sharing daily guidance to help you be happy.

She teaches mindfulness, gratitude and visualisation techniques to help retrain our thought processes and create a positive mindset.

The idea is you work through the book doing one practice a day. The teachings are short, easy to digest and don’t require any pre-planning so they’re really easy to do each morning and help set you up for the day.   

Can you really make yourself happy?

Of course, there are times when happiness is harder and I fully believe it’s important to feel your feelings rather than trying to bury them. Pirtle agrees with this too and offers advice on how to look at those emotions and recognise their benefits.

However, there are times when nothing is going badly; it feels like nothing is going particularly well and life is just a bit blah. This is when a mindset change can reframe how you see life and help retrain our neural pathways.

And this is where ‘365 days of happiness’ comes in…

I’m generally a positive person by nature. However, I can spiral downwards when I’m tired; I eat bad food, avoid exercise and then feel miserable because I’m not looking after myself properly. It’s a chicken and egg situation and one I feel more motivated to change after reading ‘365 days of happiness’.

Anyway, enough about me…

6 lessons I learnt from reading ‘365 days of happiness’

How to be happy

  1. Remember that everything in our universe is vibrating energy. This includes rocks, trees, animals and ourselves; anything and everything you can think of. We may be vibrating different frequencies, however, we’re still all connected in some way. It’s quite incredible really and makes you realise that we’re all part of something bigger. Every thought, action, emotion and word is energy and vibrates at different frequencies. We can tune our energy to a different frequency and change our state of being with it.
  2. Wake up smiling and saying, ‘this is already and will be the best day ever’. Remember every day is a new day and a chance to start over. Making a decision that this will be the best day sets the tone and your intentions for the day. It shifts you into a frequency of excitement and creates lots of positive energy.
  3. Visualise how you feel when you’re happy. Ask yourself, ‘how do I feel in my high for life frequency’ and ‘how happy am I in my radiant frequency’? Visualise your answers often and it will shift you into a feel-good frequency.
  4. Pirtle also asks you to imagine yourself as a hotel owner and to think about how you would care for your guests, how you would check in with them and create an experience that they would enjoy. She asks that you recreate that experience for yourself. So check in with yourself and ask how you feel, what you need right now and how you can serve yourself better? This feels like the ulimate self-care and worth remembering for people who tend to put themselves last.
  5. Have a YES or No day where every decision you make, you make with clarity. There are no ‘probably’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘I’m not sure’ answers only YES or NO. If you can’t clearly say YES then it’s a NO. This will help you stop overthinking, second-guessing, or falling into the trap of catastrophising and help focus your thoughts to make decisions that are good for you.
  6. Take time out for yourself to be happy and create a moment of stillness to invite happiness into your life. This could be as simple as looking out of a window with a cup of tea. Give yourself a moment to think about how you feel and invite happiness into your day. Check into your happiness in the morning, afternoon and before you go to bed and remind yourself that it’s there.

365 days of happiness’ was gifted to me. However, all reviews are my own opinion. I don’t receive any commission if you decide to buy the book.

Want to read more on the science behind happiness?



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