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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

Think You “Have It Made”? Beware the Trap of Success Arrival Fallacy!

Business person falling into a trap

I just returned from attending the annual conference of the National Speakers Association. The culmination of this 3-day event is the naming of five speakers to the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, the highest designation in my profession. Consider this the Academy Award for speaking. And once you have it—you have it made? Right?


How well I remember the thrill and the accolades when I received this honor years ago. Surely organizations, associations and major corporations would come flooding to my door. I could stop all the constant improvement of my web site, the continual reworking of speeches, the honing of storytelling, and the flying in economy. I could easily have fallen into the “success arrival fallacy”. And frankly, there are days, I wish I did.

What is Success Arrival Fallacy?

In his book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment,” Harvard psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar coined the term arrival fallacy after experiencing its effects as a young elite squash player.

“I thought if I win this tournament that then I’ll be happy,” he said. “And I won, and I was happy. And then the same stress and pressure and emptiness returned.”

He defines the arrival fallacy as: “The false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness.” He says, “Arrival fallacy is this illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.”

Just as Ben-Shahar realized, there are negative impacts in thinking you have reached the pinnacle of achievement. Stagnation, limited ambition, and disappointment can lead to disillusionment and unhappiness. One can miss the joy of the journey while only focusing on the end instead of the process.

Resilience Requires a Growth Mindset and Appreciation of Present Moment

As I write this, please know that I am also talking to myself. As I age, I am acutely aware of the desire and imperative to constantly evolve, to see this as a lifelong endeavor, and to challenge myself with new goals.

Some days I am good at this and other days, I stink. It is an effort to be mindful, to practice gratitude, and to find joy in the moment. I don’t have to excel in something—I just must experience it and find what it teaches me.

Where do you find yourself in this “success-crazed” world? I’d love to know.

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