Reached the top of your career and still not satisfied? The Arrival Fallacy!

“If you align your expectations with realities, you will never be disappointed”


Dare I utter these words, but recently I found myself really frustrated with one of my clients!

This client was a high powered executive and she had worked for one company most of her career. She was ready for a change.

Over the next few weeks, we worked hard on her body language, her resume and her confidence. We also carried out a market pricing analysis, so we knew her worth and felt sure she could offer something unique to the company.

We then made the approach and within a week she had secured an interview, within three weeks she had received a job offer.

She was offered head of marketing for a company she had wanted to work for nearly 10 years.

RESULT! High five us

A couple of months go by and I give her a call to check in with her. The conversation did not go well. My client was deflated and clearly not happy.

What had happened, she had her dream job working for that dream company, so why the LONG face?

Once I had overcome my frustration, I soon realized this was not her fault. My client had become victim to The Arrival Fallacy!

Film title OR bigger picture?

“The Arrival Fallacy” sounds like a film title - right?

Well, this sneaky and often underrated syndrome works on the premise of believing ultimate happiness can only be FELT when you reach your goal - whatever that may be!

As you work hard and focus on your goal you start to imagine your happiness, this automatically triggers the brain’s reward centers, producing a soothing and calming feeling.

This subtle feeling sits with you and your brain adjusts to it, so much so that when you meet your goal it’s less satisfying than expected. All of a sudden the happiness you expected to wave over you like a rush of pure joy dissipates and you are left feeling like a limp, deflated party balloon!

TRAIN like an athlete without the CARDIO


Olympic athletes are masters at handling The Arrival Fallacy syndrome.

As well as putting in the ‘leg work’ (excuse the pun) athletes put in the mind work behind achieving their goal, for athletes crossing the finish line is their goal. They visualize, they mentally prepare themselves and this thought keeps them motivated to train each day come rain or shine.

They also realize crossing the finish line first is not going to bring them ultimate happiness, as soon as that line is crossed and they have won, sure they take time to stop and celebrate their win, but they stay focused on their next goal.

Happiness is also a part of their training, their happiness will only be enhanced by a win and not by the fact they crossed the line first.

My client had put so much pressure on only feeling happy when she got ‘that’ dream job, when she finally reached it she realized her life was, well...still as it was before! Happiness is more than just reaching your goal - right?

Cross the CAREER finish line


Society often leads us into believing we have to be at a certain point in our career at a particular age! I remember thinking, society expects me to reach certain career milestones so I could not possibly be happy until I had reached them and accepted by my peers!

My client had dreamed of working at this particular company for so long, she had almost forgotten to enjoy the journey along the way. The long hours, the studying, the continuous need to work harder and smarter than her male colleagues had literally numbed her to celebrating her wins along the way!

It was not her fault, The Arrival Fallacy just creeped up on her.

Write your own film SCRIPT

At some point in your career and even your everyday life you will fall victim to The Arrival Fallacy, so here are the top 5 ways you can control it and not let it control you.

  1. Purpose?

Remind yourself why you wanted to achieve your goal. Were you looking for a bigger paycheck? Did you want to work for a company because of their great ethics? You do not have to ‘force’ yourself to be happy about achieving your purpose, but you should certainly take time to stop and congratulate yourself and recognize you have reached it.

    2. Recognize the small wins

Look back at what you have gone through to get where you are! Note down each step along the way and take time to recognize your achievements. Buy yourself something for your desk, each time you look at it remember how far you have come. Again, you are not forcing happiness, but you are encouraging positive thoughts.

    3. Move on, Move up

So you got that job at the dream company, what’s next? Now is the time to realign yourself with your next ambition. Do you want to be promoted in two years? Focus on how you can achieve it. Remember, your happiness does not rely on reaching this next ambition, happiness is for the entire journey!

     4. Self Praise

Society leads us to believe praise from others validates us. You reached that top position, and your friends or family have even said ‘well done’. But if you are relying on others to be satisfied with what you would shoot, the thrill of your achievement won’t last long. You need to take a good look inside and make sure that you are making yourself proud.  A little self-praise and recognition is not egotistical. It is a way of recognizing your own achievements and not NEEDING validation from anyone else.


Focus on your goal, but at the same time remember to LIVE. Working and living is so important no matter how far up the career ladder you have climbed. YOU are never too important or too busy to enjoy a good belly laugh and embrace life as it is.

Enjoy the journey, enjoy the process and remember happiness is not to be locked away until you reach that GOAL.

Don’t fall victim to The Arrival Fallacy…….




Olivia Jaras