Artwork for podcast Baggage Check: Mental Health Talk and Advice
Is The Myth of Arrival Getting In Your Way?
Episode 6330th May 2023 • Baggage Check: Mental Health Talk and Advice • Dr. Andrea Bonior
00:00:00 00:16:47

Share Episode


The myth of arrival, the arrival fallacy.... whatever we call it, it can zap your ability to engage with the current moment. It's the idea that only once you get to a certain place in your life: meeting a specific goal, achieving a certain accomplishment, or just getting to a certain point in time, that only then will your real life begin.

Today we explore this fallacy in detail-- and discuss how it gets in our way. Best of all, we'll learn how to counteract it. Join us!

Follow Baggage Check on Instagram @baggagecheckpodcast and get sneak peeks of upcoming episodes, give your take on guests and show topics, gawk at the very good boy Buster the Dog, and send us your questions!

Here's more on Dr. Andrea Bonior and her book Detox Your Thoughts.

Here's more on this podcast, which somehow you already found (thank you!)

Credits: Beautiful cover art by Danielle Merity, exquisitely lounge-y original music by Jordan Cooper


Dr. Andrea Bonior: When you make goals, do you ever feel like once you meet them, then your life will begin? Then everything will fall into place? Once I get this promotion, once I'm done with this particularly hard period, then I will have arrived. Have you ever wondered how that affects what we do in the here and now? Today we're devoting some time to talk about the myth of arrival. The idea that once you get to a certain point, then happiness can come. Then you'll really be living. A lot of us have had this ingrained in us since our childhood. Ah. The research shows, though, that we never really arrived anywhere. And by expecting that things will change when we do, we do ourselves a grave disservice in the moment. Want to learn more about the myth of Arrival? Join us for today's baggage check. Welcome. I'm Dr. Andrea Bonior and this is baggage check, mental health talk and advice with new episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Thank you for being here. Baggage check is not a show about luggage or travel incidentally. It is also not a show about the history of seersucker. Let's get to it. Today I want to talk about the myth of arrival. This is one of those topics that if it ever comes up in conversation and I know you're just realizing how fun I must be at cocktail parties, but people relate to this more than almost any psychological construct that I'm ever jabbering on about. This resonates with so many people and I've talked about it for years in my writing. I work with clients on counteracting it. I teach about it. You might hear this called different things. I've been calling it the myth of arrival since the days of the caesar haircut, or maybe even two iterations ago of the Caesar haircut, where George Clooney was sporting it too. But I've also heard it termed the arrival fallacy or just the arrival myth. Those have fewer words, can fit nicer into a crossword puzzle. I've always called it the myth of arrival, though, so that's what I'm referring to it by today. I devote a whole chapter and detox your thoughts to it. The final chapter, in fact. That sounded much more ominous than I intended. The final chapter. Well, I wanted to end the book on it because I think as we think about our futures is where it comes up the most. But let me tell you how I see it manifest. And certainly I've had personal experience with this as well. I think it's easy for all of us to fall into it in certain ways, but we'll talk about who I see it the most in in just a bit anyway. How I see it manifest the most is the idea of incompletion that as you sit in your current life right now, you're not fully you yet or you're not fully complete. And that once you get organized or take off a few pounds or find a partner or get that promotion or get that degree or move out of that apartment, then things will be more real then. That's going to be you. You will be more fully realized. At that point. It's like then you'll finally come into being once you've checked this certain box. I mean, I can think back to getting my braces off as being something that I thought about when I was in junior high. Oh, uh, once I get my braces off and won't be reflecting light off my teeth so strongly that I hurt people's corneas, then life will be good again. I'll be able to smile fully for photos. I won't risk a rubber band shooting out of my mouth if I open too wide. And of course, it's great to have goals. If we didn't have things to look forward to, if we didn't have things to work towards, if we thought that all boxes were checked, then that might lead to problems in its own right. We might not have a sense of purpose. We might not have a sense of why we do what we do, what gets us up in the morning. So I'm not saying that we should ever write this second view that things are complete. But what I am saying is that it's important that we engage in the moment authentically and fully because we already are our real selves. We are already enough. The idea you are enough, I think that resonates with a lot of people. A lot of people find it cheesy too, no problem. But it resonates with a lot of people because I think a lot of times we feel inadequate at this current moment. It's only when we change ourselves or grow a little bit more that we feel like we're enough, that we're enough for this world, that we're enough for other people. But right now, you sitting in those stained pants. That's the real you. That's you right now. And that is enough. You don't have to have arrived somewhere else. It comes into the question of whether we value ourselves unconditionally. Do we truly believe that we are worthy and valid even as we are? Without an asterisk, without the fact that we have to fix this one thing about us, and then we'll be a fully realized human being? Do you value yourself right this second? If things ended right now, and I guess we're taking a little bit of a morbid turn here, but if things ended right now, would you have felt that you were fully engaged in your life? Or were you postponing that until your finances were in order, or you were consistently getting more sleep or you were done with school? The more parts of ourselves that we view as asterisks or incomplete, the more those shadows loom over us. They're hindrances from fully showing up in the here and now, fully engaging with the current moment. It reminds me of that Annie dillard line that I love. How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing. It's a little bit of a different concept, but it resonates in the sense that life is not about the big arrival, the big achievement, the huge promotion. Life is about the moments that lead up to it. If I was allowed to quote Aerosmith lyrics without some people smirking, I would say life's a journey and not a destination. But this is what the heart of the Myth of Arrival gets in the way of our ability to fully engage in a mindful, present way. So many of us that are high achievers really buy into the myth of Arrival because it's always about what to do next. I can't tell you how many people I've worked with in their 20s who are just starting their professional lives and they feel completely adrift because for the first time, they don't know what's next because there's no script. They did well in high school, they went to a good college, they got a good job. What am I supposed to do now? The Myth of Arrival always told them that as long as they keep meeting that next goalpost, everything falls into place. And now they feel lost. They have more freedom than ever before to chart their path. But it's scary because nobody's telling them what that path should be. They've almost become objects as they view themselves. Objects that are making their way on a game board to the next thing rather than actual participants. It brings to mind the game of life. I don't know if anybody else played that board game when they were growing up. It had the little car and the little pegheaded people that you would put in there. I mean, honestly, the myth of Arrival is kind of like that go from point A to point B, then you'll be directed to point C and then things will fall into place. You spend so much time thinking about the future that you're denying yourself the present. So there are lots of different ways that this manifests for some people. It's that emptiness that I talked about when you feel adrift because you've met the goals that you had and then you arrive and you realize you're not really sure why you expected to be happier, because you're not. There's a whole concept of Hedonic adaptation that we'll talk about probably in a future episode. This notion that, of course we don't automatically feel happier when we get to that arrival. Hedonic adaptation says that we will probably just adjust to the new thing that we have and it won't necessarily make us happy. So yes, we get the bigger apartment and after a few weeks it's just our apartment. Or there's lifestyle creep. We get the raise so we have more money and more comfort, but now we're spending more on lattes and more on clothes. And so we kind of feel like we're in the same financial straits we've always been. I work with a lot of older adults who feel like they don't really feel grown up. They always assumed if they got to a certain place, feeling grown up would click into place. I have a mortgage, I have children, I'm married, I have a job, and yet I don't feel like a grown up. That's what people will say. I look in the mirror, I know I might be 50 years old, but I still don't feel like I've actually arrived at adulthood. That's another brand of this. Or people who are always searching for the next thing because it's about the searching and the imagining and the fantasizing, but they're fundamentally uncomfortable being in the here and now. Maybe they're bored with themselves, or they think that they're inadequate, so they've kind of got to distract themselves with the idea of a path forward all the time. A lot of really high achieving workaholic types of folks are like this. So a lot of times too, it's about people who are always putting other people first or sacrificing their own pleasure. Not just the people who say, oh, I'll sleep when I'm dead, and they're really burning themselves out, but also the people who are always taking care of others and think that it's never quite time for them to take a break. The myth of arrival lies to us. It tells us that only at a certain point, by usually external circumstances, will we finally be satisfied or confident, or organized, or well loved, or have the time to put into relationships. We are terrible estimators of time. We think we will have more time in the future than we actually will. And so this is another problem. We think, well, once X falls into place, then I will sit back and prioritize. I'll finally clean out my chest freezer so that it no longer has a freezer burned steak from the first Bush administration sitting in there. I'll finally feel confident and attractive once I lose these five pounds. I hear it all the time from folks. But the truth is, there is no arriving external circumstances or even somewhat internal circumstances. You change your body, you change your teeth. Those aren't going to fundamentally make you arrive at a different state of being. So not only does the myth of arrival damage our ability to be fully present in the current moment, it damages our future potential as well. Because then we're going to be let down when we finally get to a place that we expected would just make us more fully realized human beings. And worse yet, we often keep moving the goalposts, right? Oh, I'll finally really be living when I get a partner. Oh, now that I have a partner, once we are actually committed fully to each other, then that's when life is going to begin. Okay, well, if we're going to have kids, once we have kids and I'm a parent, that's when life's going to begin. Okay, well, this is really rough because I've got bodily fluids on me all day, every day and I'm getting no sleep. So once my kid gets a little older, that's when life is really going to begin. Oh my goodness, these teenagers are really hard. Once those settle down and I actually have an empty nest, then I'll be able to find my own pursuits and be my own person, et cetera, et cetera. Lots of different reasons. We do this from the people who just have learned to define themselves by their goals and define themselves as objects. Like I mentioned to people who have learned to never feel like enough, maybe because of something in their upbringing where it was always about what you could be doing instead of what you are doing. People who can't sit still in the present moment because it makes them uncomfortable to be alone with their thoughts and it scares them. People who never feel like they are allowed to prioritize their own needs. These are all different varieties of the myth of arrival. And again, I go into some specific case studies and detox your thoughts. So how do we counteract all this? Well, I've got a few tips for that. The first is to start reminding yourself that you are already enough. This might sound completely hokey. It might sound like one of those chalkboard style things that you'd buy on Etsy and put up on your wall. Props to true Etsy creators, by the way. I do love you all and I know you're gradually being overtaken by companies, which is not good. Put some sort of reminder for yourself that literally says you are enough. Right here, right now. Whatever words you want to put it in that this present moment is all right, this is for living. This is life. This moment right this second is every bit as big and as valid as something five years from now when you've met those supposed other goals that you're supposed to be working on. A reminder in any form that you can have. This is the heart of mindfulness, right? That you are where you're supposed to be and that you can make the most out of it. Next thing that you can do is something that we talk about a decent amount here. Hopefully not enough to make you scream at your device as you're listening to this podcast, but thinking about your values, how you want to have lived your life, what kind of person that you want to be, what you would do differently if your life were to end tomorrow. Again, kind of morbid, but kind of important. Ask yourself if you're in the postponing mindset because you think that you haven't arrived somewhere yet enough to be fully, fully present. And of course, we can't always live our lives like we're going to die tomorrow, because at the very least, we'd be eating way too much guacamole. But asking yourself, really whether or not you're postponing things can help you get in the mindset of being more fully present now. You can even try to symbolize in pictures what your past, your present and your future look like in terms of relative size, relative weights. Sometimes when people are depressed, they're ruminating on the past. Sometimes when people are anxious, they're ruminating on what could go wrong in the future. How much weight do you give the present? Do you see that as just as valid as the future and the past? How can you put mindfulness tools into practice each day just to bring yourself into the here and now? These are all considerations to help you combat the myth of arrival. But one of the biggest is just to recognize it and label it as it comes. Am I putting things off? Am I having the distortion that things will change miraculously when the calendar turns to a certain year, or I reach a certain amount in my bank account, or I meet this one specific goal that I've let take over my entire persona? If the answer is yes, you can start to combat that on a small daily basis by trying to put your values into practice now, by trying to be more mindful now and by remembering that you are already enough. Thanks for joining me today. Once again, I'm Dr. Andrea Bonier, and this has been baggage check. With new episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Join us on instagram at baggage checkpodcast. Give us your take and opinions on topics and guests. And you know you've got that friend who listens to, like, 17 podcasts. We'd love it if you told them where to find us. Our original music is by Jordan Cooper, cover art by Daniel Merity, and my studio security, it's Buster the Dog. Until next time, take good care.




More from YouTube