In Part 1 we explored how the “Arrival Fallacy”, a concept attributed to Tal Ben-Shahar, a professor of positive psychology and leadership at Harvard University, relates to medicine.
Here in Part 2, we link the fallacy to medicine, milestones, and mental health – one explanation for the high rates of burnout and mental illness among physicians. We also uncover 4 steps to tackle the arrival fallacy in ourselves.
The arrival fallacy can also contribute to mental health issues among physicians. We may struggle to find a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. When physicians focus solely on achieving a specific outcome, such as reaching a certain level of success or earning a specific salary, they may neglect other aspects of their lives that contribute to overall wellbeing.
The idea that we will be happy when X happens if, unfortunately, not grounded in reality. Happiness is, if anything, transient. Each new stage in a medical career (or life) comes with both blessings and new challenges.
When you become an Attending or Consultant, sure the pay and hours get better, but the level of responsibility gets way higher too.
In addition, the arrival fallacy can contribute to a sense of imposter syndrome among physicians, who may feel as though they are not living up to the expectations of their profession or their peers.
When individuals believe that achieving a specific outcome will lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment, they may feel as though they have failed if they do not achieve these goals.
This can contribute to a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt, which can further contribute to mental health issues and burnout.
Below we present 4 steps toward moving past the arrival fallacy. They are:
1. Self-awareness (get a coach/therapist)
2. Prioritize physician self-care (self care is not selfish!)
3. Find meaning in the journey and the work – not the destination
4. Connect with what matters to you
In addition, physicians should also strive to develop a sense of purpose and meaning in their work, beyond just achieving certain milestones or accolades.
It is important to seek meaning in the journey and the work itself. By finding a sense of purpose and meaning in their work, physicians can feel more fulfilled and satisfied with their career, even if they have not yet achieved all of their goals or aspirations.
Finally, we suggest finding ways to connect:
In conclusion, the arrival fallacy can be a significant challenge for medical humans. Physicians and others in the medical professions often believe that achieving specific goals and milestones will lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment:
I’ll be happy when I…[insert here: finish med school/residency/get tenure/go private/retire].
By cultivating a sense of mindfulness, self-awareness, and purpose, physicians can work to combat these effects and find greater fulfillment in their work and their lives.