The arrival fallacy is a concept that’s very prevalent in medicine. Coined by Tal Ben-Shahar, it refers to the illusion of happiness that we think we’ll experience when we arrive at a completed goal or achievement (spoiler: it doesn’t work like that).
In medicine in particular, this is reinforced with lots of delayed gratification and long training periods with limited free time and low pay.
We think that finally achieving the next level (whether it’s residency, fellowship, or attending, receiving a bonus, a raise, etc.) will instantly make our lives better, because we’ll have more money and more control over our schedule.
We constantly look for “the light at the end of the tunnel” to get ourselves through years of grueling assignments and shifts. But a lot of the time we reach these specific benchmarks – or, we “arrive” – and it’s not at all how we thought it would be.
Gertrude Stein was right when she said, “There’s no there, there.”
How does the arrival fallacy come into play when we reach attending status and start pulling in a whole new pay grade? Let’s examine that…
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