Women’s Murder Club, the arrival fallacy, and why it’s important to “Enjoy the process.”

The countdown begins! Just three days until Women’s Murder Club premiers on ABC! 9:00 EST, plan to watch!

My sister and her writing partner are Executive Producers. Getting a show on network TV is a HUGE DEAL, and I’m thrilled.

The true hugeness of it hit me this morning, when I saw giant posters for Women’s Murder Club in the subway. I’d seen signs for the show on buses, and the Big Man saw a billboard on the Bruckner Expressway, but somehow seeing a wall poster in my very own home subway station really brought it home to me.

Of course, I had to take a photo. (One crucial happiness-project resolution: always carry a camera.)

In Tal Ben-Shahar’s book Happier, he mentions the “arrival fallacy,” in which we believe that if only we could arrive at a certain destination, then we would be happy. However, reaching that destination usually doesn’t make us as happy as we expect.

Five years ago, if you’d asked my sister how she’d feel to have a show premiering on ABC, she would’ve said, “I’d feel ecstatic!”

Of course, she is ecstatic. But arriving at a destination, no matter how longed for, rarely brings the pure joy we anticipate. First of all, by the time you’ve reached the destination, you’re expecting to reach it. So it’s not a huge leap in experience.

Second, arriving at a destination reveals all the effort that must go into staying there. It’s rare to achieve something (other than winning an award) that brings unadulterated pleasure without added responsibilities or concerns.

Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. Having a show on TV. We look forward to reaching these destinations, and they do make us happy (usually), but having reached them, they bring emotions other than sheer happiness, as well.

Now when I find myself focusing over-much on the anticipated happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself of one of my Twelve Commandments: “Enjoy the process.”

If I can enjoy the process, I don’t need to count on the happiness that is (or isn’t) waiting for me upon arrival.

Curt Rosengren, familiar to many from his blog The Occupational Adventure, has launched a new blog, The M.A.P. Maker — where M., A., and P. stand for Meaning, Abundance, and Passion. With my new interest in people identifying their personal symbols — their imago, or figuration, or totem, or whatever it should be called — I was struck by the image at the top of the blog, a compass. That’s a great personal metaphor.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • I’m looking forward to it (though I’ll probably watch it this summer as replays to get all of it at once).

  • m w

    I’ve been trying to focus on the process (rather than the outcome) for years and years and have not made much progress. Any tips to help out?

  • Gretchen, I was in NYC last week and saw the posters for the show everywhere. I didn’t know that was your sister’s project. I knew she was doing one, but didn’t know (or didn’t remember) it was that one. It’s so exciting to have accomplished something great like that. Good for her!

  • Like so many aspects of the Happiness Project, the challenge isn’t to IDENTIFY what we should do to be happy (e.g., enjoy the process), but to FOLLOW that advice.
    What works for me is to keep saying to myself, “This is the fun part!” I don’t feel like walking my daughter to school — “this is the fun part of being a parent!” I don’t feel like tackling a difficult bit of writing — “This is the fun part of being a writer!” The surprising thing is that this actually does work.

  • I didn’t realize the connection. How cool is that?

  • “This is the fun part” is similar to one of my commandments: “act as if”. Cool! It does work.
    I too realized long ago that achieving a goal does not bring happiness. For years I thought “IF only I were thin…”. Like so many women I had a vision (helped along by advertising) that if I achieved thinness I would automatically find love, happiness, a good job, everything.
    It is sometimes difficult to enjoy being where we are but we are never anywhere else.

  • Karen Kay

    This is so exciting! I loved these books and am looking forward to the TV show.

  • Keeping a gratitude journal is the easiest way to enjoy the process. We tend to tune out all the wonderful things we have at the moment.

  • I saw a commercial for the show during L&O:SVU last night, thought of you (and your sister!) and had a little burst of vicarious happiness. Pass on my congratulations!

  • Reaching a goal takes much work, effort and sacrifice that isn’t seen by others when the goal is finally reached. Nobody can GIVE you the satisfaction that you actually feel inside yourself when the goal is achieved. That’s usually when you realize that the journey was the best part. I hope this show is a total success for your sister. I’m excited to watch!

  • m w

    What works for me is to keep saying to myself, “This is the fun part!
    Great tip. I’m going to try it out. Thanks!