Relish the Moment. In My Case, Ten Weeks on the Bestseller List.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar describes the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy. (Other fallacies include the “floating world fallacy,” the belief that immediate pleasure, cut off from future purpose, can bring happiness, and the “nihilism fallacy,” the belief that it’s not possible to become happier.) The arrival fallacy is a fallacy because arriving rarely makes you as happy as you expect.

Usually, by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. You quickly become adjusted to the new state of affairs. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals a new goal. There’s another hill to climb.

There are two strategies that I use to combat the very powerful effects of the arrival fallacy.

First, I remind myself to appreciate the happiness of the process, in the atmosphere of growth afforded by making gradual progress toward a goal (technical name: pre-goal attainment positive affect). The fun part doesn’t come later, now is the fun part. One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is “Enjoy the process.”

Second, I discipline myself to relish the moments of arrival when I reach them. Instead of immediately taking an accomplishment for granted, and moving the bar higher, as I’m wont to do, I pause to enjoy the view.

I’m following my resolution to “Relish the moment” right now, in fact. As of this week, The Happiness Project has been on the New York Times bestseller list for ten straight weeks since publication — it hit #1 and has never dropped below #4. Yay! And that makes me extremely happy. I’m taking the time to revel in it.

A happy memory from my childhood: To celebrate a very big moment of professional “arrival,” my father bought my mother, my sister, and me a special present, to celebrate. We each chose what we wanted. I still have the gold chain that I picked out.

Hitting a goal is an element of happiness, and so is the process of working toward a goal. Nietzche explained it well: “The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”

How about you? Do you have trouble relishing the moment, when you’ve arrived at a particular place? How do you remind yourself to enjoy the view?

* I was mesmerized by this strange, beautiful stop-motion video featuring shells and the beaches of Wales.

* In a book group? If you’d like a copy of the reading-group discussion guide for The Happiness Project, just email me at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com]. (Sorry to write in that odd way; trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “reading group guide” in the subject line. I’ll send it right off.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • larry3g

    OH! YEAH! HAPPY DANCE! (for me I think of Snoopy’s moves and try to emulate)

  • Sometimes we get caught in a loop or desires. We want one thing, thinking it will satisfy whatever we’re feeling. And while we’re wanting that we miss what’s right in front of us. The Present Moment…

    I’ve placed Happier on my reading list.

    Rishi Pathani

  • heatherbestel

    I’m very mindful of relishing the moment. It’s so easy to forget how far you’ve come and just focus on the next mountain to climb instead of stopping to admire the view. Thanks for the timely reminder. Hxxx

  • kjcannon

    Gretchen, I continue to be happily amazed by how right-on your posts are in my daily experiences. I’m on vacation this week and get to spend time with wonderful friends – I just had a moment where I specifically dedicated time to being grateful and enjoying the process of getting here and being here, and then read your blog post today. Amazing! THANK YOU!

    • gretchenrubin


  • *adds ‘now is the fun part’ to pithy, sense-making reminders* Thanks, as usual.

  • First thing I always do is thank God, then thank everybody who has helped me along the way – like at the Oscars! But kidding aside, that’s one way for me to relish an achievement.

    Congrats on your bestseller list achievement. 😉

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! Excellent point. Huge gratitude is part of relishing a moment.

  • irishgal99

    Congratulations! I love your book (I’m listening to you reading it right now). Thank you for writing such a wonderful book.

  • Congratulations Gretchen! It’s been very exciting to watch the list over the last many weeks, having followed your blog for the past year.

    I was recently at TEDActive and very much enjoyed Dan Kahneman’s talk on remembering vs. experiencing Happiness. I thought of you and your commandment “enjoy the process.”

    Here’s to enjoying the process!

  • bar


  • Congratulations on the NYT Bestseller’s List. I’ve written niche market books for a long time and won’t know that particular joy. But I’ll remember to enjoy those that come my way and linger before moving on to the next goal. Thanks for the good advice.

  • Gretchen

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I have a hard time relishing the moment, celebrating the arrivals. I do. I think this is part and parcel of being an unwitting perfectionista and a incurable dreamer. Once I get somewhere, I start imagining next steps and future destinations. Having such a keen eye on what’s to come detracts – and unfortunately so – from the magic of now. I sit here at 11pm on a Friday night, two months out from publishing my first novel, working away on my second novel. Fixated so intently on future successes, I am missing out on the one that I already have in my lap. Best-seller or bust, my book, my literary baby, will be on bookstore shelves in no time. This is big. This is wonderful.

    So, Gretchen, the answer is yes. I have a hard time savoring the good moments, the auspicious arrivals. But reading your words here tonight serves as an incomparable – and timely – reminder to soak this up, these days, this “now”, because they are something. They are something brilliant.

    And so. Now I will publish this comment. And instead of writing another chapter of my next story, I will shut down. I will sleep. I will continue to dream. I will relish the present moment. I will allow myself to do this.

    Thanks for the nudge. (And the Nietzsche quote. Love Nietzsche.)

    Insecurely yours,

  • debbie823

    Congrats! This book is life changing for me. In my effort to declutter and not collect any more stuff, I borrowed your book from the library. I used so many post-its while reading, had to take notes, and brought the book back overdue! Yesterday I went to Border’s and bought the book. I feel so much better now 🙂 and I’m so glad that in my own small way I’ve helped keep this book on the best seller list. Yesterday I bought beautiful streamlined hangers for my closets. I can’t wait to get started. I’ve also offered up my services to two friends to help clean out their closets (I’m the organized one…) You’ve even found your way into my dreams ~ last night I had a dream that I was coerced into doing something that I knew would not turn out well and I reacted in my old snarky, sarcastic way rather than be honest. The only thing that came out of it was bad feelings for all. I woke up so grateful that it was only a dream. I’m really enjoying the process, too!

  • Tibby

    I recently came across this great quote and I keep it at my desk: “It’s OK to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful you’re going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it because that may be as far as you are going to go.” -Bill Withers (who wrote such lyrics as “Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Just the Two of Us”.

    • gretchenrubin

      I love Bill Withers. Great music. Great line.

  • Jane

    Glad that you mention Tal Ben-Shahar. I hadn’t noticed you mention him before (or maybe I’ve missed it), and he has certainly contributed a lot to the happiness field.

    Enjoy the moment!

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  • jlthompson60

    Also – you are on the front page of Bottom Line Magazine this week. Way to go Gretchen!!!!

    • gretchenrubin