Friday, June 9, 2023

Autism and the Arrival Fallacy


The sun came up yesterday over the track outside of Salt Lake City. The last time I had been to this track was in 2019 and I remember thinking back then, “if only I had the chance to make it to INDYCAR, yes, if I made it then I’d be okay. That would be happiness. Don’t get me wrong, making it to INDYCAR was a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. There was a gigantic hole in my logic and one that I think can plague some individuals on the autism spectrum. It’s called the arrival fallacy. 

The arrival fallacy is the notion that a person thinks that, once they reach a target or goal, that then and only then they’ll achieve happiness. As goals are met, the goal posts are moved further, and the chasing of that elusive happiness continues at a frantic pace. 

Anyone can fall under the trap of the arrival fallacy, but I think it’s worse for those on the autism spectrum. This applies to me, but growing up I thought everyone else was perfect. I was perplexed how everyone else could socialize so easily, how did they make friends so easily? Was it because of the tasks that other could do that I couldn’t? If I were able, then that would mean I would be able to be happy, right?

It gets ingrained early. If I could do X then finally happiness would be ascertained. Looking into the fog of the future of achievements made the present nonexistent. Happiness in the moment wasn’t because happiness remained elusive in the goals of the future. Because of this, there was no satisfaction in the skills learned in the moment. There was no ability to realize that I was growing, I was learning, and yes, friendships were being made, but I remained transfixed to the next goal.

I don’t have an answer on this. I can’t tell you how to make this go away. The purpose of this blog is to tell you about this arrival fallacy concept I learned about last week and how apt it is. Before a person can work on something, they must first identify it and I’ve identified a big problem in my life. I’m sure many chapters of Finding Kansas are rooted in this. If I made it in racing… I’d those relationships worked out… and the biggest, “if only I weren’t on the autism spectrum.” 

It’s taken many years, but I now wouldn’t change a single thing about my path. I’m happy. I may fall back and stare into the fog of the next goal and think that is the way to happiness, but a day like today, working at this track in Salt Lake City, I wish I could go back and tell my 2019 self that happiness, for me, is working in the moment and reaching a destination, while extremely cool, isn’t going to tip the happiness scales. 

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