The Search for Happiness
A brief look at "destination addiction."
Posted July 20, 2016 | Reviewed by Matt Huston
Today’s post has nothing to do with a previous post I wrote on being “addicted to travel." The other day I was on Facebook when one of my friends posted a graphic with the following quote:
“Beware of Destination Addiction - a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
Not only did I like the quote but it also caught my attention because the word “addiction” was used in it. I quickly Googled the term ‘destination addiction’ and was surprised to find a number of articles on the topic (but unfortunately nothing published in an academic journal). The term ‘destination addiction’ was coined by British psychologist Dr. Robert Holden in his 2011 book Authentic Success: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World's Leading Coaching Program on Success Intelligence (an updated version of his 2009 book Success Intelligence). In a blog post extracted from his book, Dr. Holden wrote:
“Do you live your life only to get to the end of it? Most people answer this question with a ‘no’, but not everyone lives like they mean it. In the manic society that most of us experience, people exhibit a frantic, neurotic behavior I call ‘Destination Addiction’. This addiction is a major block to success. People who suffer from Destination Addiction believe that success is a destination. They are addicted to the idea that the future is where success is, happiness is, and heaven is. Each passing moment is merely a ticket to get to the future. They live in the ‘not now’, they are psychologically absent, and they disregard everything they have. Destination Addiction is a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is somewhere else. We suffer, literally, from the pursuit of happiness. We are always on the run, on the move, and on the go. Our goal is not to enjoy the day, it is to get through the day. We have always to get to somewhere else first before we can relax and before we can savor the moment. But we never get there. There is no point of arrival. We are permanently dissatisfied. The feeling of success is continually deferred. We live in hot pursuit of some extraordinary bliss we have no idea how to find”.
From an addiction perspective, there is little in the description that would lead me to call this behaviour an addiction by my own criteria apart from the idea of being totally preoccupied with the behaviour (which for me is one of the core components of addiction that I term ‘salience’). Holden then goes on to list some of the symptoms of destination addiction, which I’ve reproduced below verbatim:
* “Whatever you are doing, you are always thinking about what comes next.
* You cannot afford to stop because you always have to be somewhere else.
* You are always in a hurry even when you don’t need to be.
* You always promise that next year you will be less busy.
* Your dream home is always the next home you plan to buy.
* You don’t like your job but it has good prospects for the future.
* You never commit fully to anything in case something better comes along.
* You hope the next big success will finally make you happy.
* You always think you should be further ahead of where you are now.
* You have so many forecasts, projections, and targets that you never enjoy your life.”
There is nothing in this list ‘symptoms’ that relates to symptoms of addiction in any way, but that doesn’t mean that Holden has not hit upon something – it’s just not something that I would call an addiction. Holden also claims that destination addicts “celebrate the end of the day” and look forward to the weekends so that they can recover (in short, they are the kind of people who say to themselves “Thank God it’s Friday”). Holden also notes:
“The life we dream of is in the future somewhere, and we hope to catch up with it any day now. Destination Addiction causes us to rush through as many experiences as quickly as possible. We like to be able to say ‘Been there, done that!’… Surely, life is not all about endings. If it were, we would read only abridged novels; we would attend only the final act of a play at the theater; the last note of a symphony would be best of all; the best restaurants would serve only petits fours; and sex would have no foreplay. Destination Addiction is an attempt to get on with life faster in the hope that we will enjoy our lives better. And yet our constant speeding means we frequently run past golden opportunities for grace and betterment…We seek, but we do not find…Our Destination Addiction often works against us, however, because we are too busy running to be receptive. Hence, we always feel empty…The other meaning is “the purpose,” i.e., your vision, your values, etc. The trouble with Destination Addiction is that it focuses purely on finishes and not on purpose. To live intelligently is to live with purpose, to make the means the end, and also the end the means. The end is in every moment.”
Other articles on destination addiction talk about it being obsessive and compulsive. For instance, an article by Beverley Glick says that “people who have destination addiction are compulsively trying to get somewhere or something that’s perpetually in the future” whereas an article on the Elements Behavioral Health webpage notes that musings on the choices we have made in our day-to-day life can turn to obsession and that our “daydreams can become self-sabotaging.” The article also claims that:
“For those prone to addictive thought patterns and behaviors, destination addiction is the perfect setup for failure. Trading short-term gratification for the eventual fallout is a component of destination addiction. Getting lost in destination addiction can be as easy as plugging your goals into [Dr. Robert Holden’s] description that ‘happiness is the next hit, the next high, the next acquisition, the next drink, the next orgasm, the next hot-fudge sundae, the next 10-pound weight loss’. Is your mind overactive with ‘the grass is greener’ thinking? Do you sigh in frustration that you aren’t living the life you imagined?”
Dr. Holden claimed on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008 that destination addiction affects “millions” of individuals and in another blog on destination addiction, entitled ‘Are you the tortoise or the hare?’, Holden claimed:
“[Destination addicts] are hypercritical and are forever ‘should-ing’ on themselves – ‘I should be further in my career by now’, ‘I should have gotten married by now’, or ‘I should have achieved more by now’. Destination Addiction causes us to be permanently impatient with ourselves. The schedule we set for ourselves is so demanding that we end up driving ourselves harder and faster. We refuse to forgive ourselves if we cannot keep up…We have no time for ourselves, and we are permanently impatient with everyone else…We are permanently impatient because we are addicted to the pursuit of progress. What is progress? According to Destination Addiction, to progress is to move along a timeline from ‘here’ to ‘there’ as quickly as possible. But to what end? Impatience impedes real progress if the focus is only on getting to the future faster. Real progress is a real-time goal that is about the here and now – living well today, being more present, caretaking this moment, and enjoying the time of your life”.
To me, what Holden is trying to promote is living in the now, living in the moment—in other words, a form of mindfulness (something I have discussed in a number of my previous articles and something which I have been carrying out research into with Dr. Edo Shonin and William Van Gordon). Another online article about destination addiction (on the Frugal Dad website) implies that shopping addiction might be symptomatic of destination addiction:
“[Destination addiction] is this never-ending pursuit of happiness that drives us to spend more and more money on things. But things do not bring joy. Things bring worry. Things bring temporary happiness that masks some deeper pain. For instance, those who consider themselves ‘emotional spenders’ don’t really have a spending problem. They are using shopping as a way of putting on an emotional Band-Aid to make some other kind of pain go away, much in the same way someone who overeats does so to combat depression, or loneliness. It usually isn’t about the enjoyment of overindulging in foods, or purses.”
The article then goes on to describe so-called “destination dealers” that have helped the addiction “spread quickly” (i.e., those on television trying to sell you products that can help you “totally change your life” or “make you happier than you ever dreamed possible.” More specifically:
“Cars are often depicted as the path to a happier life in commercials, as if the built-in navigation system, iPod docking station, and push-button ignition will really make you happier than the $600 monthly payments. But, we get hooked at an early age and chase these various ‘destinations’ our entire lives. A bigger home, a newer car, fancier clothing, more exquisite jewelry–nothing is ever simply enough. Fortunately, there is an excellent home remedy for destination addiction, but it is often hard to find. When we declare ourselves content with what we have and who we are we can beat the addiction of waiting to be happy. We can live quite happily in the now. Through contentment we can be happy with this house, and this car, and these clothes, and beat the cravings for more”…happiness comes from within; it is not something that can be pursued”.
This is echoed in an online article on destination addiction by Connie Mann:
“Happiness never comes from a destination. Happiness is a choice we make, every day, no matter where we are. It comes from recognizing that circumstances don’t bring happiness, things don’t bring happiness, achievements don’t bring happiness. Happiness comes from inside us, from an attitude of thanksgiving…If we get too focused on tomorrow, we can fall into a dangerous trap.”
Another recent online article on destination addiction by Toya Sharee claimed that “social media and an era of excess make a major contribution to this epidemic of destination addiction.” She also said (in line with some of the other comments mentioned above) that:
“None of us are immune to destination addiction and we all have times where we have to convince ourselves that better times are ahead just to make it through the day. But the key to defeating destination addiction is to find happiness with the life you have and to achieve the goals that are important to YOU, not the ones you think will impress everyone else."
I’ll leave you with the words of philosopher and author Henry David Thoreau, who also recalls the concept of mindfulness but who Beverley Glick cited in her article on whether there is a cure for destination addiction: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."
References and further reading
Elements Behavioral Health (2016). Destination addiction. Located at: https://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/addiction/destination-addictio…
Frugal Dad (2009). Do you suffer from destination addiction. January 5. Located at: http://www.frugaldad.com/do-you-suffer-from-destination-addiction/
Glick, B. (2011). Is there a cure for destination addiction. Pearl Within. Located at: http://pearlwithin.tumblr.com/post/17710986467/is-there-a-cure-for-dest…
Holden, R. (2010). Are you the tortoise of the hare? Heal Your Life, August 30. Located at: http://www.healyourlife.com/are-you-the-tortoise-or-the-hare
Holden, R. (2011). Authentic Success: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World's Leading Coaching Program on Success Intelligence. London: Hay House.
Holden, R. (2015). What is destination addiction? How to stop thinking about what comes next. Located at: http://www.robertholden.org/blog/what-is-destination-addiction/
Mann, C. (2014). Beware of destination addiction. August 2. http://www.conniemann.com/beware-of-destination-addiction/
Sharee, T. (2016). Are you suffering destination addiction? XoNecole, February 16. Located at: http://xonecole.com/destination-addiction/
Substance For You (2016). Destination addiction. Located at: http://substanceforyou.com/destination-addiction/
Whyte, D. (2016). Destination addiction. January 13. Located at: http://pearlwithin.tumblr.com/post/17710986467/is-there-a-cure-for-dest…