The notion that ultimate happiness lies in a future we have yet to achieve will be familiar to many. From a young age, many of us are encouraged to imagine what our fantasy future looks like – what our dream job is, where we want to live, who we are surrounded by. Yet, on the way to our paradisal vision of the future, happiness in the present may start to feel difficult.
What is destination addiction?
British Psychologist Dr. Robert Holden coins destination addiction as “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner”. Some signs of this include:
- Viewing success as a destination – where each passing moment is merely a stepping stone to the future
- Finding it difficult to focus on the present – always thinking about what comes next
- Being hypercritical of your current position – feeling like you should be further ahead
- Framing happiness as a condition – “I will be happy when…”, “I will not be happy until…”
Practically, this can sound like: “When I hit my goal, life will be better”, “Once I achieve that, I will have made it”, “The next part will be better than the one I’m in now”, “If I were/had that, I would be happy”.
Destination addition and mental health
There is nothing wrong with envisioning the future or setting ambitious goals – future-oriented thinking can set a helpful foundation for present actions and provide a beneficial boost of motivation when needed. For those in a position where you feel you are just starting out in life, the future can look like an overwhelming checklist of objectives to fulfil – education, career success, status, financial stability, relationships etc.
Our present mental health can take a toll when we develop a pattern of thinking that happiness is conditional on what we achieve, and self-gratification is deferred continuously to the next goal (and then the one after that). In that sense, happiness and contentment in the present becomes something that we continuously strive for, but can never seem to achieve. This can leave us with persistent feelings of unhappiness and “grass is greener” thinking; anxiety as we consider our current position in life and whether we should be doing more; guilt and shame if we fall short in comparison to others; and disappointment where things don’t go as hoped for.
How to deal with destination addiction
In the pursuit of future happiness, destination addiction can take away our present happiness. As COVID-19 has forced us to slow down and wait for a “better” future to arrive, perhaps it is a good time take stock of how we perceive the present. Here are some starting tips:
- Reflect on your definition of happiness. Take a moment to think about how you personally define happiness, being mindful of the words you use and any external indicators you may rely on. Is your idea of happiness focused on the future or somewhere else? How does it affect your view of happiness in the here and now?
- Set small and achievable goals. Create small, realistic targets, being mindful of your current abilities. Reframe your view of success in terms of growth and progress, and make sure to celebrate the small wins along the way.
- Be mindful of comparisons. With social media, it is all too easy to see the accomplishments of our friends and compare how we stack up. Keep in mind that you are on your own journey – we succeed in our own ways, and at our own pace.
- Embrace your journey. We will inevitably experience high and low moments throughout the pursuit of our goals. Be kind to yourself in the process, and allow space for your emotions when things don’t go as planned. Fall in love with learning about yourself and take your experiences forward.
Wherever you are in your journey, I leave you with this parting quote – “I feel like I’m constantly worrying about the next part of my life without realising that I’m right in the middle of what I used to look forward to”.
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/
Niveda, B. (2020). Life Is Happening Right Now. And Destination Addiction Won’t Let You Love It. Located at: https://medium.com/the-ascent/life-is-happening-right-now-and-destination-addiction-wont-let-you-love-it-672f20e372a2
Sharee, T. (2019). For The Women Searching For Happiness Everywhere But Where They Currently Are. Located at: https://www.xonecole.com/destination-addiction/
Griffiths, M. (2016). The Search for Happiness: A brief look at “destination addiction.” Located at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-excess/201607/the-search-happiness