Are You a "Destination Addict?”
Written by Heather Stewart
On paper, my life looks like a neat checklist of successful adulting. I own a home, I’m in a stable relationship, I have two fantastic kids, a degree and a new career. Check, check, double-check, check and check.
While some people may call me driven, I know it goes deeper than merely being goal-oriented. There’s a frantic need to do more, have more, to be more. No matter my achievements, it never feels like enough. My car isn’t fancy, my house isn’t huge, my clothes aren’t designer. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. My life is good, just not necessarily Instagram-worthy.
Be grateful, I think, but everyone I follow on social media seems to have the life I would kill for. “I should be further in my career,” or “How is she always on vacation?,” or “Her life seems perfect.” Logic tells me it’s just an edited image, a 30-second video of a curated life. I do it myself, so I know it’s happening. Still, it’s hard not to compare.
“Destination addiction” is a phrase conceived by Dr. Robert Holden, a British psychologist. The term sounds innocent enough, but don’t be fooled. You can put away your passport. This is a psychological journey, not a physical one.
Holden, whose work centers around positive psychology, describes destination addiction as “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner.” He described destination addicts as “psychologically absent.” In other words, they’re preoccupied with the idea that happiness is in the near future. As soon as you graduate. When you land your dream job. Once you’ve found your soulmate. For destination addicts, success is the destination and they’re on the journey to find it. We’ve all heard--and probably even doled out--the advice to “chase your dreams.” But, what if the chase becomes an obsession? What if constant comparison only pushes us to pursue an unattainable goal?
Destination addiction is more than simple ambition. There’s such a focus on the future that destination addicts forget to pay attention to the present. They’re the people who live for the end of the day, for the weekend, or maybe the end of the year. They are unwilling to take the time to enjoy where they are in that very moment. They are always looking for something better.
It’s not that destination addicts don’t want to be happy. They will be, soon. They just have to finish x, y, z and then they can relax and enjoy life. Happiness is around the corner, right out of reach. Destination addicts are always working towards that point, but bliss is elusive. Why? Because they’re waiting for the now that is a little more interesting, or where they’re more successful, or when they find a significant other to share it with.
They’re waiting for the now that is perfect.
But the problem is, “now” will never be perfect. There’s always something that keeps it from being just right, and that leaves destination addicts with feelings of discontentment. In the pursuit of happiness, they forget to savor the time in-between. When your aim is solely on finishing the race, you never look up from the ground. Why can’t destination addicts be happy? Because they insist happiness is in the next place, the next job, or the next person. The allure of the future is irresistible.
Social media’s ability to connect us to each other is incredible. But, it can lead to a path lined with constant comparisons and feelings of inadequacy. Destination Addiction feeds directly from the negative thoughts, and while many users seem to understand that nobody’s life is perfect, it’s hard to remember with an onslaught of images of mansions, expensive vacations and airbrushed perfection.
Ambition is an essential trait. But it’s also important to remember that happiness is a choice. It requires a conscious effort. Instead of rushing through our lives, we need to revel in them. The excitement of future events shouldn’t overshadow the present. Yes, we can dream of a bigger home or a better job, but a life change doesn’t come with a satisfaction guarantee. We can’t “arrive” at happy; we need to be happy along the way.
I rarely stop to reflect on what I’ve accomplished. There’s a compulsion to keep moving and an anxiousness when I’m not working on a specific goal. My attention is usually on my next objective, and I tend to sacrifice my current happiness for the promise of my future. I scroll through my social feeds and suddenly realize all the areas where my life is “lacking.”
I lead a fortunate life. One I’ve worked hard to achieve--yet one I fail to fully appreciate. If you look at my Instagram account, you might compare your life to mine. You would see the photos of my home, with my clutter and piles of laundry conveniently cropped out. There are pictures of my kids smiling--but not of the 10 minutes prior, where I screamed myself hoarse to get them in the car. Pictures of vacations, but not of the extra hours I worked to afford it. Selfies with filters, but not of me on days where my skin is gross or my hair is frizzy. These are carefully arranged snapshots of my life, but not always captures of the less glamorous moments in-between.
Destination addicts forget how easily a perfect life can be crafted on social media. We see one flawless image and instantly forget we do the same thing. Suddenly, ours isn’t good enough and, once again, we say we’ll be happy when we accomplish fill-in-the-blank. It’s a vicious cycle, when we hold our happiness at bay, waiting to arrive.
We will never “arrive” at happy. That’s too easy. This life is a journey, and if we don’t understand that, we miss out on the things that make it worth living. Actively choosing to deny the tempation of destination addiction requires you to make a choice to be happy--or not--each day. It means being cognizant of what is around you and being appreciative of what you have. It doesn’t mean you can’t dream, or want more--only that you recognize you deserve happiness without perfection.
As I write this, I’m at the pool with my kids. They’re splashing and begging me to join them, but I have work to do. I have a choice to make: I understand the need to focus on now. Not later today, or tomorrow, and not next week. I can be enthusiastic about the future, but I can’t put blinders on. I must choose to be present and be happy.
So, please excuse me while I jump in the water. I intend to enjoy this moment. Right here, right now.
Heather lives in Jacksonville, Florida, where she graduated with a degree in Converged Communication. She currently bartends to pay the bills, while looking for a new career in public relations. An avid sports fan, makeup hoarder, and mom of two, she survives on strong coffee and inappropriate humor. On days off you can find her dragging her kids on an adventure around town, checking out a new bar with friends, or simply wandering the aisles of Target.