Destination Addiction: Always Striving, Never Arriving

Destination Addiction is a real threat to our society. No, it’s not the constant wanderlust of the seasoned traveler, though that is one form it may take. In actuality, the definition is far broader and far more relatable than you might imagine. Destination Addiction is the belief that happiness can be found only in a specific destination or somewhere other than the present. It’s believing that “When I ______, I will be happier.” These statements start out as goals and ambitions that propel us toward our potential, but the insidious problem is that no matter what matter fills in that blank, happiness never arrives. It remains a fleeting and distant golden token we endless chase. Thus, we develop an addiction to endlessly setting and seeking new “destinations” where we feel certain this elusive happiness lies.

I find this fascinating, and utterly heartbreaking. Research by Brickman, Coats and Janoff-Bulman found that while lottery winners felt an initial burst of euphoric joy, a mere ONE YEAR later their happiness levels returned to where they were before their big win. What?! Quite literally winning the lottery, the holy grail of “surely this will make me happy” gives us a scrawny year of pleasure. Are we hopelessly doomed to be a miserable society?

Maybe. If we don’t wake up to the destination addiction that plagues our goal-setting, social media newsfeed, and the badge of honor we wear to “grind and hustle.” And, I feel, there has never been a more heightened time in our world to strive, achieve, prove, or earn. We are more connected than ever, which allows for quick and constant comparisons and reminders of where we fall short of self-constructed standards. Destination addiction is a cruel game where every player in is set up to fail sooner or later. There is no prize for constantly striving and there’s never a finish line – unless we wake up and walk out of the game.

If we’re constantly striving for more, it’s easy to lose sight of what we already have. If you can relate to the feeling of destination addiction and the constant striving and desiring, consider these hard truths that can help break the cycle and open your eyes to the happiness you already have.

Get in touch with what “happy” really is.

How does happiness look or feel when it’s played out in your life? Do you really know how to spot it? If we’re honest, none of us are exceptionally great at identifying true happiness. Rather, we mix this emotion up with fulfilling a want, giving into a desire, feeding our pride, or any other number of things along this line. All of these bursts of euphoria are fleeting. That’s not happiness. I can’t tell you I have a perfect definition, but I am confident I have felt and feel happiness in my life. And the more I focus on these golden morsels, the more I find – even amidst the mundane, repetitive, and really damn hard seasons of life. Happiness is there – through it all. But we have to know how to spot it, treasure it, and grow it. We can’t expect true happiness to scream over the blaring noise we let into our life – work, social media, general busyness – but I promise you it’s there with the sweetest, most beautiful whisper, if only we turn down the noise to listen intently.

Be careful what you allow to control your happiness.

Happiness is easily accessible to each and every one of us! Don’t fall for the lie that it’s atop the highest mountain of goals and conditions you have built up in your life. Don’t get me wrong, goals and ambitions are good things when measured and balanced in proportion to other important things in our lives, but they are not the gatekeepers to happiness. Happiness can and should be achieved independently of whether or not you get that promotion, buy that new house or car, or rise to a certain status in society. In fact, when we view happiness as something that must be achieved, we will almost certainly turn it into a moving goalpost. In reality, happiness is waving its arms right in front of you; we must stop looking past it to worldly goals and possessions that don’t control happiness at all! What we feel when we achieve those goals is something, but it’s not happiness. Stop deferring happiness for the if/whens and open your eyes to finding it throughout every season of life.

Exercise your gratitude muscle.

Like any muscle or skill we train on a regular basis, it becomes stronger. Gratitude, which is closely linked to happiness, becomes easier and automatic when we practice it daily. Living a grateful life can look a lot of different ways, and there’s no singular correct answer. What’s most important is that you feel it genuinely in your heart, and that it shows signs that it’s changing your perspective. Exercising your gratitude muscle can include keeping a gratitude journal – a daily journal where you write down and reflect upon all the things currently in your life right now for which you’re grateful. Listing these out and seeing them fill page after page leaves no doubt that happiness is very much present in your life as it is today. Another exercise is random acts of kindness. This requires us to be present in the moment to see opportunities as they arise – another good thing to practice! Helping someone in need, smiling at a stranger, being thoughtful with your words, offering a genuine compliment, or taking on a selfless task are simple things that brighten the world every day. They show you are grateful to those around you, and in being grateful, happiness grows.

Most importantly, gratitude should come with no record keeping. Spreading happiness and doing good is not because you expect a thank you or acknowledgment in return. It’s nice when it happens, but it won’t always. If you find you’re getting frustrated because people aren’t giving out gold stars for your kindness, step back and revisit your intentions. They may have unintentionally veered off course from practicing gratitude to self-glorification.

Know the difference between being content and being complacent.

In a world where we are taught from a young age to set goals, look to the future, and out-achieve everyone, it’s hard to discern how to live a life of contentment versus becoming complacent when you have untapped potential to give. This takes a lot of self-reflection and honesty that often comes only with time. I know I get it wrong from time to time and have to course-correct. Being content is being grateful and recognizing happiness that’s present in your life exactly as it is. It’s not getting “too comfortable” where you become complacent or lazy. Surely you’ll want to watch for signs that may indicate that is the case, but being content is a frame of mind that says, “What I have is enough. Who I am is enough.” And boy don’t we all need to hear those words on repeat?

I’ll close with this piece of scripture that says it perfectly…

“I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13 (CSB)

Do you recognize the signs of destination addiction in your own life? Do you struggle with or have you mastered finding happiness throughout life’s changing seasons? I welcome your thoughts! Comment below.

4 thoughts on “Destination Addiction: Always Striving, Never Arriving

  1. Well said. I feel like we are bombarded with the promise of happiness found in a car, a phone, in having enough insurance. One’s happiness then becomes a thing someone else is in control of, really. Nothing is external That is longer, more difficult road but the only rewarding one. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Anthony! And what a great word – I’ll admit I had to look up the definition to be sure I was understanding correctly. And now it’s a word I’ll be looking for ways to incorporate into my regular conversations. That’s a great perspective!

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