Over the holidays my wife and I watched an episode of Oprah with guest Dr. Robert Holden. Dr. Holden is the director of The Happiness Project, a project that includes some of the world’s leading experts in the world of psychology, life coaching, business and spirituality. Frankly, I was expecting another concept like The Secret, but I found some of the things Dr. Holden spoke about fascinating, particularly on the subject of pursuing happiness.
What Is “Destination Addiction?”
During the interview segment of the show, Dr. Holden introduced an affliction he referred to as “destination addiction.” Millions suffer from it, and the symptoms include using words like more, next, and there. As in, “If I only had more I’d be happy,” or “I can’t wait to buy my next car.” The problem is that when we arrive “there,” wherever or whatever that is, we find that it is never enough to satisfy us. Off we go striving for something bigger and better.
It 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.
How has this addiction spread so quickly? Mostly with the assistance of “destination dealers.” You’ve seen these folks on television pitching a product that will “totally change your life” or “make you happier than you ever dreamed possible.” 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.
Back to Dr. Holden’s theory on happiness, which I found both thought-provoking and inspiring. The pursuit of happiness, while declared as important as life and liberty by our country’s founders, is a bit of fallacy. For happiness comes from within; it is not something that can be pursued. As Dr. Holden put it on the show (I’m paraphrasing), “If we think of happiness as something external, that we have to pursue, we will chase it forever. Instead, we must first be happy and then go out into the world.”