Do You Suffer from Destination Addiction?

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.

Destination Dealers

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.

Home Remedies

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.”


  1. I truly believe that if more people learned about contentment we would not be in the financial mess we are today. Contentment is not something that just comes to you once you’ve reached happiness.

    My advice to not get this addiction:
    1/ stay away from the mall
    2/ turn off your tv

  2. Wow … so true. Contentment is a tough one to hold on to in our society. I have trouble keeping my focus on things that lasting, rather than the “could be” in life. However, when I have hold of that contentment, life is so much nicer.

  3. Dr. Denis Waitley calls this phenomenon “Someday Isle” – “Someday I’ll have that big house”, or “Someday I’ll drive that fancy car”.

    It’s such a waste of time to live that way!

    Wanna know what I think is the secret to happiness?

    Gratitude. Plain and simple.

    Be grateful for what you have and what you’ve been blessed with – or as my husband puts it, want what you have.

    There’s a video that illustrates this perfectly.

    Here’s the link –

    Just imagine – if more people acknowledged their blessings and were truly grateful for all they have in their lives- the world would be a much better place.

    For me, its simple. I’m grateful that I am healthy and can walk and breathe on my own, and that I have a warm bed to sleep in. I’ve been blessed with 3 healthy children and a wonderful husband. We have more than enough to eat and we are together. We live in a peaceful part of the world – bombs are not dropping in our backyard like so much of the rest of the world these days.

    I am happy.

  4. I think the comments on today’s article should be very interesting, because isn’t one of the destinations many pf blog readers is seeking being debt free or finanical independent? Isn’t that just another form of destination addiction? One that shapes our decisions and actions? One might argue in a more healthy direction, but there is, in many cases, the longing and delayed gratification/happiness due to the perceived (and real) burden of debt.

  5. I think the problem isn’t “destination addiction,” it’s BALANCE. A hobo sleeping under a bridge can be dis-content, as can a hard driving corporate executive, but both can be content with their lives.

    It is just human nature to strive to better yourself, to pursue happiness. Maybe the founding fathers definition of happiness was different than ours today. Could happiness be substituted for the words “a better life?”

  6. I dont think is addiction, is some that has become part of our lifes (obviously depends the way of live that everyone has) but i think is something comun in this time

  7. Fantastic true.
    The only thing is this should be applied to material things only. I think we should always strive for the next “destination” in our personal, and professional lives. Would you agree?

  8. Very interesting post; I don’t watch Oprah all that often so thanks for mentioning it.

    I definitely had this problem for a very long time. It took a lot of being unhappy and making bad decisions to get me to a point where I could be content with my life as it is.

  9. Thank you Ron@TheWisdomJournal. I was thinking this exact thing while reading the article and couldn’t agree more.

    It is about balancing your appreciation and satisfaction for what you have but still maintaining a goal-oriented attitude toward your life to make things just a bit better. This, of course, does not mean overspending on your house and car just to seek happiness because that won’t happen. You can be satisfied with your current automobile now and then have the attitude that when you do have to buy a new(er) one eventually, that you may step up a bit if you can afford it. I recently did that myself. I had a perfectly good automobile that I was quite satisfied with but when a set of recent circumstances aligned in my favor, I decided to indulge my life-long dream of owning a nice convertible sports car. So far I am very happy with my decision and take great pains to maintain my satisfaction/aspiration balance.

  10. I’ve been content for so long that I can’t even remember when it happened. Eventually we all should ask ourselves, when is enough truly enough? When I arrived at that state of mind, where I had enough, then did contentment follow? And stick? Probably. I’m no longer chasing a ‘brass ring’ or running around in ridiculous circles. There’s inner peace now, tranquility and joy! Yes gratitude, and I don’t sweat the small stuff and I live fully in the moment.

  11. I suffer a bit from destination addiction myself. However, it’s not been all bad: if I didn’t have a “next best thing” bug, I wouldn’t be living a very interesting life as an expat in Cairo, Egypt. Of course, now I just want to get back home… but most days I really do appreciate the adventure of being where I am.

  12. I’ve heard happiness is about our circumstances, but joy comes from within. I’d like to think I’m a really joyful person. Sure I’d be happier I guess if I was debt free, but I’m always joyful and appreciate my many blessings.

  13. I agree with the contentment and gratitude remarks above.

    Gratitude, not resentment. Appreciation not want.
    Works for me!

  14. Yes, I constantly catch myself looking toward the future. It’s very hard to be in the here and now. However, I do believe that you do need stuff to look forward to… you don’t want your life to become stale. It’s a balancing act.

  15. Destination addiction is like being on a train.

    When I get to be a teenager; when I get to be 21; when I’ve paid my student loan;when I get my own house; when I get married; when I have kids; when I get a raise; when I get promoted; when I get the boss’s job; when the kids leave home; when I retire; when…. too late.

  16. Great post!

    I saw that Oprah episode too, and the concept of “destination addiction” really rang true. Not just about spending and buying more “stuff” but just about life in general.

    It reminded me to look around and see what I already have, and be thankful, because in the past this would have been a “destination” that I was aiming for. Here I am – be happy, already!! lol

  17. Excellent post!

    Once you’ve arrived at that “destination,” you’ve been chasing, there’s something quite like postpartum depression that can befall you. Regardless of how wonderful the “destination,” the real thing can rarely match the ideal that you’ve crafted in your mind. Or the real experience is so fleeting that you’re left feeling aimless afterwards.

    Crazy as it sounds, I’ve felt this in the months since my wife & I completed our protracted international adoption process. I had a very, very hard time with the wait to go get him, but at the same time, I ever so slightly miss the chase now that we have him and we’re all settled into domestic routines. We were so intensely goal-driven during the more than 2 years we worked towards the adoption that now that it’s done, there’s a subtle “what next?” feeling. I dearly love my new son and he’s keeping me plenty busy, but it’s just a much different, much less focused kind of busy…

  18. Want to know how to live a life of contentment?

    Live like an animal.

    Seriously. It’s the human consciousness that leads to neurosis which leads us all down some dark path of insanity (read a newspaper lately?).

    Animals NEVER worry about trying to be something they are not. They live 100% as their true beings.
    Animals NEVER worry about what they have or don’t have.
    They just keep going and never waste energy or resources.

    As the saying goes, “If you want any answer, look to Nature.”

    Live like an animal, not like a savage, and you will be content.

  19. To Ron@ and DavidK….You guys hit the nail on the head. I too was thinking this as I read the article. Anyone who is ‘content’ or ‘satisfied’ has no internal drive to better him or herself. Notice I did not say ‘happy.’ You can be happy at any point during your life with the right attitude and outlook. But water that doesn’t flow becomes stagnant. A rock that’s not rolling gathers moss. Muscles that aren’t being used become weak, and this includes your brain. There is nothing wrong with motivation for more. It’s in our DNA, to be cliche. (actually, I’m not really sure if that’s WHERE it is, but it’s in us somewhere.) Don’t ever be completely satisfied with your position in life. Always look to better yourself. Death should be the only thing that stops it.

    I know what the article was trying to say. It just did NOT say it plainly. Your overall happiness should not be based on gathering ‘things.’ Not to say you can’t be happy when you aquire something. But do not live without goals. It’s like a blind man driving a car. You’ll just be wandering aimlessly. When you reach a goal, set another. Take satisfaction in your accomplishments, then strive for more. Doesn’t have to be material things, just don’t become mossy and stagnant.