It's Called Destination Addiction.
Tips on learning how to love the place you’re in.
Fall is now upon us, and with it crisp cool mornings and early sunsets, not to mention all things pumpkin-flavored. For some, fall is a welcome end to the blistering heat of summer; for others, it’s the harbinger of a stressful holiday season that is less than desirable. Fall moves swiftly into the cold reality of winter, and the relaxed, casual spirits of outdoor barbecues and lazily soaking up sun while reading a favorite novel drop as quickly as the temperature. The frenzy of the holidays and frigid temperatures are coincidentally when most families begin dreaming of their next vacation someplace warm and tropical, longing for relaxation from their daily grind, and counting down the days until they can escape.
The problem lies with the idea that somehow you can’t fully relax or be happy until you're somewhere else.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with planning and being excited for an upcoming trip. The problem lies with the idea that somehow you can’t fully relax or be happy until your bags are packed and you’re well on the way to whatever resort you have booked, something that some psychologists call “destination addiction”. And it’s not just vacation getaways we think hold the key to our relaxation, happiness, or inner peace. For some it’s the idea that they can stop stressing about their job when they finally get that promotion, or when their next big project is finished. For others it’s linked to getting into (or out of) a relationship that seems to hold that elusive key. Even something as small as the weekend seems to be directly tied to our mood, which begins to look more and more optimistic the closer that little hand gets to 5 pm. We humans put off happiness almost habitually, pursuing it with relentless need in every new goal until we hit that goal and set a new one. It’s the proverbial carrot on a stick we use to herd ourselves through life, and focusing on that one lonely carrot causes us to miss everything else we rush past.
Putting off happiness and being preoccupied with what comes next leaves us feeling dissatisfied and discontent.
Joe Bailey is noted largely for his 1990 book about addiction and treatment, The Serenity Principle and is the author of three other books and he has some insights about how we can perceive our present experience from a more open and spacious state of mind by tapping into our natural resilience and innate wisdom.
Obsessive thinking also causes us to miss the peace and enjoyment that is possible every day, regardless of where we happen to be or what we are doing. It causes us to suffer through our everyday lives, waiting for the relief of perfect moments, just getting through the day instead of enjoying every moment we can in it. There’s a reason it’s called “inner peace”, not “peace from something you can buy at the mall”, and that reason is that it’s never the thing, trip, or promotion that gives us peace or happiness, regardless of how convincing it may seem otherwise. Realizing that it is only what you think about your own vacation or accomplished goal gives you the power to realize that your “inner peace” potential is always within, waiting to be released. As long as happiness looks like it comes from somewhere else, it can never be where you actually are.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Life's a journey, not a destination”
Imagine for a moment how much rewarding life would be if it were something to be enjoyed, rather than endured. What would life look like for you if you experienced happiness and contentment on a regular basis instead of it being the exception to be chased? Can you enjoy the routine of your normal life as much as you enjoy the highlights? Ralph Waldo Emerson has been credited with it and Aerosmith sang it: “Life's a journey, not a destination”, and they’re right. Weekends and a one-week vacation only add up to about a third of your year, which means that living the other way means you are miserably wishing things were different 2/3 of your life which is by any accounting, an appalling waste.
The first few years of my married life held quite a few moves for us, something I found I enjoyed immensely, not only for the excuse of being able to get rid of knick-knacks I no longer liked but felt guilty about throwing away, but also for the thrill of a new place, finding my way around new towns and meeting new people. I quickly began to crave the “new”, sooner and sooner in each place until I realized that I had completely missed most of the opportunities living out west had provided because I was so intently focused on leaving it for the next location we would call home. At first I was convinced it was just the city: it seemed unfriendly, moved too fast, and was not without dangers. But talking to other people that I knew to be otherwise rational humans who adored living there made me pause. It couldn’t be the city itself causing my misery if so many other people loved it so much. Realizing that it was my own distracted brain, craving the new and the different and tethering my happiness to that was both humbling and empowering. It opened up a door that has allowed me to fully live in every place we’ve been since, regardless of whether or not it has been my first choice. It allowed me to be here, now, rather than wasting hours away from my life in a fantasy world entirely created by my own brain that real life couldn’t possibly live up to. It’s even allowed me to take a look at myself through some of our darkest times, like when doctors suggested our baby had cancer and we essentially lived in a hospital bed next to her, and find the peace even in those situations that might otherwise be unbearable.
Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now wrote: "It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living."
Letting go of destination addiction makes you realize that every day, yes, even Monday, is a gift that can be treasured. That there can be peace found in a place that no hammock would ever swing, and contentment can be found even in imperfect situations. It can, in a word, give you back the two-thirds of your life that you would have otherwise sacrificed for the idea of something better, something which will always be just out of reach.
What are you waiting for?
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