Happiness after 50 does not come by chance, it is necessary to plan it as is done with the pension

Happiness is U-shaped, as established in 2017 by Jonathan Rauch in his book The Happiness Curve, in which he shows the trajectory that most human beings follow in life in terms of personal satisfaction. After a decline in the 30s, 40s, and 50s (when a person reaches the lowest point), life compounds until it reaches a peak in the 70s. After that, everything is uncertain.

“Some at that age are still happy, but others, particularly some men, see their happiness crumble,” says Arthur C. Brooks, a sociologist and professor at Harvard University in the chair of happiness, one of the most desired by students.. His most recent book, Strength to Strength, is on the newspaper’s best-seller list. New York Times and the explanation is that he is one of the only authors who approach happiness as a pension plan, that is, the ‘investments’ that an individual must make in his life in order to have greater joy and satisfaction later on.

He points out that the source of unhappiness among those over 50 is becoming irrelevant, and indeed studies show that depression and suicide increase in men after age 75.

Having been successful in professional life does not protect you from this slump. On the contrary, as Carole and Charles Holahan, psychologists at the University of Texas, found in 1999, people who are successful and highly talented “have more unfavorable experiences psychologically in their 80s.” Becoming irrelevant is tied to the inevitable decline of abilities, both cognitive and physical. Brooks points out that unhappiness arises when people cling to their craft, despite not having the same skills, so as not to live in irrelevance.

“The biggest mistake we make is thinking that what made us successful at 30 will still work. Our intelligence changes. If we try to stick to the first model, we get bored and burnt out, and we get worse at what we do,” he says.

Happiness must be planned because cognitive and physical abilities decline over time and much sooner than anyone could imagine. The average peak is 50 years, but there are variations depending on the profession. An athlete reaches his peak performance at age 30. The same happens with entrepreneurs and those who win the Nobel Prize. Their great discoveries and innovations happen in their 20s and 30s. Then, and up to 50, there is a gradual decline, and “by 70 there is no longer any possibility of having a great discovery,” says Brooks.

There are seven guidelines that help cultivate happiness: don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t be obese, exercise, face problems, maintain a stable relationship and keep learning. – Photo:

“You don’t have to leave your happiness to chance. There are tangible and specific practices and habits, as well as mistakes to avoid, that are sure to make the years ahead better. Make 75-year-olds happier than 25-year-olds,” he says.

There are four habits that mark happy people. The first is faith, which should not be confused with religion, but understood as spirituality. Then there is the family and, thirdly, relationships with others, which must be deep. The fourth habit is work. The problem, according to him, is that most have put all their energy and time into this last aspect and neglected the others. When the moment of retirement approaches, they are not able to let go of their career or, when they do, they get frustrated thinking about what they were and are no longer.

One way to get out of that trap is through the use of crystallized intelligence. Unlike the fluid, which is used to reason, analyze and solve new problems, this consists of using the knowledge acquired in the past, “The poets, who have a high level of fluid intelligence, have done all their production by the age of 40 years. Historians, who can rely on crystallized intelligence, reach their peak after 60”, says the expert. Something similar can be said of teachers, who tend to synthesize complicated ideas better and teach better from 60 to 80 years of age.

“Our job is to jump from the fluid intelligence curve to the crystallized intelligence curve and change our focus and self-understanding,” he explains.. Another reality is that achievement addiction only brings frustration. In the second half of life, happiness is harvested through investments in personal relationships and not in status and material possessions. “When we are too focused on material things and mundane definitions of success (money, power, fame) the shift to crystallized intelligence is impossible to do, so we get worse at our jobs, bored, exhausted and frustrated,” he says.

Experts assure that happiness should not be left to chance but that it has to be planned.
Experts assure that happiness should not be left to chance but that it has to be planned. – Photo: Ingimage

Acquiring goods at the end of life is a mistake that only leads to more ties with vanity, a condition that deviates from the path of happiness by overshadowing the true nature of the human being. Brooks recommends removing the layers of the individual, as it is much easier to find peace and happiness. “My goal every year for the rest of my life is to throw things away, obligations and relationships until I can see the best version of myself.”

Part of this he learned in India, where he found that there are several phases in life. The first, brahmacharya, includes childhood and youth, and is dedicated to learning; the second is grihastha, the period for establishing career, family and accumulating wealth, and the third is vanaprastha, the stage towards age 50, which is focused on less career ambitions and more on service to others and wisdom .

The problem, for Brooks, is that many get tied to the second phase through money, power, sex and prestige without knowing that the solution is to take the path to vanaprastha. Don’t leave happiness to chance. Brooks says that for this half of life the important thing is no longer the resume, but the epitaph. “Nobody wants those last words to be ‘he was the best manager’ or ‘he had a million miles on him’, but something more momentous. At this stage of life, thinking about that epitaph helps because in the end all that remains is love. The rest is trivial.”

Brooks, at 57, applied what he preaches. “I didn’t publish this book until I had tested the strategy for three years.” He resigned his position as president of the American Enterprise Institute and moved from Washington to Boston. He admits that he misses feeling important and being asked for his opinion. But the result in general terms is that the strategy “works! I’m happier than ever and successful in a whole new way, something I enjoy more.” What is the difference between Bach and Darwin? Brooks asks.

Both had a supernatural gift, were widely known at a young age, and achieved permanent fame after they died. “But they differed in their approach to how to handle midlife decline,” he says. When Darwin stopped innovating his theories he became discouraged and depressed, and his life ended in sad inactivity, while Bach reinvented himself as a teacher instructor. He died loved, fulfilled and respected. “The lesson for you and me, especially after 50, is to be Johann Sebastian Bach, not Charles Darwin.”

We would like to give thanks to the author of this article for this awesome content

Happiness after 50 does not come by chance, it is necessary to plan it as is done with the pension