What’s the secret to being happy after 50? Shift away from goals of accomplishment and over to those of compassion. Follow the “happiness curve.” When most first-world folks hit 50, they start to care less about ego-driven goals and more about enjoying life. Those that don’t make the shift stay grumpy. Get your zen on in your golden years!

The Difference Between Clinical Depression and Mid-life Crisis

According to Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and editor of The Atlantic, the melancholy of the midlife crisis is different from clinical depression and anxiety. In his new book The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, he refers to the midlife crisis as “an accumulated drizzle of disappointment.”

It’s really the death throes of your ego-driven mind struggling to transition to a mode of compassion. Rauch is 58, and for the last decade, he’s been obsessed with the trajectory of happiness over the human lifespan. As it turns out, your happiness is a bell curve.

The Bell Curve of the Ball

Psychologists call it the “U-shaped happiness curve.” The high-points of the curve are in youth and old age. When you’re young, spry, and carefree, you laugh a lot and soak in the joy of life. Your goals are enjoyment-based. You dwell on upcoming plans with friends, sports, and creative activities.

Then comes the grind of middle life. You worry about getting money, climbing the ladder, and can become consumed by life’s worries. By age 50, you’ve made it through the sludge, and hopefully, have time to smell the roses once again.

The Secret to Happier Later Years

According to Rauch’s research, the secret to happiness is making the transition away from ego-based goals. He reviewed life satisfaction data by decade from 300 people. Young people have an extra 15 to 20 extra years of life expectancy compared to previous generations.

It’s important to use them to leverage happiness instead of wallow in regret and misery. Focus on the social aspects of your life and build community. Laughter is your new metric. Climb the ladder of happiness and ditch the ladder of success.