THe Happiness Curve – why life gets better after Mid-Life by Jonathan Rauch

The first myth this book bursts is the idea that mid-life is a time of crisis.  The phrase was coined back in 1965 by Elliot Jacques in the rather depressingly entitled paper Death and the Midlife Crisis, but despite the notion taking off like sliced bread, researchers have failed to ever find evidence of its truth.  The book focuses then on the challenges of what Rauch calls the mid-life transition and is riddled with research and interviews explaining the theory that while this can be a period of malaise (the dip in a U) caused by the optimism of youth colliding with the reality of experience, this is a necessary period of reflection and re-evaluation that leads on in fact to a happier life from then onwards.

He spends a lot of time exploring the science of happiness (all research points to happiness being social, not material) and that this re-evaluating changes the way we behave and we move forward with better wisdom, better tools, and a better understanding of what is actually important to us.

He doesn’t skip over the fact that midlife can be, and more often than not is, a time of stress and challenges, but these in themselves are not crises.   Instead this time of life should be recognised and supported so that we can move through it and into the better half of our lives.

Favourite quote: “Like adolescence, midlife reboot is an ordinary and predictable developmental pathway. Like adolescence, it is perfectly normal and not at all pathological. Like adolescence, it is a period which some people breeze through, but which gives some people a lot of trouble. Like adolescence, it is something many people would benefit from getting help with, even if they could manage to fight through it on their own. Like adolescence, it can be aggravated by isolation, confusion, and self-defeating thought patterns. Like adolescence, it is a risky and stressful period and can lead to crisis (especially if handled inappropriately), but it is not, in of itself, a crisis. Rather, like adolescence, it is a transition, and for those who have problems with it, it generally leads to a happier, more stable stage of life.”

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