It’s often thought the vacation home, unlimited free time or travel in retirement will satisfy our heart’s desire. Humans are quite good at adapting, however, so the momentary satisfaction we feel often doesn’t translate into lasting happiness. We get used to the good life, and that happiness is too often short lived.

The key to happiness, researchers suggest, has little to do with the size of your nest egg and much more to do with the quality of your social networks. A long-running Harvard study on happiness finds that to age happily and healthily, maintaining close relationships with friends (especially spouses) is a major factor. And people who proactively seek to replace old colleagues with new friends after retiring report being happier and healthier.

The mindset it takes to seek out, and foster, new relationships in retirement can also lead to happiness in other areas of our lives. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes finding a new activity or challenge may be one of the most fulfilling post-retirement journeys of all. It could be competitive tennis, mastering a new language or playing the piano.

Whatever it is, find something that really interests you and work exceptionally hard to get better at it. Don’t just dabble; truly immerse yourself, even it takes years of disciplined effort and study to become proficient.

Yes, doing so in your 50’s and 60’s probably won’t lead you to Wimbledon’s Center Court or Carnegie Hall. But the process and focus required to improve will transform your mind. Rather than spending your days longing for what once was, you’ll look forward with hopeful enthusiasm.

This essay is excerpted from Dougal Williams’ article, “What’s in store for my 30-yr old nest egg?” which originally appeared in the Portland Business Journal. Read the full article here.