What Makes You Happy?


As I settle into off-season life, I feel like all I do is cook, clean the kitchen (or Carl does), do laundry and take the dogs to the park. I’m not complaining—I’m very lucky and grateful for the life I lead. But I’ve been reflecting on our life lately, and what I’d like to do differently and keeping what works. So, does this mean I’m unhappy?


Do I think I like my life, but really am I settling? Will the changes and goals I’ve set change my life to make it better, the same or worse?


What is Happiness?


The state of being happy seems to be pretty elusive. It’s more than a positive or good mood, according to Psychology Today.


Instead, true happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses a good life. You have meaning and deep satisfaction in your life, if you are truly happy.


At least, this is what the experts say. I do agree, but it’s kind of ambiguous. Meaning and deep satisfaction are different for each person. Some find it in their family, but maybe not their professional life. Others may have a thriving career they love, but very little social life. Some people seem to have it all, while others struggle. So, happiness is a very personal thing.


Are You Satisfied?


Apparently, happiness and satisfaction are often used as the same thing. But, there is a difference in the two. It turns out that satisfaction is more of a state of contentment. There is definitely overlap, but happiness is a state of mind and an emotion. Most experts believe that it truly is controlled by you, the individual.


How many times have you heard that you can choose to have a bad day or good day? Basically, you set your intention, and no matter what happens you choose to be positive. Not always easy, that’s for sure. But, it’s true that we choose how to respond to situations and people.


Satisfaction comes often along with happiness. For example, you feel a sense of contentment when you accomplish a goal for yourself. I felt a tremendous amount of satisfaction when I competed years ago in a figure competition. For 14 weeks, I really focused my workouts and eating to change my body. I was very proud of how far I had come. I was happy that I had the experience. But I realized while a healthy lifestyle is fantastic and achievable, a competitor’s lifestyle was not for me.


Satisfaction in accomplishing a goal, and happiness in the overall experience and learning something about myself.


A Model for Happiness


It turns out that psychologist Martin Seligman came up with a model for achieving happiness that addresses different facets of life. His model is called PERMA, and I thought it was pretty interesting. Here’s how it breaks down.


P: Positive Emotion – Optimism is essential for this component. Viewing life in a positive manner, and finding not only pleasure but enjoyment in life.


E: Engagement – Engaging in activities that allow us to learn, grow and nurture our personal happiness.


R: Relationships – People are social creatures overall. Even if you value your alone time, like I do, we still need positive relationships with family, peers, friends and/or a partner to help us through challenging times.


M: Meaning – Having a purpose will help bring contentment to your life. It doesn’t have to change the whole world, but to you it is important and essential.


A: Accomplishment – Ambition and goals (one of my favorite words) can help you find happiness. It gives you something to strive for, and allows you to grow as a person.


Now this is just a basic overview of the model. I think it touches on some really important points that can help us all find happiness and satisfaction.


Look at the Big Picture


When it’s broken down like this, I can look at each aspect of my life and see if I’m happy, or if there are areas that need work. I think the first three bullet points are going pretty darn well for me. Overall, I’m a pretty positive person. Sure, I get down and feel overwhelmed sometimes—who doesn’t? I get angry and frustrated. I’m human. But I usually wake up pretty optimistic.

I engage in activities that help me learn and grow. I read, for pleasure and learning; I enjoy yoga for the comradery and mental benefits; and my husband and I put each other first, going on dates even though we see each other every day.


I have positive relationships in my life. No, they’re not perfect, but overall, I have a support system of people that I can count on. And I hope I’m the same for them. I think friendships could be nurtured more, but that’s challenging when you live far apart and get caught up in the day to day rat race.


So, I realized the aspects I want to work on are the meaning and accomplishments. Yay! While no part should ever be neglected, these two areas are what I want to focus on. I feel I can do more, and be more, than I am right now.


The Bottom Line


Yes, I’m happy. But, I also want to continue to grow as a person and as a professional. What makes you happy? What areas do you want to work on? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Bethany Kochan started her fitness career at a local women’s fitness center at 19 years of age. This part-time job lead to a career that over 20 years later, she still loves. Bethany earned her B.S. in Exercise Science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at the same time becoming certified as a group exercise instructor. After college, she pursued NSCA-CPT and CSCS, group cycling, mat Pilates and YogaFit certifications. In 2009, she and her husband made a big move across the country to pursue his dream job in the field of strength and conditioning. At this point, Bethany began writing and training online to be both with her husband and the fitness industry. Today, the Kochans split their time between AZ and CA, pursuing their passions and enjoying life together with their two rescue Weimaraners.