How to be happy – one step at a time

Last week I was very excited to take part in an event organised to launch Open University’s new Plan P campaign. It’s all about having a Passion Plan, to help you have a more fulfilled life. I am a big fan of the Open University (OU), because this wonderful institution saved my brain from turning into mush and allowed me to gain a Bachelor degree while working full time. I believe that self improvement and learning about something you love is an important part of a happy life.


OU has recently commissioned a survey and it turns out that as many as 44% of British people have had or are going through a ‘life crisis’. We’re not talking about a mid-life crisis, as nearly a third of those going though ‘life crisis’ are between 18 and 30. A big reason for the crisis seems to be lack of career fulfillment or unfulfilled dreams. I don’t want to bore you with too many numbers, but around 40% believe that embarking on a new career or taking up a hobby would help them overcome the crisis. And a quarter of those polled said that learning something new could also help. How do you feel about this?


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…



It may seem daunting to start a Bachelor course, as it is a big commitment, however with OU you don’t have to decide to do a whole course. You can study module by module, as you are not obliged to pay for the whole course upfront. This is how I started. I chose a course, just to keep my mind busy, after a dull day at work. I don’t think I would’ve decided to sign up for a BA course, as it takes 6 years. Year after year I was happy to start another module and eventually the points added up and I was awarded my diploma.


It can be hard after a long day at work (or looking after kids) to sit down and study. Though from personal experience I have found that it gets easier. The brain seems to adjust. On the beginning I was falling asleep over the books after 20 minutes of studying. Within a  few weeks I could study for as long as a couple of hours (with short breaks in between). And the sense of achievement after you’ve passed an assignment is worth all the effort. It’s much more rewarding than finishing a box set or going on a shopping spree. And it gives you a sense of direction, something to strive for.


We are surrounded by adverts telling us buying this or that will make us happy. The consumerism is rampant. The over-consumption is damaging to the environment, but humans also fall it’s victim. We are told that having things will make us happy, so we buy. And it does not make us happy. So we buy more, our homes get cluttered and we feel even worse. We may even feel there’s something wrong with us if having the latest ‘must have’ does not make us happy.


The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there it’s not going to come from the outside

Tenzin Palmo

The event was attended by Helen Richardson-Walsh, who apart from being an Olympic hokey player for team GB, is studying psychology at the OU. I’ve had a pleasure of interviewing her and you can find a transcript of our conversation at the end of this post. In her opening address Helen included an inspiring quote:


Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Albert Schweitzer

In my own experience studying at the Open University really can change your life, make you happier and let you do what you love. Studying for my Bachelor degree in English Language and Literature really opened my mind and raised my  writing skills allowing me to get paid for my writing (I am Polish, so English is not my first language).

During the launch event we had a chance to try out different careers, as the event took place in KidZania – a miniaturised city where kids can be just about anyone. We were offered a chance to be:

Police women

kidzania police mumbalance


kidzania pilot mumbalance

Mechanics (a fellow blogger’s child did a great job here with a Zero Emissions car!)

kidzania mechanic mumbalance

Race track team (I never knew changing tyres can be so much fun!)

kidzania race track mumbalance

I think it’s a fun place for children, where they can quite literally try out different hats. It’s all about offering them an experience rather than more toys.

Interview with Helen Richardson-Walsh

Helen Richardson-Walsh interview mumbalance

Photo credit:

How long have you been studying for your degree?

So, I think it’s been about 5 years and I’ve got one year left. So I finish next March. 

It takes quite a long time.

Yes, 6 years. Which is why the Open University is perfect for me, because of their flexibility.

And what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Do you know what, the biggest challenge so far has been my first assignment. It was probably about 10 years after I left school, so I hadn’t really studied much since. Or I hadn’t studied at all since then. I wasn’t great at studying anyway. And all my A levels were science based. So I’d never really written an essay. Apart from English and GCSEs. I just remember getting so stressed about this assignment. But when I eventually got it in and I’ve passed it and it was all fine and passed my first module it was such a rewarding feeling. And obviously then went on to do the next ones.

So that was probably my biggest challenge, but then obviously just fitting everything in alongside the hockey. And then just being so tired after training. But everytime I get a mark back, pass, it is very satisfying. 

It is a nice feeling, yes.

So, I know you are doing psychology, which is something different to what you do in your everyday life, but do you think going forward your career is going to involve hockey in some way. To be an adviser for sports people.

Yeah, I think I would love to be involved in sport somewhere on the way. Maybe a little bit in the future. I think I might want to get away from the sport a little bit.  But I’m not sure whether that’s just because I feel like I should, as opposed to because I want to. So I’ll see where I get to when I finished playing hockey.

I definitely see sports psychology as an option. 

But I’m even thinking of doing further study.

Wow, that’s impressive!  It’s addictive in a way.

I’m really interested in finding stuff out. Which I didn’t have before. So it helped me develop.  When I say it’s opened doors it really has. Not just in the world, but also in my head. Exploring what I want to do.

That’s great. That’s exactly what you want from studies.

I was googling you yesterday and I came across your blog.

Oh, did you.

I read a few last posts. You mentioned that you were helped after an injury, through having consultations with Lifestyle Sports Adviser. So is this something you would consider doing? 

I probably wouldn’t want to go down that route myself. Although to be honest, I know Emma, who is my lifestyle adviser, that job is going down more counseling, because of the things they have to deal with. So it probably is quite similar and it’s involving sports people, so you actually never know. I’ve never really thought about that one.

I’m asking, because I can see it was quite helpful for you.

My last question for you is, it’s all about the P Plan – the Passion Plan. Do you think studying is helping you to have a happier, more fulfilled life? Does it make you feel better.

Yeah, definitely. I think, as I say when I said about getting my marks back. It’s really rewarding and it does make me feel like I’m doing something with my life. And I am with my hockey but I need to know that something is going to be there after that as well. Which, unfortunately hokey doesn’t last as long as other jobs. 

And it helps me whilst playing hockey to have a more fulfilled life, but also hopefully it will help me, I know it will help me when I’ve finished playing hockey to do something I want to do. And I find that I think it’s so important to feel fulfilled in your life. If you’re following, if you’re doing something for a purpose, that’s really fulfilling.


PS. This is a sponsored post and I have been compensated for attending and writing about the event. All the opinions are my own and honest.

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