Tuesday, 26 June 2012

How to Find Work That Doesn't Feel Like Work

Image thanks to danielle

We all know what work feels like. I think the above image pretty much sums up how I’ve felt toward certain jobs I’ve had.

At some point in our lives, we all have to work. But – particularly in our early twenties, when we don’t have the experience, qualifications, or the accumulated means to follow our real heart’s desire – just getting a standard job can feel like a very bitter, but wholly unavoidable, pill to swallow.

I’ve recently landed a new job as a Personal Assistant to a disabled woman who is completing her PhD. It involves varied tasks from admin and taking dictation, to domestic tasks, to just sitting around discussing the weather. It also involves sleepovers once or twice a week. That’s right; I get paid for sleeping. Talk about work not feeling like work.

When journeying home from my first shift, I had a heady rush of excitement: I have a job I don’t hate. How revolutionary. No longer do I feel that life is getting in the way of my dreams.

The job is varied, fulfilling, and most importantly really feels like I am being of invaluable service – something I never found in any retail, hospitality, or office role. Best of all, I am able to work long 24 hour shifts that subsequently free up the rest of my week to do exactly as I choose. It might not be the job for everyone, but for me, for now, it is truly work that doesn’t feel like work.

Here are a few ways you might go about seeking work that doesn’t feel like work:

Stop thinking ‘job’ and start thinking ‘contribution’ 
In the days before the industrial revolution, salaries, Christmas bonuses and paying taxes; your worldly work was the manner in which you contributed to your wider community. Maybe that was making bread. Maybe it was washing clothes; mending shoes; delivering babies; growing crops; thatching roofs etc. You had a talent and you utilised it to serve the greater good. A job where we don’t feel we are making a worthwhile contribution, where we feel expendable, pointless or trivial, is a job which demoralizes and de-motivates us; it is work that definitely feels like work.

// In action: what kind of job would make you feel as though you were really contributing – either to the wider world or just to your local community? What do you want to contribute to – the life of an individual, a minority group, preserving your local environment?

Time after time 
Does the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 feel like a heavy anvil around your neck? Or, does working weekends sound akin to dissecting the beating heart of your social life? The days and times that you work, and how this facilitates you to live the rest of your life the way you choose, is a key aspect in whether or not work feels like work. I’ve had the 9-5 job and I simply could not stomach it. After years of a pretty lightweight academic schedule, being chained to a desk for the best hours of every day just felt somehow unnatural to me, and thus felt horribly like work. If I was doing something I really enjoyed with these hours, that might be different, but in most 9-5 jobs I wouldn’t be.

// In action: ask yourself what kind of working hours would complement the lifestyle you want to lead – and then seek out jobs based on this. Don’t rule out working nights: they are often better paid, offer an entirely different pace of work, and although challenging might just promote the kind of quality of life that stops work feeling like work.

Get down to the nitty-gritty... 
Suss out minor aspects of jobs you’ve had that have helped work feel less like work. For example, any previous job where I have had the freedom to go and make myself a cup of tea and have a welcome five minutes to myself, has always stopped work feeling like work. It seems trivial but that small act of freedom really helps me feel I’m maintaining some of my autonomy – and that my well-being is being accommodated. I’ve had jobs where even a small thing like this just wasn’t okay, and thus I felt like an operating machine rather than a human being with fluctuating energy levels!

// In action: which seemingly small elements stop work feeling like work – a great social aspect? The ability to manage your own time rather than having a rigid regime of tasks? A lot of variety to the tasks? Being able to get outside? Being encouraged to be creative? Getting to laugh a lot? Getting to travel? What kind of job might give you these things?

Keep it under your umbrella 
Though we may often feel we lack any clarity in terms of our career paths, if we look closely we may be able to identify an ‘umbrella’; an overarching, unifying theme to all our aspirations. For me, most of my interests fall under the umbrella of empowering women – which I explore through this blog and in my creative writing, and also with my goal to work as a life coach. Finding a care job has complimented this in a very lovely way, because through it I am gaining the experience of empowering an individual, one-on-one, in an absolutely vital way. Again, having a job that ties in with your ambitions will help you feel less like your work is impeding on your dreams.

// In action: if your aspiration is to own your own B&B in the countryside one day, no prizes for guessing the kind of environment you might want to work in. But it may not always be this obvious. If you have the vague notion of wanting to write a novel, you might think working in a bookshop would be a good call, but perhaps something that would give you greater life experience and introduce you to a range of would-be characters might be more fitting; consider a role working with the elderly – they are always the best story-tellers and endless wells of life experience!

Is it all about the money?
Of course it isn’t; making work all about the money negates everything else I’ve said in this article. That said, the jobs where I’ve felt I’ve been fairly paid have always left me with a far greater sense of my value in the role. Slogging away until 2am serving food and drink in a noisy, thankless bar environment for minimum wage never sat comfortably with me. Getting £8.50 an hour playing board games with kids at a local youth hostel when I was sixteen? Well that felt like I was getting well paid for being part of a worthy project, a.k.a. work that doesn’t feel like work. Don’t underestimate the difference of an extra £ or $ an hour – you are most definitely worth it. For better paying jobs, you’ll often have to think outside the box. But beware; some jobs, such as street fundraising or call-centre work, might be higher paid for a reason! (The reason being that they slowly chip away at your soul).

// In action: if you love a job, the pay doesn’t have to matter. But if you love a job and you feel you’re fairly compensated, well that’s just brilliant (and may mean you can work less hours – promoting that quality of life we were talking about). Consider jobs that pay more than your average bar job, like social care, childcare, or a job that pays well in tips such as waitressing in a more up-market restaurant. Better paying roles are not always the obvious roles, so get your thinking cap on; night watch(wo)man? Window dresser? Private tutor?

Be challenged, and learn 
When I landed my current job, having never done anything remotely like it, I said to a friend “I think it will be a challenge. But the good kind.” I once had a job in a clothes shop, which consisted of folding t-shirts, being made to hassle unsuspecting browsers by asking if they needed help when evidently they didn’t, and bleeping items through the till. There was absolutely zero challenge inherent in that role. Even jobs that have challenged me at the offset have become predictable and tedious after a few months. The nature of my current job is so varied, that I know there will always be new challenges to face; challenges which will offer opportunities for me to learn.

// In action: look for roles where you expect to be consistently challenged, in a good way. Some roles may even offer formal training and the opportunity to gain qualifications – thus work becomes study, and stops feeling like work.

The most important takeaway point from this article is this: you must truly accept that work doesn’t have to look like work! This is an alteration you first have to make in your imagination, free of social conditioning, peer pressure, or family expectations. When you’ve done this you’ll be better equipped to really think outside of the box in your job search, and see opportunities you may never have recognised otherwise.

Making a living should always translate as making a life, not just being a cog in a machine.

I feel like I could prattle on about this all day – but I’ll hand it over to you! What does it mean for you to find work that doesn’t feel like work? What have your best and worst jobs been? Let’s learn a thing or two from one another! 

If you liked this you might like: How to Stay Motivated When You Aren't in Your Dream Job.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Words to Live By #196

Image thanks to yvette

"I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life."
Elsie De Wolfe

Thursday, 21 June 2012

5 Inspirational Movies + Their Life Lessons

Image thanks to cari ann

This is a guest post by Melissa Wellham, a freelance writer (of scathing film reviews, mostly), blogger at Melicious, and prolific tweeter (@melissawellham). She is currently studying journalism, working in an independent bookstore, and has two pet mice called Nymphadora and Tonks.

Despite your best intentions at the beginning of every New Year to work harder, commit to your dreams, or take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way – it can be hard to remain motivated day after day after day.

This partly explains the popularity of tools such as inspiration boards (and Charade’s own Words to Live By feature) as they are reminders to keep working towards what you want to achieve. Because really, many of us (okay, I’m talking about myself here) have trouble concentrating on a goal unless the fruit of our labour is immediately in front of us. It’s much easier to become distracted by a million and one other things (the internet. Texting that cute boy. Watching all of The Vampire Diaries in one sitting) – which are really the “candy” to a potential “fruit of labour.” Fun and delicious, to be sure, but ultimately not as good for you.

However, there’s another incredibly powerful motivational tool: storytelling. Seeing what other people have accomplished, can help you realise what you can accomplish also. And the silver screen is one of the most powerful storytelling tools there is.

So, in the interest of inspiring you to work towards whatever your dream may be – becoming an actress! Learning a new language! Opening a chocolate factory, and wearing a purple top hat! – here are a few inspiring films, with some important life lessons.

1. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

When I watched this in an English class when I was 16, I cried. Directed by Peter Weir, the film follows an English teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), teaching at a conservative, upper class, all-boys elite prep school in 1959. His teaching methods are incredibly unorthodox for the day, and include instructing his students to stand on their desks to gain “a new perspective,” and encouraging them to “seize the day” – essentially, trying to inspire his young students. Unfortunately, his methods are unpopular with the rest of the school’s faculty, and when one of his students commits suicide, he becomes a scapegoat. Mr. Keating is asked to leave the school, but when he does, his students stand on their desks to bid him farewell – acknowledging how much he inspired them – and how much he taught them about the importance of being true to themselves.

The Quote:
John Keating: No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

The Life Lesson: Stand up for who you really are. Seize the day.

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, and directed by the always-fabulous Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a gorgeous stop-motion animated feature, that follows the somewhat-of-a-scoundrel Mr. Fox (George Clooney) as he attempts to pull off one last big, crafty heist – taking on the wealthy and cruel farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean – despite being a family man, married to Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), with a son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). At the same time, teenager Ash becomes jealous of his cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson), who is staying with the family. Although ostensibly a film about a fox trying to steal apple cider and chickens – this is more a film about the importance of family, and being okay with being different.

The Quote:
Mrs. Fox: [to Ash, when he is upset about being “different”] We're all different. [indicates Mr. Fox]
Mrs. Fox: Especially him. But there's something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?

The Life Lesson: Sometimes it’s just in your (wild) nature to be a little kooky, weird, or larger-than-life. But that’s better than fine – it’s exceptional.

3. Thelma & Louise (1991)

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are the title characters in Thelma & Louise, two working class gals who decide to go on a weekend road trip to get away from it all. And by ‘it,’ I mean, to get away from the men in their lives – Thelma’s controlling husband, and Louise’s perfectly-acceptable but commitment-phobic boyfriend. But when Thelma and Louise run into trouble and end up killing a would-be rapist, the pair have to hit the road in their '66 Thunderbird and go on the run from the law. Oh, yeah, and this is the film that features a young Brad Pitt in tight, faded blue jeans. Director Ridley Scott has created a feminist film that is action-packed, laugh-out-loud, and also completely and utterly heartbreaking.

The Quote:
Thelma: “I've had it up to my ass with sedate.”

The Life Lesson: Be free.

4. Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Bill Cunningham New York is a heartfelt documentary about the title character, the 80+ iconic street fashion photographer. Bill is considered to be an integral part of the New York scene, and as the terrifying Vogue editor Anna Wintour says, “We all get dressed for Bill.” The film paints a portrait of a man who is compulsively shy, obsessively interested in fashion photography, and so genuinely kind and sincere that one finds it difficult to believe he has made it in the cutthroat world of fashion. Where the fashion industry has a reputation for being shallow, vain and artificial, Bill is quietly thoughtful, modest and truly appreciates fashion as an art form.

The Quote(s):

Bill: “It’s as true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty will find it.”

Bill: “"If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do. That's the key to the whole thing."

Bill: "Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life."

The Life Lesson: Discover what brings you joy in life. And then do that for a job.

5. The Film: Rocky (1976)

The entirety of the Rocky franchise, starring Sylvester Stallone, is known for its story of guy from the wrong aide of the tracks makin’ good – as well as its extreme, pump-it-to-the-max motivational message. But I think the classic Survivor’s song Eye Of The Tiger (the theme song for the third Rocky film) illustrates this better than I ever could.

Need I say more? No, I didn’t think so.

The Quote:
Rocky: “'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.”

The Life Lesson: Keep on fighting, even when the odds are against you. 

What would your top 5 most inspirational films be?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Words to Live By #195

Image thanks to i.anton

"Do that thing. You know… That thing you’ve been meaning to do for ages. That thing you’ve been putting off for days, weeks, months. That thing that as soon as I say “that thing” you know exactly what I’m talking about. That thing. Yeah. Go do that." 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Peek at the Week: Capers and Curiosities

What a truly wonderful week. I attended a wig party; my friend Emmie from the US visited; I ate - in the space of three days - British Afternoon Tea, Indian, Moroccan, and Thai meals out; I discovered a veritable treasure trove of vintage goodness barely two minutes away from my flat; I walked alongside a Samba drumming procession and danced at St Werburghs City Farm Fair; I celebrated my papa with a home cooked meal, and generally revelled in life. I hope you did too ♥

Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday Feature: Summer Dresses at Tesco

Are you after a tasty selection of affordable dresses for summer? Fantasizing about floral maxi dresses or head-over-heels for hot pink? Look no further! I had no idea you could shop online for clothing at Tesco, but it seems their bargain-bustin' selections are a mere click away!

Whether it's a glam garden party you're off to, or you just want to ad some pizazz to a pint at the pub... there's a dress that has you covered! 

I picked a few of my favourites above, I really love the flattering dipped hem look!

Which do you like best?

Monday, 11 June 2012

* SALE CLOSED * The eCourse for Half-Half-Price!

Blast from the past, anyone?


That's right, half half price, as Ambitious Happiness orginally started out at £28, and you can get it now for just £9. I'm doing a flash 24 hour sale so at 6.30pm (UK) tomorrow the normal price of £18 will return.

"Happiness, when it's done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive."
Mary Oliver

I've been having my own happiness ups-and-downs just lately whilst adjusting to being back in the UK, and have found revisiting the exercises a real boost. Going to the United States was certainly an ambitiously happy action, but it's when you're simply trying to survive in your everyday that being happy can feel like a challenge.

I haven't had a great deal of time to devote to solid content for the blog, so if you've been missing that just lately this course may well be the antidote - so much juicy stuff crammed in there!

I don't plan on lowering the price permanently so get it for a bargain whilst you can - a.k.a in the next 24 hours!

To give you a taste of the kind of practical, actionable goodness within the 10-day course, you can read my post on How to Be Happy. You can also read more about the course here.



Any technical hiccups just shoot me an email.
Happy buying! 
- I love you for it.

Words to Live By #194

Image thanks to cari ann

"You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." 
Anne Lamott

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Peek at the Week: Tea for Two

This week bezzie Ellen visited for two glorious days of gossip and cake-munching and movie watching in honour of the 30th Birthday of Bristol's Watershed cinema. We were treated to free seats for homegrown indie film 8 Minutes Idle - all thanks to the absent friends of one 'Mr Thomas Gray' whose tickets we scored having been unable to get hold of our own. I also had a job interview and a minor emotional meltdown. Will fill you all in with details of each this coming week... Love.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Words to Live By #193

Image thanks to i.anton

"Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, that is way great spiritual giants are produced." 
Swami Vivekananda

Friday, 1 June 2012

An Interview On My Adventures!

Did you have any questions about how I got on across the pond? Hankering for a bit of inspiration to finally bite the bullet and book your own dream trip? Well star-reader Amber pinned me down and got all the juicy gossip out of me! Enjoy.

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What made you choose New York in particular? Do you have friends there? Did something in particular attract you there now, or has visiting the city been a long standing dream? 

I visited both NYC and San Francisco – also with a foray through Boulder, Colorado. Originally I’d wanted to spend more time in SF, but after flying into NYC and spending a few days there, SF just didn’t light my fire in the same way. So I hot-footed it back to the Big Apple! It has always been a city I wanted to visit – for the buzz, the creativity of the people, the cafe culture, the writing culture – and it really exceeded all my expectations... Read More.
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And, of course, if you have any questions of your own just let me know in the comments here!