If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, then I’m sure you have wondered from time to time about whether this is it. All our lives we are made to believe that the definition of success is a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, an SUV in the garage, and of course a stable job to pay for it all. If you are sensible, you don’t spend all your money and put some aside for retirement.
But retirement is far away. What about the here and now? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t save for later on, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of missing out on the moment. Live a little on the way.
Having a lot of stuff is what the consumption industry wants us to strive for, and many of us do what is expected. Until one day you get a wake-up call like being laid-off, or a big move to another country, or you just have that nagging feeling that you “have it all” but something is missing – except you don’t know what that something is.
I was lucky in that I knew what that was. I always wanted to paint and it changed my life in many ways when I finally embarked on that journey. In 2000, we had moved from Düsseldorf to Maryland. My son and daughter started high school that year, my husband worked and traveled a lot, and I was home. Alone. No job, no friends. It was culture shock. The American way of life was foreign to me. My in-laws lived just outside New York, where my husband was born, so we had been on vacation here many times, but as my daughter once said: “Mom, it’s a nice country to visit, but not to live.”
Wow! She was born in Hamburg and had been enrolled in German schools. It took her quite a few years to adjust. And it took me five years to finally make a few friends. That was a first. I had moved many times, from country to country, to different cities with different languages and jobs. Every time I lived in a new place, I gathered a group around me, but not here.
In 2005, I finally gave in to my passion. I signed up for a painting class and that changed everything. It felt like coming home, and soon I started to make friends. A whole new world opened up. It was a little scary to walk into that first class. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know how to paint. I also knew that I had lots to learn, that I would fail many times, but I could do it if I worked hard. And I did. I ended up with stacks and stacks of some pretty ugly paintings, but I was not discouraged or embarrassed. On the contrary, with every brushstroke I got better, and I loved the process. Slowly I was making some pretty decent paintings and even won awards.
This was not the end of the journey. There was still something missing. But this time around, it was not apparent what I needed. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to combine painting with coaching. I became a coach because I was missing a tribe, like I had in all those other places where I had lived, and I wanted to help others to experience what it feels like to come home. What it feels like when you are doing what you were meant to be doing all along.
Find your passion.
If you don’t have a clue what you are passionate about, ask your friends. During my training as a coach, all my coaching friends told me that every time I talked about my painting, I lit up. I had never noticed that, but there it was. When people talk about their passion, and they do so often, they lighten up. Their eyes are on fire, eyebrows are pulled upwards, the whole body is energized, hands and arms start moving.
Pay attention to your own body when you talk about something you feel strongly about.
Body language is an amazing thing. Try sitting slumped over and talk about a passion of yours. I guarantee you that you cannot do it. Not in that position.
In 2011, I founded Quality Within. I chose that name because I am a firm believer that we all have beauty and a unique quality within us. The challenge is to find it. It is something that comes naturally. Something that is so easy for you that you think anybody can do it. But just because it comes easily to you doesn’t mean that it is the same for everybody else. I’m not saying that painting came easily to me. I had to work on it. But I had a drive from within. I didn’t have to push myself, I was pulled toward it. What does come easily to me is combining color and reading people, and reading intuitive paintings.
If you have no idea what your quality within looks like, start by getting organized. Make space and clear your mind and clutter in your home. Finish projects that you have been putting aside.
Once you have cleared your mind, start making a list with all the things you would like to do even if you think it’s impossible. Take your time with it. Then pick one theme that jumps out at you and start pondering, collect information, find out what you need to learn, talk to as many people as you can, and listen to their feedback. Pay attention to your own body, your gut, your energy. Trust your intuition. In my case, thirteen years ago I had no friends, no job. I couldn’t even paint. But paint is my favorite medium. I love working with groups. No matter how tired I am starting a workshop, I always go home fully energized. People ask me all the time: “And what are you going to do when you retire?” I think you know the answer.
Tap into your quality within and show it to the world. A precious gift you can give yourself is helping others with what comes so easily to you.
Last but not least: Don’t give up your day job right away, but learn to deal with your inner critic who might say that it’s too late to change. Believe me, it never is.
Today’s author: Elisabeth Vismans is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), an Award-Winning Artist, and founder of Quality Within, helping women in transition to find their life purpose. She developed a unique coaching program using the visual language as an extra modality. She is also an Art Instructor and conducts painting and coaching workshops. Learn more about Elisabeth at her website: www.qualitywithin.com, or from her Facebook page.