If you have 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 we want a big house preferably with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, an SUV in the garage and yes 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 of the moment. Live a little on the way.
Having a lot of stuff is what the consumption industry wants us to have. And as law abiding citizens we do what is expected of us. 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 yes you have it all but something is missing. But you don’t know what that something is. I was lucky that I knew what it 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. Bought a house on a 3 acre lot in Woodbine. 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 a 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, who was 12 at the time 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 5 years to finally make a few friends. That was a first. I had moved many times, from country to country, different languages, different cities, different 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. First of all 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. Here I was and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know how to paint. But one thing I knew is that I could do it. I also knew that I had lots to learn, that I would fail many times but that if I worked hard I could do it. 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.
I wanted more. But this time around it was not apparent what that more was. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to combine painting with coaching. To back up a little 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 buddies told me that every time I talked about my painting I lightened up. I had never noticed that but yes 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 towards it. What does come easily to me is combining color and reading people. And reading intuitive paintings.
If you have no idee what your quality within looks like start by getting organized. Make space, 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. All I knew I wanted to paint and subsequently combine it somehow with a tribe but had no clue how. It took me a while but I found it. I now am an art instructor, am an Award Wining artist and have paintings in private collections in the US and Europe, develop and lead workshops, help people to get over their fear of putting themselves out there, how to be in the moment, get unstuck. 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.