The Journey to My Purpose

I moved to Atlanta in 2004 with my then husband and my two beautiful children. This was a big move for us, so of course we were all very excited. Everything was perfect. We moved to Roswell and lived in a wonderful house right on the golf course. We even got our first puppy, Georgio.

However, after about four years, things started to go wrong. After 20 years of marriage, we divorced. Never in a million years did I think I would be divorced from my best friend. Due to the fact that I gave up my career to raise my children, while we followed my husband’s careers to different countries, I found myself having to search for work.

That was a very stressful time for me. So to relieve some of the stress, I started to Jazzercise and did so the same time every day. But one day I arrived earlier than usual, for reasons I do not remember. Because I arrived so early, I waited outside the studio. However, I saw the Jazzercise instructor at the other end of the studio, sitting down with her back to the door, headphones on, and watching a routine on TV that she was going to teach in her class. I put my hand on the door, and the door was unlocked. I walked straight through the studio and stood behind her. She didn’t even notice I was there. I explained to her how easy it would have been for an attacker to use the advantage of surprise and then overpower her.

Fairly quickly afterwards, I hosted my first intensive 90-minute personal safety workshop. This was a huge revelation for me. I was amazed at how, within just 90 minutes, these ladies were transformed. They were stronger and more confident than they had been when entering the workshop. They themselves were amazed at their own abilities to learn the self-defense movements. This is when my company, Powerhouse, was born.

But it was a premature birth. It wasn’t fully developed. I became laser focused on making the Powerhouse curriculum whole and strong. That is when certain events turned my whole world around.

Just a couple or so years before, I was living the “perfect” life. It took a 180-degree turn. I lost my home because I couldn’t keep up with the rent, but I knew I had to remain focused and push forward. My two children ended up living with their dad. That was incredibly painful for me, as I was their primary caregiver. But I still remained focused and committed to my vision and mission. Additionally, my doggie Georgio died of cancer. Still, I forced myself to remain focused.

I hardly recognized my life at this point, not to mention the fact that there was no family support. I was a foreigner here in the U.S. It was not my plan to create a personal safety program. I just happened to arrive early at the Jazzercise studio that day! That is when I realized the drive to continue was coming from a higher power. However, I was scared! I felt I had no control over what was happening. I had a sense of fear, but then I looked at what I was teaching. I internalized what I was teaching. My tag line is “Rise Up! Speak Up! Power Up!” I found myself reciting that slogan every single day. I was teaching people to protect themselves and others. I was teaching them to be safe, to become confident and courageous, and to overcome obstacles and make decisions quickly.

By internalizing what I was teaching others, I became Powerhouse and everything it stands for. Even though I had lost everything, I still found myself quietly excited and positive. When I was alone, I would find myself saying, “Come on, Jen, you can do this.”

I truly believed in what I was doing. I am a second-degree black belt. Some of the principles of martial arts include perseverance and unbreakable spirit. These principles are embedded in me, and they should be embedded in everyone. When you get knocked down, you have to rise up, speak up, and power up. You have to keep moving forward, because if you don’t, you are never going to achieve your goals. When you truly believe in what you are doing, when you truly believe in your purpose and mission, you will find the strength to rise up, speak up, and power up!

It doesn’t even matter what others say or believe, and believe me, you will come across naysayers. I know, because I have had people say to me, “Give up this nonsense and get a proper job.” It’s not their purpose. It’s not their vision or passion, so they do not understand. So stay on your path. Stay on your journey, because that is the only way you are going to achieve your ultimate goals.

Also, we should remember that success is measured in different ways. It doesn’t always mean having a nice, big, healthy bank account. Yes, that would be very nice, but I do not as of yet! It doesn’t, however, mean that I am not successful.

The Powerhouse program is designed to empower. It is designed to build confidence and courage, and it is doing just that. I am proud to say that I have now taught around 3,000 individuals in corporations, schools, colleges, and other organizations.

Perseverance, an unbreakable spirit, and belief in yourself are incredibly important. I miss having a family very much. I miss the way my life used to be, but I am a different person now. Over the past few years, I have morphed from Jennifer “the Housewife,” who moved country to country in support of her husband’s career, to Jennifer the woman with a VISION, a PURPOSE, and a MISSION.

You have a purpose, and your passion will guide the way. Decide today, before you go to sleep tonight, that you are not going to settle for less than the purposeful and passionate life you were meant to live. Once you make that decision, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, smile, and get a good night’s sleep—because tomorrow will be a power-filled day!

About the Author | Jennifer Riis-Poulsen

Jennifer Riis-Poulsen, Founder & CEO of Powerhouse Personal Safety & Empowerment Program, is from London, England, and moved to the USA in 2004. She is a second-degree black belt in martial arts. Jennifer formed Powerhouse in November 2011 as a response to the ever-increasing statistics on the number of individuals that are emotionally, verbally, and physically assaulted each year. She made reducing these statistics a passion and personal goal, and has developed a comprehensive personal safety and empowerment program focused on awareness and powerful techniques to build courage and confidence. The curriculum is based on her background in psychology and her 15 years of martial arts experience, and is designed for all females from ten years of age to older.

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2 comments to "The Journey to My Purpose"

  • Dominique Liouliaki

    What an amazing story! You should be very proud Jennifer! You have achieved so much! I was driven by the Heart and my Instincts on which story I would choose during my own period of pain and growth and it seems they didn’t fail me. Your words are powerful and your determination an example to the rest of us. Thank you for sharing your story, it does really make a difference.

  • Jennifer Riis-Poulsen

    Hello Dominique. I apologize for the delay in responding to you.

    Thank you so much for your comments to my article. I am so sorry that you are going through your own struggles! This too shall pass. Please do contact me if you wish to talk. I am always happy to listen.

    With warm regards,

    Jennifer