My Night With Oprah
Earlier this week I spent an evening with Oprah. Yes, just me and Oprah… and about 12,000 of her other Australian fans. Having admired Oprah for many years, I’d been mildly nervous that I had my expectations set too high. I needn’t have worried.
What struck me most being in her presence, was how much she owns her power and how purposefully she uses it. And while it’s easy to say “Yeah but she’s ‘Oprah’, a billionaire, a super-star, one of the world’s most powerful women” she wasn’t always! Born into poverty in rural Mississippi, she abused as a child, pregnant at fourteen, sent to a delinquent centre by her mum before being shipped off to live with her dad (a barber) and, early in her career, told that she ‘didn’t have a face for television.’ (Huh!)
(You’ll feel the energy of the crowd in the videos I uploaded to my Facebook page.)
So what did Oprah have to say that had everyone on their feet in standing ovation after her two hours on stage, sharing her life story and the lessons learnt along the way? More than I have room for here! But these six lessons spoke the loudest to me.
Trust That You’re Here For A Purpose
“Find your purpose” is something we’re all told we need to do but for most people, it eludes them. That’s because often we make the mistake of assuming that our purpose has to be something grand – to eradicate world hunger, save the whale, cure cancer, or eliminate child trafficking. That’s not to say it can’t be, but in the end our purpose in life is to use our gifts – our personality, talents and strengths – in a way that leaves an imprint on the lives of others; a ‘heart print’ as Oprah calls it. The best way to do that is to move in the direction of what ever ignites your passion, or short of that, make you curious. “Your curiosity will lead you to whatever you are here for,” said Oprah.
Reflection question: How is the way you are living your life affecting those around you? Are you moving toward what interests you and lights you up? And if not, why not?
Life Isn’t Happening To You. It’s Happening For You.
Oprah shared the story of her life, growing up ‘dirt poor’ with her grandmother in rural Mississippi. She shared how she had been molested by family members from the age of nine and found herself pregnant at fourteen, when she was shipped off to her fathers. (She later miscarried.) From her early experiences she has learnt that everything that shows up in your life is here to help you grow – the good, the bad, the ugly and the outright awful. But we have to stop still long enough, and become quiet enough, to hear the message and learn the lessons. And we have to trust that no matter how awful things may be, within them lays the kernel for our own growth and a better future than what we’ve left behind.
Reflection question: What gifts lie in your current challenges? How are they calling you to learn and grow into the fullest dimension of the person you have it within you to be?
Without A Spiritual Life, You Have No Life
“Without a spiritual life, you have no life,” shared Oprah who said how she wouldn’t hire someone to run her OWN television network if they didn’t have a strong spiritual life. She quoted Pierre Teilhard de Chardin “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Only when we take time to nurture the essence of who we are – beyond our bodies or jobs or success or failure or wealth or lack thereof – can we ever come to know what we are truly capable of. As Oprah said, “I stand before you as an example of what your true self, your spiritual self, can bring to life.” Any real success that is long term and sustainable comes from being connected to the spirit, the power, that is greater than you.
Reflection question: Where could you be more deliberate in creating time to connect with the life source (Call it God or Higher Power or universal energy or whatever you like) that created you?
Living In Gratitude Changes Everything
“Your singular best spiritual practice is finding your sacred space of gratitude,” said Oprah who has on many occasions shared how keeping a Gratitude Journal has changed her experience of life. Taking time to get present to your blessings amplifies their presence and helps us handle our challenges with more grace and courage. As I wrote in a previous blog post, gratitude is an antidote to life’s hardships and a magnifier of its blessings. So be grateful even for the littlest ordinary things because one day you may look back and realize they were the actually the big things.
Reflection question: What is right in your life right now that you rarely take time to acknowledge? What could you do to remind yourself to practice gratitude more often?
Be Brave Enough To Say No
“When you say yes to others when you really want to say no, you become resentful of those people.” Oprah shared how she struggled with saying no because she was afraid people wouldn’t think she was nice if she did. Over time she came to learn that saying yes to everyone for fear of disappointing people or being criticized was leaving her resentful. As I wrote in Brave, sometimes we have to say no to good things to make room for even better. People pleasing can leave you living life on everyone else’s terms but your own. So if you struggle with saying no, tell someone you’ll take time to think about it and then use that time to reconnect to your highest priorities and your biggest mission. It will make saying no that little bit easier.
Reflection question: Where are you saying yes to things not because you want to do them, but because you’re afraid of disappointing people?
Work Hard But Surrender The Results
Of everything that Oprah said last night, the message that resonated most was simply this: Let Go. But let’s face it, it’s hard not to become attached to the way we think life and people ‘should’ be. Yet the reality is that we cannot control the universe. The only thing we can control is how we show up in it, the energy we bring, the intention we have and the way we choose to respond when life doesn’t go to plan – with love, faith and courage, or with fear, resentment and anger.
Oprah shared how it was only when she was able to surrender her attachment to getting the role in The Color Purple that she got a call from Steven Spielberg to be part of it.
I know myself that as purposeful as I try to be, I can easily become despondent when my efforts fall short in producing the results I want. So as I left last nights event I recommitted to following my dad’s advice from years ago – to “Let go, and Let God.” Because as Oprah said, when you trust you’re here for a purpose greater than yourself, God takes care of the details. Amen Oprah.
Reflection Question: What do you need to let go of – in your work, your relationships and life? What is it that you’re attached to that you need to surrender? I hope this video below will help you answer that question.