It’s not every day you get invited to spend an evening with Oprah. So it was with excitement that I headed out the door recently to do just that. Yes, just me and Oprah… and about 12,000 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 weilds 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 was abused as a child, pregnant at fourteen and early in her career told that she ‘didn’t have a face for television’. Huh!
During her two hours on stage, Oprah challenged us to ‘turn up the volume’ in life as she recounted stories and shared stories from her extraordinary life. Here are the six that spoke to me the loudest.
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 simply makes you curious. “Your curiosity will lead you to whatever you are here for,” said Oprah.
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 learned 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.
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. All lasting and genuine success flows from being connected to the spirit, the Power, that is greater than 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.
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.
Work Hard But Surrender The Results
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. 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.
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 that you’re here for a purpose greater than yourself, God takes care of the details. Amen Oprah!