Oprah Winfrey Says Living a Happy, Successful Life Comes Down to 4 Simple Things

Advice from Oprah Winfrey on feeling more confident, finding your purpose, making other people feel special, and living and working with intention.

Oprah Winfrey is happy to give advice, and to provide a platform for giving advice. She launched a television network. A magazine. Led the most successful (especially in terms of influence) daytime talk show in history. Her perspectives? They're widely respected.

Here are four of my favorites.

Oprah on Confidence

According to Oprah, confidence comes not from strength, but from vulnerability:

Most people think vulnerability is weakness. I live in the space of vulnerability ... and that is what has made me so successful.I think vulnerability is ... the cornerstone of confidence. Allow yourself to take the risk, to be open, to live as a whole-hearted person. Do that, and you recognize that you're just like everybody else, and that gives you the confidence to be yourself.Which is all you really need in life: to be more of yourself.

Take leadership. The best leaders don't project unshakable confidence. They realize that admitting weakness doesn't create more weakness. Strong cultures can happen only when team members feel safe enough to tell one another the truth.

That starts with leaders being willing to show they're fallible.

But wait, there's more: Science says people will also like you more. A University of Texas study found that while people with average or below-average competence make a mistake, they're seen as less likable, but when a highly-competent person makes a mistake, they seem more likable.

Which makes sense: If Jim is a below-average performer and one day spills coffee on himself during a meeting, we see that as yet another sign of Jim's overall suckiness. But if Pam is amazing, and one day she happens to spill her coffee?

As the researchers write:

A near perfect or superior individual who shows that he is capable of an occasional blunder or pratfall may come to be regarded as more human and more approachable; consequently, he will be liked better because of this pratfall.

When you make an occasional mistake -- and are then willing to laugh at yourself -- other people won't laugh at you. They'll laugh with you. And will like you better.

Which means showing vulnerability can actually lead to feeling more confident.

Especially in being yourself.

Oprah on Making People Feel Special

In the process of conducting over 37,000 interviews, Oprah learned to listen for one thing, and to use it to guide her interaction with that person.

As Oprah says:

Everybody that I had on the show, at the end of the show, would [whisper] something to me like, 'Was that OK? Was that OK?'

Why did they ask that question? According to Oprah:

At the end of the day ... whatever your profession, wherever you are in your life, in your relationships ... every person you encounter, that person wants to know, 'Was that OK?'What I started to hear was that what people are really saying was: "Did you hear me, and did what I say mean anything to you?"And so I started to listen with that in mind, with that intention of validating that your being here, your speaking to me ... is important because you matter.Every [encounter that you have], the person just wants to know, "Did you hear me ... did you see me ... and did I say anything that mattered?"

We all want to feel like what we say and do has meaning. We all want to feel like what we say and do make a difference. Whether in business, in our personal lives, or even in the briefest of encounters, we all want to feel like we matter.

Make people feel they matter, and you'll establish a real connection. Make people feel they matter, and you'll establish a real relationship.

Not only will your life be richer, but you'll probably also live longer, too.

Oprah on Finding Purpose

Early on, an episode of Oprah's show focused on marital infidelity. While onstage with his wife and girlfriend, the husband told everyone that his girlfriend was pregnant.

"We all gasped, because I certainly didn't know what was coming," Oprah said. "I looked at his wife's face, and I'm telling you, the hurt and the shame, the humiliation I saw on her face. I have, to this day, never forgotten it. I said to my producers, 'Never again will anyone be embarrassed or shamed or humiliated on my watch.'"

"We're going to intentionally aim to be a force for good and service," she told her team, "and that question of 'How do we best serve our viewer' is behind and in front of every single booking from this day forward."

According to Oprah, that's when the show really started to take off.

Yet equally important was her feeling of personal success. Finding her true purpose and passion, using her platform to be of service -- that's what Oprah says made her feel satisfied. Fulfilled. And truly successful.

Bottom line? According to Oprah:

Don't worry about being "successful." Strive for the truest, highest expression of yourself ... and then use that expression in service to the world.If the paradigm for which you see the world is, "How can I be of service with my talent? How can I be used in service?" then I guarantee you, no matter what your talent or offering, you will be successful.

Instead of only defining success by certain finish lines -- numbers, job titles, houses or cars, or a level of public profile -- factor into your definition of success whether you get to do work that, as often as possible, lets you feel you made a genuine difference in the lives of other people.

Because that's the one form of success that never gets old -- and can never be taken away from you.

Oprah on Intention

As Brendon Burchard writes in High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, Oprah starts every meeting the same way, asking the same three questions:

  • What is our intention for this meeting?
  • What's important?
  • What matters?

Clarity isn't something you get. Clarity is something you have to seek.

You can find clarity, and gain focus, only when you actively search for it.

You can apply that approach to nearly everything. If you're about to make a sales call, instead of going through the motions, take a moment to define your intention. Sure, you want to win the sale, but how you approach every potential client will differ depending on their needs.

If you're about to exercise, instead of simply going through the motions, take a moment to define what is important. Gaining strength. Or endurance. Or increased flexibility and range of motion. Tie the action to the goal.

If you're about to meet with an employee to talk about development plans, instead of going through the motions, take a moment to consider what matters. Make sure you're prepared not just to share action plans, but the reasoning behind those plans. Broader skills. Greater opportunities for advancement. An opportunity to flex unused professional muscles. A path toward a better future. The actual plan is important, but why that plan matters -- to the employee -- is everything.

Clearly understanding intentions -- and stating those intentions -- makes it easier to stick to those intentions. That's the approach Oprah uses to get things done.

And so should you.


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