You have everything you need…at least so you thought. But lately, you find your job, your home and even your precious little ones draining.
Instead, you dread the day before you every morning. You go through the motions of the day from home to work and back home. Your days merge into weeks, months and years of the same routines and seasons.
Of recent, you find yourself thinking of dreams fallen by the wayside. You reminisce on past days filled with optimism and hope.
You realize you are not living a life that you designed. You regret compromising on your dreams.
But, all is not lost. You can create the life you desire by consistently choosing yourself.
“You define your own life. Don’t let other people write your script.”-Oprah Winfrey
But, you find choosing yourself is hard, and frankly, you don’t know how to do it. You have spent all this time helping others fulfil their desires.
When you don’t know how to choose yourself, look for a role model. One of my favourite role models is Oprah Winfrey.
Who doesn’t want to be like Oprah Winfrey — unstoppable, resourceful and bold
Oprah Winfrey made the impossible possible when she became the first female African-American billionaire in 2003. She is best known as the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show which ran from 1986 to 2011. In 2011, she launched her own television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). She is a media mogul, an actress, and a philanthropist.
Oprah Winfrey was born to an impoverished single mother. Her childhood was marred by abuse. Her life stabilized in her teens while she lived with her father and she excelled at school.
Oprah started working at age 17. She became a co-anchor of a television news station at the age of 19. She worked her way through several jobs and positions. Once, she was demoted because of her emotional connection with people. That did not stop her.
She developed and mastered the art of being a talk show host and a mentor to millions on television. She leveraged her strengths as a talk-show host and later on as the CEO of her own media conglomerate.
Oprah’s story is not only one of rags to riches. Who she is now is from a lifetime of choosing herself and taking actions to create the life she wanted.
Oprah developed a lifetime habit of choosing herself.
Oprah’s quotes reflect how she thinks and how she makes decisions. Reflect on the quotes in this article which were taken from the book Words that Matter: A Little Book of Life Lessons. Be open to them being your guide in helping you to choose yourself and the life you truly desire.
1. Use your regrets to jumpstart your life of possibilities
“I once passed a billboard that caught my attention. It read, ‘He who dies with the most toys is still dead.’ Anyone who has ever come close to death can tell you that at the end of your life, you probably won’t be reminiscing about how many allnighters you pulled at the office or how much your mutual fund is worth. The thoughts that linger are the ‘if only’ questions, like Who could I have become if I had finally done the things I always wanted to do?” — Oprah Winfrey
This quote touches us to our core. It is one of regret, of not acting on our needs, dreams, loves, and unfulfilled inner desires.
As Oprah suggests, ask yourself, who could I have become if I had finally done what I always wanted to do? For example, what if you took your first violin or ballroom dancing lesson?
Do you believe you are realizing your potential, that you are living the life of your dreams? Or do you feel remorse, of having lost yourself? Which goals or dreams do you wish you could have achieved? What regrets do you have?
Regrets are often lost opportunities to choose the opportunities available to you. Regrets show you your true desires and are often related to your potential, experiences, relationships and contribution.
So, make a list of pending goals and dreams, and regrets and call it your ‘List of Possibilities’.
Keep your List of Possibilities in a place where you can look at it for a few days. Then, choose one item from the list that you know will add meaning to your life. Then take the first action toward what you desire. And every week, take one more action. Eventually, you will create your dream.
2. Gratitude is a weapon. Use it!
“I live in the space of thankfulness — and I have been rewarded a million times over for it. I started out giving thanks for the small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.”
— Oprah Winfrey
Choosing yourself is hard work after you have had many years of practice choosing others. You may not even know where to start or know what you desire.
Start with focusing on yourself. You can do this by practising gratitude for at least one month.
Every day, write three things that you are grateful for in a journal. If you find it hard to be grateful, start with being grateful for the breath of life you have today. Or, for the tree down your road where you could sit and sip a cup of coffee. Appreciate those moments that brought you some form of joy or peace or contentment.
When you practice gratitude, you focus on the good things. Your mind starts to think of how to bring more of such moments into your life.
But best of all, you begin to focus on the resources and strengths you have. When you are grateful for them, you start thinking of how best you can harness your resources and strengths to create your dreams.
You start thinking of how you could take your next action with what you have. And, you think of who you can work with to complement your resources or skills.
3. Your life is in the details
“I think it was playwright Jane Wagner who said, “All my life I wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should’ve been more specific.” – Oprah Winfrey
I know this is not Oprah’s idea herself, but we are here to learn from her, and she looks to others to guide her.
When you choose yourself, be specific about what you choose and on what you need. Then, draft a plan for the next few steps forward.
What if you choose to write a romance novel and you have no freaking idea how to do it. It seems such a daunting dream. First, you know you have to learn how to write and you only have evenings outside of your day job. So, your first step is to survey online courses, looking for instructors with experience in writing romance. The details will be what you are looking for and when you will do it, say, tomorrow evening at 7 pm after dinner.
Details program your mind, narrow your focus and help you to assess your resources and environment to make your dream a reality.
4. Who are they to tell you what to do?
“I have created a life by stepping out of the box of people’s limitations.” – Oprah Winfrey
Recognizing the limitations that people place on you is easy. Have you ever bounced an idea off a friend only to hear her tell you, “You can’t because you’ve never done this before?”
“You can’t because…” is a sign of the limitations that people pose on you.
“You shouldn’t/wouldn’t because …” and “You must …” are other indicators of externally imposed limitations. In both cases, someone is imposing his or her limiting beliefs on you.
Oprah overcame externally imposed limitations on herself early in her career. She once had a former boss who told her she could not make it in the television business against some of the biggest names. Then he tried to entice her to stay with more money and company benefits. His last resort was to intimidate her by telling her she will fail.
Regardless, Oprah knew herself well enough to choose herself over someone else’s limitation of herself. She chose to grow herself and her happiness.
Don’t let people tell you what you can or cannot do. Only you can make that decision. Regardless, challenge whether these limitations apply to you.
Note all externally imposed limitations. Then, take each one in turn and question them. Ask yourself “What if I do…?” Consider the possibilities before you by contradicting the limitation.
For example, consider if someone tells you that you should not bother applying for a job because you don’t have the skills. Ask yourself, “What if I still apply and show that I have some of the relevant skills?” Even if you are rejected for the position, what would you have lost? At most, a few hours of your time. But, what would you have gained? Either a new job or at least some insight into the skills you need to build.
You lose nothing and you gain a sense of possibilities.
5. How dare you keep yourself back?
“What you believe has more power than what you dream or wish or hope for. You become what you believe.” — Oprah Winfrey
Your beliefs can either support you or limit your potential.
Our self-limitations dictate how we live our life. What we believe about our own competencies and how we see ourselves create a filter for what we think we can do. Our beliefs are the lens through which we view the world.
A terrible thing about beliefs is that we often filter evidence that goes against the belief and we treat any evidence as a random event.
Don’t do that. Choose to look at the evidence that goes against your current beliefs. Consider if changing the belief will help you to move to a life of more possibilities. Question the belief.
Question your self-limiting beliefs otherwise, your beliefs will become self-fulfilling prophecies. Don’t be the one keeping yourself from your goals and dreams.
Most self-limiting beliefs are difficult to change because of their emotional impact. You may not have new and improved beliefs yet, but one way forward is suspending your beliefs so that you can act.
Suspend your beliefs and take action. Act with curiosity. Then, reflect on the experience. Most times, you find you are whole and recognize that you have improved by taking action. The old you would not have. You are stronger and you show up for yourself.
6. Stare your fears down, and take bold action
“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes and step out and dance — to live free of regret and filled with as much joy, fun, and laughter as you can stand. You can either waltz boldly onto the floor of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding in the shadows of fear and self-doubt. You have the choice this very moment — the only moment you have for certain.” — Oprah Winfrey
When you start on your journey to a goal or dream, you may doubt yourself and your capabilities. Or you may be afraid of the outcome.
Our brain works to keep us safe and secure. Whenever you step outside of this safe and secure area, you enter into your zone of discomfort. Our brain works to bring us back to a safe and secure space.
Fears arise because you either don’t know what to expect or don’t know how to do something.
We become afraid when we expect some form of pain, judgement, rejection, or uncertainty.
We build our fears by considering the outcomes of catastrophic scenarios.
In reality, the chances of the imagined catastrophic outcomes are low.
When you dwell on the negatives, you rarely see the positive possibilities. Focus on positive possibilities and how they can change your life.
“Whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I ask myself, What would I do if I weren’t afraid of making a mistake, feeling rejected, or being alone? Remove the fear, and the answer comes into focus.” — Oprah Winfrey
Even with fear pervading your mind and body, accept your fear will be a continual companion and take your bold action. Then let the result of that action guide you. You will find that you are okay and better off for acting.
7. Always be getting better
“For me, the path to success was never about attaining incredible wealth or celebrity. It was about the process of continually seeking to be better, to challenge myself to pursue excellence on every level. The question I ask every day is the same as it’s always been: How much farther can I stretch to reach my full potential? What I know for sure is that it’s only when you make the process your goal that the dream can follow.” — Oprah Winfrey
One way to choose yourself is to pick one part of your life that you can improve and excel in.
Choose the level you want to achieve. Plan and track your actions. Reflect on your actions. Determine whether your thoughts serve you now. And, if necessary, adjust your thoughts and actions. Once you reach optimized actions, keep practising. Results may be delayed but keep going. They will come as you become more proficient.
Become a master of yourself. You are the only person who can do this for you. Self-mastery will get you from the bottom of a pit to the top of a mountain one skill at a time.
You don’t need to master every skill at once. Choose one that will bring you the most benefit to your stage of life.
One definite benefit of choosing self-mastery is a greater sense of confidence.
8. Who should choose you every day?
“It’s really not just one choice that matters — it’s all the baby choices that will lead you to the ultimate moment, when you can make the strongest stand and commitment to yourself and the life that’s calling you.” — Oprah Winfrey
Choosing yourself is a lifelong game, not a one-time event. When you make choosing yourself the game of life, you make incremental changes. These incremental changes accumulate in the long-term.
Sometimes you might become disappointed with small changes so you go all out for a big change. However, that big change does not come without consistently choosing yourself on the small things first.
So, build a habit of choosing yourself. Start small with choosing yourself at home or in one aspect of work.
Choose one aspect of your life where you can easily show up for yourself every day. Choose yourself even when it is hard to do so on some days.
9. Compassion is not just for your friends
“A lack of intimacy is not distance from someone else; it’s disregard for yourself…If you’re looking for someone to heal and complete you — to shush that voice inside you that has always whispered, You’re not worth anything — you are wasting time. Why? Because if you don’t already know that you have worth, there’s nothing your friend, your family, or your mate can say that will completely assure you of that.” — Oprah Winfrey
The act of choosing yourself depends on whether you feel you are worth choosing and that you are worthy of the opportunities and possibilities that your choices may bring you.
But, what if you don’t feel you deserve to choose yourself? How do you get to feeling worthy enough to choose yourself and the opportunities that come your way? Feeling unworthy creates resistance to choosing yourself. Resistance prevents you from creating the changes for the life you desire.
First, acknowledge your desires, your specific needs, emotions, values and principles. Acknowledge your greater potential.
Then, work on understanding what makes you feel unworthy. Forgive yourself for your past decisions and regrets. Work on giving yourself a break for not meeting expectations that both you and your loved ones imposed on yourself. Question the invisible bar that you and others have set.
Get professional help if you need it to help you to practice self-compassion toward yourself
When you get to self-compassion you would have chosen yourself repeatedly and done the work to see yourself for who you and how you feel now.
When you can appreciate your current state, you start to look for ways to choose your dreams.
10. Results deserve a party
“I’ve been so focused on getting to the next level, I haven’t enjoyed the view from where I am. Years are a blur to me…because when you live a life in the fast lane, as I have, you end up speeding through, just moving to the next thing, doing more and more, and filling your schedule until there’s no time even to think about what you’re doing…With all that I know for sure, today I added this: It makes no difference how many peaks you reach if there was no pleasure in the climb.” — Oprah Winfrey
When you choose yourself consistently, you begin to create real outcomes. Results breed confidence and momentum. Your attitudes and perspectives of what is possible change.
You persevere and persist toward your unfulfilled goals and desires.
When you reach your goal or desire, don’t rush headlong into another goal or dream.
Instead, pause and acknowledge the new you at that instant. Acknowledge your new thoughts, feelings, actions and results. Appreciate the changes you have brought about in yourself. After all, you are worthy of them.
Also, while the journey is yours, others may have supported you. So, pause, show your gratitude and celebrate with them. After all, some of our dreams and regrets involve more time with family and friends.
Now practice choosing yourself
Even though you may be living a life not entirely of your design, remember, your life is yours to shape into one you desire.
You can take that first step to choose the life you desire: simply commit to choosing yourself. Listen to yourself for your needs and desires. Then, accept the fears you have, practice self-compassion and take the step to choose yourself in every situation.
Will you feel uncomfortable putting yourself first? Yes, you will. But, know this truth: you can choose the life you desire by choosing the discomfort. The dream you want is just beyond that discomfort.
And, when you need a little bit of motivation to help you to choose yourself, use the quotes by Oprah Winfrey in this article to guide you.