How to Channel Your Inner Oprah

Oprah. Synonymous with someone who has climbed high out of poverty and abuse to become one of the world's most iconic women. The first black billionaire in the world, she has an amazing record of achievements that set her apart from many and yet, the allure of Oprah is that she remains very much a part of all people because her feet haven't left the ground, and her heart remains firmly attuned to what we feel and strive for in life.

For Oprah, people matter. Her chemistry with audiences is renowned; she genuinely connects with people from all walks of life because her interest in people's lives is sincere. Encouraging everyone to "live their best life", along with never forgetting her own cultural roots, Oprah continues to give back to many and seeks to make lives around her better as an innate part of her lifestyle. As a role model or a source of inspiration, Oprah is a full package of good ideals, strength over adversity, and imperfections turned into benefits. If you'd like to channel your inner Oprah, here are some suggestions.


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    Live a balanced life. Oprah realized in her twenties that balance was essential to "refilling her tank" or she couldn't be fully available to others.[1] Energy seems to spring forth endlessly until one day, you wake up and realize you've been giving 110 percent to everyone else but neglecting yourself. This endless energy does not need to fade throughout life but maintaining it requires taking a balanced approach to your life, to ensure that you give time to your own needs as much as everyone else's. Women, in particular, tend to put others first in their roles as mothers, wives, daughters, workers, volunteers, and more. Yet, the importance of taking time out for oneself is not selfish; rather, it is the healthiest way to ensure that you can keep giving to others.
    • Stop doing everything when you're feeling overwhelmed. Continuing to try to achieve when your reserves are depleted will bring on burn-out and physical illness.
      • Watch and read about Oprah, but not too much. (Same goes for other celebrities.) You'll need time and mental capacity to do all the great things she inspires you to do!
    • Oprah takes off Sundays as the day all for herself. She uses it as a day to do nothing but renew spiritually, and to give herself time to "be".[2] Follow her example and set aside some time every week that's just for your own recharging.
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    Follow your passion. Oprah is a living example of someone who absolutely loves her work because she's pursuing something she is good at and that she knows is benefiting the world. She made a choice to do something that makes the most of her talents and her ability to connect with people. But you don't have to make your career your "baby", as Oprah admits she has done. Whatever it is you're doing in life, be it homemaking, volunteering, coaching, teaching others, to being a salaried employee or running your own business, you can follow your passion and do it to your very best, loving both the wonderful moments and learning from and growing through the hardships.
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    Be a leader. In all that you do, shine by example, even if you don't think you're "leading" because chances are, you're leading because you're inspiring others. As a leader, Oprah knows how to inspire people – she follows her vision clearly, and works out how to ensure that her vision appeals to a large group of followers.[3] Oprah relies on "team, vision, and values" according to Srini Pillay, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University.[4] This means that she combines the strengths of her team with the strength of her vision and the unfailing faith in her values.
    • Take a leaf from Oprah's book and always recognize the strengths in others around you. Whether or not you're in management or leading people (bearing in mind that being responsible for a household or team morale is management), you can always do your very best to draw out the best in other people by supporting them, and gently guiding them to rely most on their strengths. Oprah is so successful precisely because she didn't fear the talents and abilities in others; quite the opposite, her gift for seeing other people's strengths has always allowed her to benefit from relying on those strengths to form a valuable part of her team, building strong teams because she cares about and fosters the good in others. Keep in mind that when others about you succeed, so do you, especially when your united front helps your company, your household, your local school committee, etc., achieve what you all ultimately want from the situation.
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    • Find good mentors. Oprah has had the strength and honesty to know when she needs others to draw out her own strengths. Throughout her life she has relied on good mentors to help her be her best, people such as Bob Greene who helped her stick with her running program that resulted in her running marathons and improving her strength and weight issues. Know when you're better off reaching out and getting encouragement and support from others. This isn't weakness; it's the ultimate in strength when you accept your limitations. Relying on good mentors makes you a stronger person, worker, manager, and ultimately, leader.
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    • Don't let go of your ambition or your vision. Achieving what you want takes guts and courage because there will always be naysayers, and people who won't support you. There will be people who directly try to undermine your efforts, so you need to keep your focus on your vision and stay ambitious. For the times when you feel this sense of purpose slipping, take time to step back and revisit your vision in order to rejuvenate your sense of purpose.
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    Be generous. Generous by nature, Oprah regularly shares her achievements with others. For example, since winning a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and her seventh Emmy, Oprah hasn't submitted her work for the award, presumably to help ensure that more entertainers in the industry have an opportunity to gain such awards.[5] Oprah regularly helps out causes, friends, and people she believes in by having them appear on her show, helping many people's businesses and careers to new heights; as well, Oprah funded the rebuilding of 300 homes in New Orleans and[6] opened a school in South Africa (The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls) with the hope of giving many South African girls better life opportunities.
    • Give to the best of your ability. Few of us have the wealth of Oprah but being generous isn't about materialism. It is about being able to give back in the ways that you can afford, whether it be money, volunteering talent and resources, teaching someone something new, or taking care of someone's kids for an afternoon. Generosity is a mindset of appreciating what you do have and of being an engaged part of the greater human community.
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    • Listen to others. Generosity isn't only about giving resources, skills, and talent. It's also about giving of your time, the most precious resource in today's world. Showing that you truly care about another person requires good listening skills, something Oprah demonstrates by listening to her audience and incorporating their wishes into her shows. When you truly listen to other people, your generosity is sincere and extensive.
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    Be a force for love. The whole Oprah phenomenon began because Oprah didn't like seeing hate messages spread on television.[7] Turn around the fear, anxiety and anger that leads to gossip, rumor-mongering, and uncomplimentary conversations about other people. Stand up for what you believe is right by resisting the urge to speak ill of others. Your example will be clear to others when they find that they cannot move you to be a gossiper or force of negativity and you'll gain much respect.
    • If you do succumb to being less than nice sometimes, don't sweat it. Simply revise why you fell into gossip-mongering, and promise yourself to do better from this point on. It can take time to break an old habit and the more that you desist from such negative talk, the more at peace you'll feel.
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    Enjoy reading. Oprah's Book Club is worldwide famous and with good reason; she has encouraged reading with vigor! Read widely and learn as much as you can from both fiction and non-fiction; other people's written perspectives of life serve as an important part of broadening your knowledge and understanding of the world you live in.
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    Respect your body and make peace with it. Oprah has long had issues with managing her weight but she has taken it in her stride and over the years, has come to terms with it. The ever-present idolization of stick-thin "beauty" has created a raft of unrealistic assumptions about what being beautiful (and, by implication, acceptable) looks like. The unfortunate diet battles cause many people to downgrade their own beauty and to see faults where there are none, focused intently on manipulating their bodies into unachievable images. Oprah realized that the key to being a healthy weight is to respect oneself and to treat oneself as well as you treat others. While it may seem a simple realization, it's acknowledge more in the breach than the observance, making it essential that you learn to love your body as it is.
    • Know your healthy weight range. This differs from the idealized weight images shown in movies and on catwalks. Aim to stay within this range. Eat healthily, drink lots of water, and keep alcohol and treats as consumables to be enjoyed in moderation. Avoid dieting by treating healthy eating as your lifestyle.
    • Oprah sees weight gains as a spiritual issue. She has said that "if you use food to subjugate your feelings your missteps are obvious; they're manifested on your thighs."[8] This means that it is important to face the issues of fear and anxiety underlying urges to eat poorly and to quit the negative self-talk.
    • Be patient if you are trying to change your weight. It takes time to lose or gain weight, and accept that it's about reshaping your body and changing your activities, not simply changing eating habits.
    • Always make time for exercise. This is body respect at its best and even if you think you don't have time, squeeze time in. Run, jog, swim, dance, do housework to music, do weights while waiting for the kettle to boil.
    • Support public role models who present a healthy weight. Write to editors and producers and ask them for more, more, more of normal sized people in magazines, TV shows, and other media. It is starting to happen with more frequency, so don't forget to praise the media stories that do show real people.
    • Make nutritional health a top priority in your life. Stay informed about nutritional needs, get advice from your doctor, and be sure that your nutritional requirements are being met through different stages of your life.
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    Use failure to take you to greater heights. Oprah has faced many difficult experiences in her life but she has taken these and used them as lessons rather than allowing them to shape her into someone bitter, vulnerable, or resentful. In fact, Oprah would not have known that her talent even lay in being a talk show host if she hadn't failed at being a newsreader and being "demoted" back in the 1970s to a morning talk show.[9] Every knock-back in life is a lesson in changing your approach. Ask yourself "What can I learn from this failure?". Use that lesson to inform your future path. Oprah is a shining example of someone who realized that the important thing is not to keep moving on until you know and understand what that lesson is, otherwise you'll be bound to repeat it.

    • Do your best, no matter how hard things seem right now. Doing what you can to make things work better in your life now will set up tomorrow to be a much better day, with a more positive outlook.
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    • Change what you're doing when it doesn't work. Oprah has often reinvented herself when she has realized what doesn't work, because she forgives herself her imperfections and instead strives to keep evolving from the lessons learned.[10] Not everything needs to be tried again and again; some things are best let go of for good. Bear in mind that tenacity doesn't mean blind stubbornness.
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    • Don't be afraid to stand up for what is right. When Oprah was disappointed by James Frey's fabrications in the book A Million Little Lies, Oprah didn't go into hiding. Instead, she confronted James Frey head on and scolded him for conning her and her audience. However, be careful not to adopt an attitude of being "holier-than-thou" when standing up for yourself. Ask the right questions in a compassionate and considered way rather than responding with outrage, and stay open-minded about the responses.
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    Listen to your spirit. Whatever your personal beliefs, faith is an important aspect of living a whole and guided life. This doesn't have to be a religious faith but it does need to be something that gives you purpose, hope, and connection to both other people and the greater purpose of life. Spend time reflecting on your spirituality and your sense of purpose in life; set aside time at least once a week to connect to your spirituality.
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    Be grateful. Oprah understands the value of gratitude and says that concentrating on what we don't have simply makes us unhappy because that type of focus leads us to feel that we'll never have enough.[11] Avoid taking life and situations for granted; remind yourself regularly about the good in your life, and the things to be grateful for.
    • Keep a gratitude journal to document your thoughts in a concrete way.
    • Give back. According to Oprah, this is the only true way to move forward.[12] Moreover, Oprah makes it clear that a lifetime of giving makes this about being a process, not a once-off; make giving a continuous part of your life and remember that what you give reflects how you value others and what you care about.
    • Take care not to use gratitude as an excuse to abdicate responsibility. Being grateful for a substandard situation that you can change with effort and resilience can sometimes cause you to stagnate. Don't count your blessings at the expense of the greater person you could be. Use gratitude to stop you yearning for the other person's toys but don't allow it to prevent you from living your own life to its fullest extent.
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    "Live your best life". This is Oprah's inspirational catchphrase and by it she means that everyone has the opportunity and the responsibility to make the most of our unique talents, abilities, and healthy energies. It is precisely because Oprah wasn't born with ready-made opportunities laid out before her that she represents the ultimate icon for being able to rise above the challenges and hardships that life lays before us. Making excuses and blaming others or circumstances can only take you so far (not very far at all). Ultimately, it's about drawing on your inner reserves, finding and using your real strengths, and making the most of what you do have rather than worrying about what's missing or what harmed you in the past.
    • Be real and be open to the possibilities. Oprah doesn't mind asking the obvious questions that are on everyone else's minds but they're all too afraid to say for fear of looking stupid. She has a sense of humor and resilience that keeps her grounded.
    • In a world where megalomania takes hold of many in power, Oprah has managed to keep the focus real and to always make use of her role to find the good in people and to help many other people be the best they can be. Her example demonstrates that being ethical, caring, compassionate, optimistic, and ready to connect with people will help you to live your best life.


  • Spread your wealth. Oprah grew wealthy by sharing and she keeps on giving. By helping others, you create connections and start the flow of wealth among others. In turn, they remember you and continue sharing back and forth with contacts, resources, connections, and more.
  • Did you know that within 15 minutes of starting her Twitter account, Oprah had 76,000 followers? She now has over 4.5 million followers even though the account mainly updates only what's coming up next on her show![13]


  • While there is a place for nurturing your hurt self, past hurts should not form your reason for living a half life. Deal with hurts and pain through the support of good people, through taking time to reflect and rejuvenate your spirit and by avoiding taking on board the negative or constraining messages that many other people try to overlay on others as a way of coping themselves. You are a unique entity, as worthy and deserving as everyone else around you. Heal rather than fester.

Sources and Citations

  • Sharon Krum, Oprah's five life lessons, p. 31, Australian Women's Weekly, December 2010 – research source
  1. The Oprah Magazine, Live Your Best Life, p. 54, (2005), ISBN 0-8487-3105-0
  2. The Oprah Magazine, Live Your Best Life, p. 55, (2005), ISBN 0-8487-3105-0
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