When Oprah Winfrey spoke about leading a spiritual life at Skidmore College's 106th commencement ceremony on Saturday, she wasn't referring to religion. Rather, the former talk show host, entrepreneur, actress, and philanthropist receiving an honorary doctorate of letters by the liberal arts school, urged the class of 2017 to channel something more basic: cultivate a clear vision of who you are and what moves you.
Train Yourself to Listen to Your Instincts
Everyone has an inner voice and intuition, said Winfrey, and it is critical to locate it, then listen.
"You already know the truth," Winfrey said. "Being able to make the right choice based on what is the truth of you, is the dream and prayer I hold for you today."
Winfrey recollected her earliest professional moment, back in the early 1980's, when she wanted to leave Baltimore for Chicago in pursuit of starting her own TV show. She was met with doubts at every turn, but was able to persevere, eventually leading her to debut The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, which would go on to run for 25 years.
"I said, 'I'm going to bet on myself.' Because the truth of me, the inner voice, that I was allowed to feel, said 'take the risk, bet on yourself,'" she said.
Practice Stating Your Intention
Early into her tenure as a talk show host, Winfrey made a conscious decision to establish a personal mission of bringing "service" to her viewers. Every time she had a guest, she made sure to structure the show with the aim to inspire action.
One particular guest, in 1988, helped formalize that. When a mother, whose 16-year-old daughter was murdered by the teenager's boyfriend, agreed to come on the show, Winfrey sat down with her in the green room. She asked what the woman wanted to accomplish by coming on the show. Her response: telling her daughter's story. This moment, Oprah told the grads, helped shape Oprah's approach of never remaining silent in the face of a problem.
"Since that time, I don't make a decision without getting still, checking in with my inner truth, with what is the real reason I'm doing anything," she said.
A Grateful Mindset Requires Daily Ritual
Winfrey reminded the graduates that no matter the scale of adversity they'll face, they already have the tools to take on the world. She shared a recent conversation she had with Sheryl Sandberg about her new book Option B, in which the Facebook COO writes about resilience in the face of her husband's sudden death. Winfrey said it reaffirmed her belief in the effectiveness of daily practice. Every day, Winfrey told the graduates, write down five things you are thankful for. Anyone, she says, can find at least 17 seconds in their busy life to reflect.
"It is your job to know the truth, and let that truth set you free," said Winfrey, ever the talk show guru.