By Dr. Whitney Wall
The arena was completely packed with women (and a sprinkling of men) hoping to be inspired to live their best lives in 2020. A full day workshop (9am – 4pm) led by Oprah Winfrey herself – I couldn’t wait! My husband was skeptical and tried to prepare me for disappointment saying that Oprah would not be there the whole day and would only make an appearance. He was wrong. Oprah was fully present and engaged the entire day filling the arena with humor, vulnerable honesty, and words of wisdom in a way that only Oprah Winfrey can: we laughed, we cried, and we left inspired to live our best lives.
Using a workbook given to each participant, Oprah led all 15,000 attendees in completing a baseline assessment of the different areas of our wellness (i.e., mind, body, spirit). We used the feedback from these assessments to create a personal intention for the new year and identified a word to capture our intention. Oprah shared her word for 2020: Purpose. My word was Truth. Oprah then lead us in creating an action plan for living out our intention including identifying associated healthy habits that could be implemented to support our intention. We solidified our plan with a contract to hold us accountable.
I was hoping to not only be inspired to bring my best self to 2020; but, to gather tools and inspiration to empower my clients and the KKJ community. Below is a list of my key takeaways from the event – each is covered in more detail below to inspire you to bring your best self into 2020.
All in all, the day was overwhelmingly inspiring – full of seeds planted to help make 2020 the best decade yet! If you enjoy these messages, consider checking out Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast.
LESSON 1: Where You Are Now Is Exactly Where You Should Be
Where you are now is exactly where you should be. Start living your best life NOW: not tomorrow, not after you lose 15 pounds. Not when you get that promotion you’ve been waiting on, not after you get your house organized. Now.
Quoting Lady Gaga, an interviewee from earlier in the week, Oprah spoke about radically accepting exactly who you are (wherever you are) right now on your wellness journey, emphasizing that we already have the capacity to live our best lives within us now.
Underlying this assumption is that the real work to live our best lives is in our ability to stay present in the moment when things are not perfect (and they never are). I love this lesson, as it reminds me of one my all-time favorite quotes by my favorite Psychologist Carl Rogers:
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
We will never experience our best selves by rejecting ourselves in the moment and waiting on some artificial future version of ourselves to arrive. Are you able to radically accept yourself today, as is?
LESSON 2: Stay in your own lane and in your own life flow.
Stay in your own lane and in your own life flow. Stay out of the flow of others’ lives. Oprah stressed throughout the day the importance of living a life that feels internally true. Some call this integrity: does your inner experience align with your outer behavior? Her message: we can’t be our best selves when we are striving to please others or acting as means to avoid guilt/shame. Rather, we must act out of our own truth and our own hearts at all times. She shared her struggle to people-please, and how, for so many years, shame and others’ perceptions drove her unsuccessful weight loss attempts and resulted in an unauthentic life of disconnection, sadness, and unhealthy behaviors.
This supports psychological research demonstrating that we are happier, healthier, and more productive when we develop an internal source of evaluation rather than look to external sources of evaluation.
Oprah connected this to living with intention and asked us to consider the energy that is behind all of our actions. For example, she believes that giving from a place of true kindness and authentic desire results in a different energy and outcome than giving from a place of guilt or shame. This certainly plays out in relationships when people find themselves doing things for others from a place of shame or guilt (often self-imposed) rather than kindness and authentic desire and then later feeling pangs of resentment. The “help” often ends up not being helpful for the giver or the receiver. Or, when help is given with the hope/expectation of something in return. Oprah would say the intention/energy behind the giving is what matters and will determine the outcome of the action.
World renowned speaker, Byron Katie, also stresses this message in her teaching; there are only three types of business in the world: my business, your business, and God’s business - believing that “deciding what is right for me” is our only business and ultimately the key to mental well being and feeling connected. She goes as far to say that if you ever feel lonely or disconnected ask, “whose business am I in?” Seems too simple – but so often we believe we know what’s best for other people (especially those we are close to) or we feel constrained by needing other people to stop doing this or that for us to be okay when in reality the only business we have any control over is our own: what is right for me.
LESSON 3: Hard work matters
Hard work matters. Oprah modeled this throughout the day as she clearly worked hard to bring her vision for this workshop to reality as she gave us 100% of herself throughout the day. And somehow her team was able to distribute 15,000 Panera box lunches!
She shared the motto she lives by with the audience: “luck is when opportunity meets preparation” and discussed how hard she has had to work for much of what she has attained throughout her life.
She also shared how much she dislikes exercising and discussed how she has to motivate herself to do it anyway, every day, and how even on tour she wakes up and goes to the gym in the mornings.
Often the hard work is more psychological than physical.
Oprah spoke of the time she vulnerably forgave her mother as she was dying and released herself from the burden of resentment towards her mom for not being what she needed her to be. Oprah shared her realization that if her mother had given her more of what she thought she wanted and needed throughout her life, she never would have evolved into the Oprah she is today – crediting much of her strength, compassion and overall personality to the very challenges she faced growing up. She shared how comforting her mother was on her deathbed and forgiving her was one of the hardest and most vulnerable things she has ever done; she flew back and forth to see her mother four times in one week as she worked up the courage to say what she needed to say. I forgive you. Oprah described courage: “the true meaning of courage is to be afraid – and then, with your knees knocking and your heart racing, take the leap anyway.”
We were challenged to consider what psychological work we had to do. What had we not let go from the past, who had we not forgiven, and what firmly held beliefs about life and the world were keeping us down?
What is your hard work to be done?
LESSON 4: Movement can be healing
The evidence is clear – exercise is good for you. Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and is associated with higher life expectancy. But, what can it do for our psychological well being?
Julianne Hough and her team joined Oprah’s tour to lead all 15,000 participants in her new mind-body-spirt dance/exercise movement, KINRGY (https://kinrgy.com/about). It was truly invigorating. First, we moved in self-expressed dance allowing our bodies to lead us. It felt incredibly freeing to just let go of control in this way and let our bodies take charge. Then, we were guided in a visualization exercise where we physically moved as if we were hauling the dirt from our past that was holding us back over our shoulders – releasing us from the burden of the negative energy from the past that we were still carrying with us. I couldn’t believe how much lighter I felt after physically engaging in the process of removing my stuck energy - many in the audience were unexpectedly moved to tears.
There is so much research suggesting that movement can support therapeutic work, especially when working with trauma that that can be stored in the body through our neurological system. Our bodies seem to hold onto and “remember” past traumatic experiences and movement can help to release this.
We also know that exercise alone releases brain chemicals such as endorphins that just make us feel better. Some studies have found exercise to be as effective as anti-depressants in treating some types of depressive disorders.
The mind-body connection is undeniable and participating in the movement therapy led by Julianne Hough definitely sparked my interest in KINRGY and how it could be combined with talk therapy to promote healing and wellness.
Do you incorporate body movement into your self-care routine?
Overall, the Oprah 2020 Vision tour was an inspiring and unforgettable experience. I hope to keep the inspiration going by continuing to listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast each week. We all need to be inspired and feel connected to something greater than ourselves – now more than ever.
Where do you find inspiration, connection, community? Maybe this is a part of a yourself that needs some attention. I truly believe we are better humans and better able to serve others when we ourselves feel full and cared for. Make time this week to be inspired!
If you need extra support or would like help working through any of these topis – KKJ is here for you. Reach out to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors: https://kkjpsych.com/contact/. We are now offering virtual appointments as well.