Oprah Winfrey’s biggest secret to success: How to stay self-motivated.
Oprah Winfrey recently spoke to Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and shared how despite being a billionaire, she is no different from ‘normal’ people, bringing her own bread and avocado snack hamper to trips, from an avocado orchard she owns, because for her, “buying the fruit is too expensive”!
So much for being ‘no different’ Oprah! Normal people could never even dream of owning an avocado orchard.
But if Oprah had done ‘normal’, there wouldn’t be an ‘Oprah Winfrey’, no Oprah’s orchard, and certainly no Oprah’s avocados.
She is at the pinnacle of success, fame and wealth. How did the impoverished little girl dressing in potato sacks become this 20th-century media mogul?
Through sheer drive and self-motivation. Yes, Oprah’s entire life could be a study in self-motivation. Battling countless odds, including poverty, lack of normal family life, childhood sexual abuse – had she not known how to stay self-motivated she would not have become the phenomenon that she is today.
All of us have wondered about her or another high achiever at some point. You might have wished you knew the secret to staying self-motivated like them, to be successful in your own life- from losing those extra 10 pounds to making more money this year, or just for adopting a healthier lifestyle.
So what is this superpower called “self-motivation”?
Self-motivation is the ability of the to self generate the drive to take action and achieve certain results. Often we have the ability, resources, intelligence, time and the right opportunity to achieve something, but we simply lack the motivation, the drive to do so.
You may have missed a great opportunity because you lacked the motivation to chase your dream, you may have let a relationship go sour overtime because you lacked the drive to pursue it or just that year after year, your New Year’s resolution fizzle out after the first week, because you simply lack the will power to keep going.
Now you are beginning to think that maybe you don’t have it in yourself to succeed, despite all your talent and all your desire to achieve your dreams – you are just ‘not cut out’ to succeed.
You should have given up. Maybe you have.
Not so soon.
According to researchers motivation is neither innate nor fixed. You can learn how to stay self-motivated whenever you decide to. Here are 6 steps to learn how to stay self-motivated.
- Break it down: In their paper Goal setting and task performance, E.A. Locke and others found that people who set smaller, easier, specific goals to achieve in a set time period are 90% more likely to achieve them. If you aim to increase your sales by 30% in 6 months, break that into smaller more achievable goals of going for a 5% increment per month. Additionally, plan and write down specific steps you would take to accomplish that.
- Know yourself: Don’t impose a mountainous task on yourself. Know your limits. If you have a talent for the arts, trying to suppress that and become a ‘math-magician’ just to “show the other kids at school” is setting yourself up for failure. Pick goals that complement your mental make-up and natural talents. Oprah Winfrey would never have succeeded at getting a physics Nobel if her natural talent is in the mass media field.
- Take ownership: When you take control of things it makes you feel motivated because you get credit for contributing to the progress.
- Celebrate the milestones: Just share it with someone who would appreciate and congratulate your little successes, or simply jot it down in your journal as a successfully completed milestone. On days when you feel yourself slipping back into self-defeating behavior, this could also serve you to remember how to become and stay self-motivated.
- Reward yourself: Even if you lost only two pounds of weight, take a moment to feel good and positive about it, as positive emotions about a situation help us steer ourselves in the right direction. No, don’t finish the cookie jar, that would be counter-intuitive. A reward could very well be non-tangible like getting some ‘me’-time in nature or playing your favorite ‘pep me up’ song on the way back home in your car, or just some extra time with the family, friends or pets.
- Find a mentor: You don’t have to be able to hire an expensive life coach. Oprah has never had one. All you need to do is share your journey with someone who cares. Open up about your fears and share your slip-ups and successes. Dr. Gail Matthews, Dominican’s Department of Psychology in the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, found that more than 70% of people who wrote and shared weekly updates with a supporting individual were successful in achieving their goals, compared to the remaining 35% who neither wrote down nor shared their goals.
Try one of these steps at a time and gradually you will see yourself learning how to become self-motivated.
And most importantly, believe in your ability to realize the goals of all the things you could dream of having one day and of the ones you couldn’t, like Oprah and her avocado orchard.