February 02, 2023 by John Andrew Williams
Have you ever searched for a guiding principle to guide you throughout your day, your year, your life? I found one, and it comes from Oprah, and it's an honor to share with you and take a deep dive into the meaning behind her words. This clip comes from a commencement speech she gave in Spelman College in 2012.
I highly recommend watching the whole clip.
Oprah: “And what do I want? I don't want to just be successful in the world. I don't want to just make a mark or have a legacy. The answer to that question for me is I want to fulfill the highest, truest expression of myself as a human being. I want to fulfill the promise that the creator dreamed when he dreamed the cells that made up me.”
Ah, it's so good. It's so good. She lays out common goals for people to strive for: success, leaving a legacy, making a mark.
What she's pointing to is at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The actualization of self. The realization of one's potential, the self-fulfillment, personal growth, and peak experiences.
When we strive for those things, material and legacy success follows. And the deep brilliance of this idea is that she's pointing to a process, something that each of us can achieve right here, right now. And it's something that we can carry with us for decades, yet achieve in the next minute, hour, or day.
And, in addition, it's something that we can completely control. It doesn't rely on any outside conditions for you to be successful. Fulfilling your truest highest expression of self completely relies on you and only you.
So with that, let's coach it and break down the etymology of the words and consider a few coaching questions designed to spark meaningful insights.
First, the keyword word “express”, “expression”, in Latin “exprimere”. It means literally "ex", meaning out of, and "presses" meaning to press - that which is expressed is pressed out of us. It's an inward-out process. It's a sharing of your unique gifts, your talents, your feelings, making a contribution to this world and to your fellow human beings.
So the first set of questions to consider is:
What is yearning to be expressed through you?
What do you want to express to the world?
When do you know you are in flow, putting words on a page or engaging in the most meaningful aspects of your life?
Where do you know that you are expressing that which you were meant to be expressing, that which you feel like you were born to express in this life?
Now, those are a number of questions, and if you need them again, I'll give- I'll pause the video for a couple seconds for you to consider your response to one of those. And again, the question, the key question is, what is yearning to be expressed through you?
I'll pause a couple seconds, give you time to pause this video. Perhaps write down your answer in the comments below, your journal, your planner.
For those of you who did it, congratulations on being an excellent seeker of your expression. And for those of you who just want to enjoy the show, let's get to the next word. And that word is “highest”. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, meaning “to lift”.
And this spatial expression and awareness of these words is exquisite. First "expression" refers to an inward-out kind of process, and then "highest" brings it from a center to higher. The movement is fantastic, and I love listening to speakers whose words create ideas that move in space.
And so this next question is: What expression lifts you, and those around you, up?
I'll give you a couple seconds to pause the video and consider your answer, perhaps writing it in the comments, or your journal or planner.
And for those of you who wrote it down, congratulations on bringing tangibility to your ideas. And for those of you who just want to enjoy the show, let's look at our final word, "truest".
The word "true" comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, meaning "faithful", "fides" in Latin. What is true matches with what is real. Philosophic and scientific questions aside about the nature of reality, let's just assume that we all occupy a shared version of reality, and what is real refers to dry facts, whether something exists or doesn't exist. Truth as narrative. Truth is faithful to reality while also adding meaning.
So the next question is: What is at the core of the story that you tell yourself about yourself that is real, that is accurate?
In the coaching world, so much value comes from being able to process your feelings, your emotions, your thoughts out loud, and to clarify the narratives that you have about yourself, and the circumstances that you find yourself in. And when you get to the core of that story, you start to become the author, the authority in your own life.
And so again, the question is, what is your truth? What is at the core of the story you tell yourself about yourself? Again, I'll give you a couple seconds to pause the video and write down your thoughts.
And for those of you who did it, congratulations on exploring your narrative. And for those of you who just want to enjoy the show, thank you all for watching and engaging.
I hope to see you soon with some more inspiring content, and in the meantime for you to explore your truest, highest expression of self. To ask yourself many times throughout these next days, these weeks, these months, what is the truest, highest expression of myself right here, right now?
Thank you all. I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day, and I hope to see you soon.
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PO Box 2021
Hood River, Oregon 97031