Just before Oprah Winfrey launched her own show, she was asked what she would do if her endeavor failed. “I think we are defined by the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat other people,” she said. “It would be wonderful to be acclaimed as this talk show host who’s made it, but if that doesn’t happen there are other important things in my life.”
Winfrey’s show certainly did more than “make it.” It became the highest-rated daytime talk show in American television. In addition, Winfrey created a magazine and her OWN network. According to Forbes, Winfrey’s net worth is 2.8 billion. Prior to these successes, an employer told her that she was simply “unfit for television news.”
Winfrey represents a kind of steadfast ambition, an inner calm, rooted in the worth she knew she had despite others’ support or criticism.
Albert Einstein stated that, “A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.”
A Biblical proverb from Paul instructs, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands…so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
These statements are intriguing because they starkly contrast with the vision of success presented to us today. We’re taught that rather than an action being defined by its impact, a success or failure is only as great as the number of witnesses. This desire for outside recognition leaves us in a continuous loop of frustration rather than presenting us with a sense of accomplishment. It steals energy away from us fully pursuing our goals.
In this atmosphere, we look frantically from left to right. We can brag and we can shout. We share others’ secrets and weigh in on breakups and engagements in an attempt to tear down and shift focus from our shortcomings. This kind of life can be exhausting, manipulative and cutthroat. It thwarts relationships we desire and the true achievement we long for.
The “quiet life” needn’t be silent or solitary; it simply finds contentment regardless of the noise around it. Rather than seeking validation, a modest person looks inward to cultivate growth. This stance eliminates the need to highlight others’ scandals and slip-ups. It takes focus away from competition with others, and calls us to think about the merit of our own actions. An increase in intentionality leads to both inward peace and outward progress.
Here are some ways to lead such a life:
1. Foster genuine and pure curiosity.
Our brains were designed to ponder, yet they are often pandered to instead. Take a step back from the media you are consuming: What’s the essence of what you’re ruminating on? Look for something to learn that expands your mind.
This desire for outside recognition leaves us in a continuous loop of frustration rather than presenting us with a sense of accomplishment. It steals energy away from us fully pursuing our goals.
2. Eliminate unnecessary talk.
Gossip goes beyond speaking poorly about another person. It could mean sharing personal information we were told in confidence. Are you discussing a co-worker’s childhood to avoid drawing attention to a misstep you made? Avoid using gossip as a distraction tactic or tearing down innocent people for your gain.
3. Seek purpose outside of validation.
Are bravado and volume truly more important than integrity? Are you focused more on how others’ are performing than actually learning your own craft? When you celebrate the process of your own growth, you will have more energy to devote to it.
What do you think? What does a “quiet life” mean to you and how do you cultivate it?
Images via Beth Cath