In Oprah’s recent commencement speech at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, she shared the secret to her success: being true to herself and finding a way to use her gifts to make a difference. Setting your sights on creating a meaningful life instead of making a lot of money is a better long term plan if you want to be happy.

How Women Thrive

McKinsey & Company did a study on what it takes to have talented women thrive — to become more self-confident and effective business leaders. Through extensive research with women leaders (some who managed 10,000, some who managed five people), they distilled five broad and interrelated dimensions or capabilities that, in combination, generate high levels of professional performance and life satisfaction (fulfillment). Of all the dimensions (managing energy, positive framing, connecting, engaging and meaning), they found that ‘meaning’ (to love what you do and feel that it matters) contributes to life satisfaction five times more than any of the other dimensions.

Why is meaning important for leaders? Studies show a strong correlation between finding meaning and greater job satisfaction, higher productivity, lower turnover, and increased loyalty.1 The benefits also include feelings of transcendence—in other words, contributing to something bigger than yourself generates a deeper sense of meaning, thereby creating a virtuous cycle.

The Upside of Staying True to Yourself

As Oprah said, “I’ve made a living, I’ve made a life – I’ve made a fortune, really – from being true to myself. If I can leave you with any message today: The biggest reward is not financial benefits, though it’s really good, you can get a lot of great shoes! Those of you who have a lot of shoes know having a closet full of shoes doesn’t fill up your life. Living a life of substance can. Substance through your service.”

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