Personal Writing

What’s in your rear view mirror?

Last year, I joined a paid online group called Oprah Daily. It was low priced and included a number of things I was interested in. I read many of the emails I got throughout the year and enjoyed the quarterly magazines.

But when I got the notice to renew, I was in a pretty serious slump about the stalled building of my Spark Empire. I considered letting the subscription go. As with nearly everything related to my professional life over the summer, my first thought was, “What has this subscription done for me this year anyway? I’m no better off for having said yes to it.”

But for some reason, I felt a tiny pull to continue, or maybe I just didn’t have the energy to cancel it. Either way, I kept the subscription.

And this morning, it’s clear to me why.

I just watched an interview with Oprah and Adam Grant that hit me squarely between the eyes, or more accurately, in the center of my heart. Professor Grant has a new book out, Hidden Potential. I read his Give and Take years ago and loved it and I’m fascinated by his seemingly meteoric trajectory as a thought leader, so I was interested in this conversation.

There are dozens of nuggets to the interview, but the one I want to focus on here as we head into November, a month where people often share daily gratitude posts on social media, is this:

Oprah introduces a section in the book called Actions for Impact, which are opportunities and challenges to find your hidden potential. The one Professor Grant shares with the audience is, “Get in touch with your past self…our expectations tend to rise with our accomplishments, and we start to take for granted today things that would have made our day yesterday.”

Take a moment and read that again.

Now go back to some earlier period in your life and pull up your younger self. Remember what you desperately wanted back then. Recall the hopes and dreams you had, and, at least in my case, think about how often it felt like there was no way you would ever achieve them.

Fast forward to right now.

Would your younger self believe all that you’ve achieved? All that you’ve checked off on your long list of dreams? All the accomplishments that that stage of you never could have even imagined? All the times you’ve picked yourself up and kept going? All the times you made the hard, right decision versus the easy, wrong one?

Here’s the shocking thing: everything you just considered is not only possible for you, it’s already in the rear view mirror of your life.

You’ve already accomplished it.

When was the last time you stopped to appreciate what you have done? Marked fulfilling the hopes and dreams you were certain would change your life…and did? Who you have become?

I’m grateful this morning for the Spark this interview ignited in me. How in the world can I not feel gratitude when I look around at what my life has become? I’ve so far exceeded many of the dreams I had 30 years ago when I was 20, and I’ve (mostly) reconciled the ones that didn’t happen…yet.

As we move into November, the month of gratitude, take time to reflect on your life from this perspective. Consider your 20-year old self and her/his dreams, goals and aspirations and scroll through your life since then.

You’ve already done more with your life that you could have dreamed up all those years ago. It might not look like what you planned for, but hasn’t it been more extraordinary that you could really have ever imagined?

And then join me in reading Hidden Potential. I have a feeling it’s going to reveal so, so much, and I bet I’ll be writing more about it over these next few weeks.

Photo caption: I was 28 in 2001, the year I met Dr Marry. I was finishing up graduate school, Quinn had just started kindergarten and he and I were living in income-based housing. I was desperate to be a movie star. Everything that’s pictured happened between then and now. A blended family, becoming a SAG-AFTRA union actor, marriage, CEO of a successful nonprofit and stepping away from that job by choice, a grown child launched from the nest and flying beautifully on his own, addiction and recovery, sharing our story through Daily Dose, launching Dayna Del Val and the Discover Your Spark work, professional speaking, extraordinary travel and so much more. I could never have anticipated a single one of those things, even Quinn’s launch. I certainly expected him to leave the house some day, but to leave it for such spectacular success right out of school? Nope, I wouldn’t have predicted that.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Dan McDermott

    Thanks for the thought provoking newsletter, Dayna. It made me think of an exercise I did a few years ago as part of a training program. We drew a life timeline from birth to today and noted accomplishments and joyous moments, along with some of life’s inevitable losses. But the focus was on how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for. Our goals may recalibrate over time, but we get to stand on the life’s winner podium more often than we realize.

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