Every week, Oprah is setting an intention exclusively for Oprah Daily Insiders, with reflections on topics like letting go, forgiveness, coming into your own, and more.

preview for Oprah on What You Can Learn When Under Pressure

Hi, Insiders.

Happy Sunday to you. I hope you're staying cool in this glorious summer. We’ve been reading The Covenant of Water for Oprah’s Book Club since May—an extraordinary novel, one of the best reading journeys I’ve ever experienced. Trust me: Even though it’s a lot of pages, it is so worth your time. And those of us who finished have found out that this novel offers a couple of lifetimes’ worth of instructions on faith, on family, on redemption. I could go on and on. There’s one lesson in particular that struck me. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

It came up in a conversation when an audience member asked Abraham Verghese, the author, about his writing process. And he said his characters are not determined by the descriptions or the roles they might play but by the decisions they make under pressure. He says he puts every character under pressure to see if they can stand up for the whole book. And this was an aha moment for me, and I think for a lot of people, because that’s not just true in writing novels, right? It’s actually true in life. Our character is determined by the decisions we make under pressure. Say your marriage falls apart or you lose your job and suddenly you’ve got to decide what comes next. Those are the make-or-break moments that can define who we really are.

Now, we’ve all heard people say things like “Oh, I, you know, I just wasn’t myself. I was so stressed, I was overwhelmed, I was angry” when they are under pressure and do things that are not necessarily wise. But in many ways, those are the times when you’re most yourself and when your true colors show. Those colors can also be so magnificent. I know in my own life, I’ve seen someone’s best self show up when they are under intense pressure, when the walls are closing in and there’s nowhere to grow but upwards.

So this Sunday, I want you to reflect on a moment in time when you had to make a decision under pressure. How did it show or change your character when your character was put under pressure? I hope you take a moment, reflect on this, and then watch my entire conversation with Abraham Verghese by following the link below. I look forward to hearing what you all think about character under pressure. And have a beautiful week, everybody. Keep enjoying this summer. It’s going to be over soon. Can you believe it? We’re mid-July already. Go well.

Watch Oprah's Conversation with Abraham Verghese