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The Life-Altering Lesson Ava DuVernay Learned By Talking With Oprah

The director says it sparked a "major shift" in how she handles any obstacle.

Every time Ava DuVernay speaks to Oprah Winfrey, the director says she experiences an aha moment in one form or another from Oprah's various "Oprah-isms." But one piece of advice in particular, DuVernay says, has been life-changing.

During one conversation, DuVernay opened up about a problem she was having and expressed her frustration by asking the question so many of us have asked when we're facing one of life's many challenges. 

"I said something like, 'Why is this happening to me?'" DuVernay recalls. "[Oprah] said, 'This is not happening to you. It is happening for you.'"

The impact of this simple statement was profound. "It really changed the way I think about every, every, every single thing," DuVernay says.

A conversation between Oprah and Ava DuVernay taught the director that "life is unfolding in the way that it is supposed to b
A conversation between Oprah and Ava DuVernay taught the director that "life is unfolding in the way that it is supposed to be going, and it's all working for your good -- even when it feels like a setback."

No moment is too small or to mundane to apply this nuanced perspective, she adds.

"In traffic, white-knuckling it, trying to get to the meeting: 'Why is there traffic on the way??' Well, it's not happening to me; it's happening for me. Because you need to slow down and you need to take a minute to prepare for where you're going to go," DuVernay says.

As this message was shared with her, DuVernay wants to share it with others, especially young women just beginning their careers.

"Thinking of it in a [sense] that your life is unfolding in the way that it is supposed to be going, and it's all working for your good -- even when it feels like a setback -- is a major shift," DuVernay says. "There is a flow to this that is beyond what you can control." 

She continues, "If you focus on your work and what feels good to your heart, it will unfold in the way it should."

Celebrate the achievements of African-American women such as DuVernay at this year's Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards, airing Saturday, Feb. 27, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

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