OWN
02/20/2015 11:51 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Elizabeth Gilbert Turned An Awful Day Around In Just A Few Minutes (VIDEO)

Before she embarked on the grand "Eat, Pray, Love" journey that would become her best-selling memoir, author Elizabeth Gilbert was unhappy, broke and stuck in a messy divorce proceeding. She wanted to go on a huge, life-changing quest to turn it all around, but the reality was that she didn't yet have the finances or the freedom to make it happen.

Rather than get bogged down by bad days, Gilbert decided to focus on smaller, more realistic quests that could still help lift her out of a funk.

"Sometimes you have to shape the quest to the reality of your life," she explains in the above video from "Super Soul Sunday." "I made myself have these mini quests."

Every day, Gilbert would challenge herself to complete a small task, whether it was to create a piece of art or to consciously identify something beautiful in the world. Sending herself on these mini quests didn't take a herculean effort, but it did yield big results -- and there's one mini quest in particular that Gilbert says she'll never forget.

"I was at the post office, coming home from divorce court... [I was] full of despair, full of resentment, full of frustration. All I wanted to do was go home and cry," Gilbert says. "Somehow, this voice in the post office came to me and said, 'You need to aim a little higher than all I want to do is go home and cry.'"

That's when Gilbert created her most memorable mini quest. "I didn't let myself leave the post office until I had my mini quest. The mini quest was... 'You must go out in this world today and you must find something beautiful in New York City, a city you don't even want to be in right now, [a city] that you feel stuck in and trapped,'" she says.

Armed with her quest, Gilbert marched toward the doors with a begrudging sense of determination.

"I threw open the doors of the post office, and there walking right in front of me down Seventh Avenue were five elephants. Five elephants! Right there!" Gilbert says. "It took me two steps out of the post office before I realized that quest."

The elephants were there because the circus was on town, but on that particular day, Gilbert says they had a different purpose.

"They were my elephants," she says. "Because I made the challenge to myself to go find something magnificent."

Also in the interview: Gilbert shares the small steps anyone can take to make a larger "Eat, Pray, Love" quest happen for themselves.

"Super Soul Sunday" airs Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN. You can also stream the program live during that time on Oprah.com/supersoulsunday, Facebook.com/owntv or Facebook.com/supersoulsunday.

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