May 8, 2012

By Tilla Brook –

This week I had the pleasure of attending a one day training day for coaches from across Europe who were trained by The Coaches Training Institute. This is a twice yearly event led and run from within the community. At each event a group of volunteers step forward and agree to design and lead the following year’s event. It is a perfect example of how communities can lead themselves. I love the energy and commitment of this tribe.

The event organisers use their own networks and enthusiasms to pull together a programme around a theme. This event had the theme Spice It up! And spicy it was. During the morning Susanna Southgate, introduced us to some of her work entitled heart work Not Hard Work. She spoke passionately about the ease with which we can communicate, connect and influence when we listen to and use the energy of our hearts. We began by looking inside ourselves to find one thing, just one, but we had been grateful for in that morning.

Mine was the joy that I had experienced from seeing my niece. When I go to London I stay with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece Qiu Qiu. So, the evening before I had been surrounded by her wonderful nine year old energy, playing the piano, feeding her guinea pigs, dancing and finally reading her story at bedtime.

Qiu Qiu is a gift. As a tiny baby of 10 days she was left outside a public building in Xiushui, a city in southern China. A year later she was adopted into our family. It’s not always been easy for her, or her parents. One of the things that helps is scrupulous honesty about who she is, where she comes from and how she came to be a part of this family.

Two weeks ago she returned to the town of her birth for the first time and saw the exact place in which she was left. She proudly showed me the photographs of her standing now on that spot, called her “finding place”. She is a gift. That spot on a pavement is precious. So, my niece is who I was thinking about when Susanna asked us to identify just one thing that we were grateful for.

She then asked us to find one other person in the room with whom to share our moment of gratitude, and to listen to with open hearts. I had the joy of watching another person taking in my story. A perfect moment. We then moved on to speak and to hear more of the things that we are grateful for. The energy in the room was like liquid gold, pure and warm.

On the train back to Leeds that evening I was making notes about my experience and about this exercise in particular. I found myself writing a list of many of the things that I had been grateful for during this day. It was a lovely exercise to complete because it brought back moments from my day, people who I had met, my surroundings, the food I had eaten, the tubes and trains that had turned up on time and with empty seats for me to sit in.

This morning I have been to visit a friend and her partner in their new home. I have witnessed their joy at their first proper place together, with a garden, space to grow into and rooms to be decorated and re-carpeted over time. As in so many houses the carpets are less than pleasing to the eye! And yet they are carpets, something indeed to be grateful for.

This exercise, to notice and name the things that we are grateful for, is something that I often do as I move through my day. Yet I rarely pause to write down and deeply experience my gratitude. I encourage you to try it now. It is a simple and quick exercise, yet filled with joy and meaning. And especially I encourage you to use it when you are feeling sad, lonely, cold wet and tired, frustrated, angry, or at any time when you are feeling less than chirpy.

The Exercise

Simply write down 10 things that you are grateful for. If you find it hard to identify anything in that moment think about the clothes you are wearing, the place you are sitting, the pen in your hand, the food you have eaten and all the people who contributed to bringing those things into your life. When you have your 10 things, write another 10, then another. It’s possible to fill a whole page of gratitude in just a few minutes. Time well spent.

We are all surrounded by gifts in every moment of every day. Even the seemingly endless rain and cold weather of this last month has its gifts. My tulips are still in flower in the garden and there are few slugs in evidence. And I certainly don’t need to water any of my young plants! Enjoy this month of May, whatever the weather, look around you and be deeply grateful for what you have, rather than searching for what you do not have. True happiness lies in gratitude.

About the Author

Tilla is a passionate transition coach who specialises in helping women and teams who yearn for more fulfilment to cross life’s bridges and create their world as they want it to be. You can read her blog at and visit her website at