“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Lethabo-Thabo Royds who shares how gratitude has affected her journey through life.

Gratitude. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” This is a concept many of us understand well; many of our parents and grandparents always reminded us to be grateful for what we have and to show gratitude when someone does something thoughtful for us.

I certainly grew up that way and I have always thought I understood the power of gratitude; it is a way of showing those around you that you value and appreciate what they have done for you. This way of thinking about gratitude relates to you showing gratitude towards others based on particular instances. What about living with gratitude? What about living with the feeling of gratitude in your heart, all the time? It is this line of thinking, a quote from Oprah, and a Facebook challenge that helped change the way I am moving through life.

Let me start at the beginning. It was quote I read by Oprah that got me started on this journey. I am a huge fan of Oprah; she grew up in rural Mississippi under some terribly difficult conditions, and she managed to overcome these struggles to become, arguably, the most successful television talk show host in history. She did this at a time and in a country where being black and female were not the successful people profiled on television. She has become hugely successful and she uses this success to help change lives. A local example is her school the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Gauteng. She was also good friends with the inspiring Dr Maya Angelou, so that says something.

Oprah once said “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” After reading this quote a few times, and at various points in my life, it got me thinking about living with more gratitude.

Some time ago there was a gratitude challenge on Facebook where friends of yours would spend a certain number of days (it seemed to vary from challenge to challenge) being grateful for a few things each day. You would have to post about what you were grateful for that day and challenge a different friend to join you. You had to do this each day and challenge a new friend each time. In this way, you would live with gratitude and pay it forward. A good friend of mine challenged me and I gladly joined.

In doing this challenge, I decided that I would look carefully at what I was grateful for; I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I re-read the Oprah quote not long after doing the challenge and I realised that I really understood what she meant. Somehow, by looking closely at each day and by expressing my gratitude each day I realised how much I had and how much good there was in my life.

I still try to express my gratitude. I try to take some time each day to reflect on what happened and what I am grateful for. I express gratitude for my supportive family, for the fact that I am alive, for being able to live the life I choose, and so much more.

It’s amazing how we can fixate on the things in our lives that aren’t going well with such dedication but we can’t do the same for the things that are going well. It is this mindset that sometimes causes us to spiral. I’m not saying this is an easy way to travel through the journey of life because some days are incredibly hard and I struggle to find things to be grateful for. It is on these days that I begin by being grateful for my incredible family, for being alive, for having a roof over my head, and many other things. In going through the list, I realise that I may have had one hard day (or a hard few months) but it would have been harder without the things for which I am grateful. I now also repeat things each day because I’m grateful, each day, to have them.

I was in Ballito for a few days at the end of April and sitting on the beach looking out at the sea afforded me a great opportunity to reflect, be grateful, and relax. I spent many a day – and evening – thinking about all that I am grateful for and how I can show that gratitude in how I live my life. (I took the pic at the top of this page during one of these gratitude sessions.)

The aforementioned “quality of being thankful” is how I try to live each day; looking for the things I can be thankful for and trying to keep that feeling with me every day.

Here is Oprah, in one of her Life Classes, speaking about gratitude. There are a number of these videos on her channel and many others, if you would like to hear more from her about gratitude. She also shares clips on her website.