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Working as a therapist and career coach over these past eight years, I’ve seen what life can do to people.  I’ve observed deep trauma and crisis, such as when a beloved spouse abandons his/her family for another lover, exclaiming to the marital partner of 20 years, “I’m sorry, but I never loved you.”

I’ve seen drug addiction and alcoholism ruin people’s futures.  I’ve witnessed cruelty, obsession, abuse, and despair, and watched uncontrolled midlife crisis wreak havoc on families.  And I’ve watched these harsh economic times bring men and women to their knees.

All through it, I’ve seen people broken by their despair, as well as those who have risen above – who’ve become better, not bitter.

How do some people turn their crises into fuel for positive change, while others become angry, resentful, victimized, and hopeless – beaten by their challenges?

There are 10 traits I’ve observed in those who find a way to be better, not bitter, after tribulation and crisis.  These 10 traits are:

1.   They remain accountable.  They realize their part in what’s happened to them, and don’t play the victim game.

2.   They are optimistic.  Despite what’s happened, they hold tight to a hope for a brighter future.

3.  They are well-boundaried. They know where they begin, and others end.  They keep compassion alive in their hearts, despite what’s happening around them, and they tune out the negativity, gossip and cruel judgments others throw at them.

4.   They ask for help. They reach out for support when they need it, and they get it.

5.   They find lessons in their challenges. They seek to learn and grow from all their experiences, and refuse to be broken by them.

6.   They avoid self-hatred and self-reproach.  They know they’ve made some big mistakes – and admit them full out — but find a way to be self-accepting and forgiving through it all.

7.   They revise their negative behaviors. They understand that repeating the same negative behaviors and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.  They change their ways.

8. They let go of the need to control. They have an ability to bend and be flexible, and go with the flow of what life gives them.  They don’t break themselves against what comes their way.

9. They see a bigger picture than what is before them. Despite how bleak the moment may appear, they have a deep sense of connection to the world and to life, and they sense that there’s a bigger picture unfolding than what meets the eye.

10. They have the courage to embrace change. As scary as change can be, they embrace it and accept that it is within change that expansion — and a richer, more satisfying life — lies.

If you’ve faced tremendous challenges these past several  years but want to be better, not bitter, take a look at these traits, and examine the degree to which these match your behaviors.  The closer you come to embracing these traits, the freer you’ll be from the sadness, regret, and limitations of your past.  You’ll let go of what isn’t working, and you’ll co-create a new future that is more joyful and rewarding than you ever imagined.

Are you stuck in bitter, or flowing towards “better?”

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