Are you Bitter or Better?

Isn’t it amazing how changing one letter in a word can change its meaning so drastically? And just like one letter makes a different word, small changes to our outlook on life can be just as drastic.

For example, when you see others accomplishing what you’ve always wanted, what is your automatic reaction? Do you think, “must be nice,” in a sarcastic way?” Or do you offer a heartfelt smile and think “That’s really great.”

Are you generally positive about life’s ups and downs? Or are you always looking for the ‘catch’ even when things are good?

Our bitterness has a way of creeping up on us without our even noticing. Left unchecked, it can keep us stuck where we are, unable or even unwilling to move forward with goals and plans we’ve long since forgotten.

Here are some ways to turn bitter into a better life.

Explore the Past

Bitterness, at its core is about disappointment in ourselves for not being better than we think we are. But the good news is that bitterness or even jealousy can sometimes point us to what we really want in life. That makes it worth exploring.

•    What dreams have you left behind?
•    What can you do now to resurrect those dreams and bring them back into your life?

Have you always wanted to be a writer, a painter, a sculptor or a poet? Or perhaps you saw yourself in a nicer home than the one you own. Or maybe you think missed your chance to climb the corporate ladder by refusing that promotion when your children were little.

Whatever your aspirations were, it’s still possible to dust them off and bring them back to life. Maybe not in their original form. But even the essence of a dream can bring more fulfillment and happiness.

For example let’s say you wanted to be a rock star when you were a teenager. You saw yourself jamming out on the guitar in front of huge crowds. As you bring the dream into your mind, think about what it was about that dream that made it sound so awesome.

•    Was it the attention from adoring fans?
•    The money you’d make?
•    The interviews with the press?
•    The travel all over the country?

Now ask yourself why this was important to you and how you might capture the essence of that dream in the life you live now. For example, if you wanted to be a rock star because of the adoration of a crowd, could you get some of that feeling from performing at a local karaoke bar or volunteering for a local theater project? Could you volunteer to speak at a school function or take an acting class?

The point is to find an activity, no matter how small, that brings a tiny piece of that original dream to life. If you’re creative, you’ll find there are thousands of ways to get what you’ve always wanted and make your life better at the same time.

Take Stock in Where You Are

Many of us underestimate the true value of what we have. Sometimes we forget how truly hard we’ve worked to create the lives we live. If the only thoughts that go through our heads are about our failures in life, that can make us bitter, even angry at times.

It’s only natural, then, that we lose our drive to make things better. If you’re like most people, you could probably rattle off a list of your failures in 30 seconds flat.

But here’s a better assignment. List everything you can remember that you’ve accomplished in your life. Big things. Small things. It doesn’t matter. Take at least an hour to do this. And don’t be afraid to add relationships you’ve saved, difficult conversations you’ve had, even situations you’ve survived. Just make a list of everything you can think of. No one ever needs to see this list, but you.

After you finish your list, save it somewhere special. Somewhere where you can access it any time you need a boost. You might even try scanning it and saving it on your phone. And make a point to keep adding to it, each time you accomplish something new.

Give Yourself Something to Shoot For

No matter how many years we’ve lived, there are always things we can do to get better. But it’s hard to measure success without creating a plan of action. And that plan of action should be in writing.

According to a Harvard Business study only 3% of the population has taken the time to write their goals down. 14% have plans in their mind, but haven’t written down their goals. And 83% don’t have any goals at all.

These statistics explain why so many of us feel that life has passed us by.

If we don’t take the time to write down what’s important, we’ll never move forward. You write down your grocery list. You write down appointments on your calendar. Why not write down the things you want to accomplish that are most important to you?

You can turn bitter into better with a solid plan of action. The easiest way to do this is to think as far into the future as you feel comfortable. Where would you like to be in 10 years? In five years? Next year? Then work backwards to break your big goals into smaller pieces. A great book that can help with this process is WishCraft by Barbara Sher.  The most important thing is to get started today and see where those goals can take you.”

So where will you be a few weeks or months from now? Will you still be frowning about your best friend’s promotion? Sulking about your miserable lot in life? Or will you be celebrating the great life you already have and the opportunity to make it even better? Only you get to decide, but we think concentrating on the road ahead instead of dwelling on what might have been is a great place to start.