The Global Resilience Project selected Caryn Sullivan as one of its 50 thrivers. Watch as Caryn speaks with founder Emma Bell about how she went from survivor to thriver.

When Caryn Sullivan was eight years old her mother left her father for another man. With no warning or farewells they took their seven children out of the country. The years that followed were marked by deceit, divorce, disease, and death.

Fear of the unexpected was a constant companion. Nevertheless, Caryn married and established a successful legal career. After nearly a decade of working for a Fortune 500 company and an international law firm she put her professional aspirations on hold when her son was diagnosed with autism. As she grappled with autism and a series of life-threatening illnesses, Caryn became a different kind of advocate.

Consumed by life and its challenges Caryn put little thought into planning for the worst-case scenario.  So when she got “the phone call” days before Christmas 2009, she was ill prepared to become a widow and single mother of a large blended family.

As she struggled to adapt to her “new normal,” Caryn had a life-changing conversation with a priest. Though he couldn’t explain why she had experienced so much adversity, Father Johnson suggested she did have an element of control over her life. She could choose to be bitter. Or she could choose to be better.

Choosing better became Caryn’s mantra and the frequent topic of her St. Paul Pioneer Press column. Writing about others who’ve successfully faced adversity– whether by planning for the end of life or embarking on new adventures - helped Caryn to heal and became the new focus of her work.

Bitter or Better naturally formed the title of Caryn’s award-winning memoir in which she reveals her life story and shares accounts of individuals who inspired her by their words and actions.

Having a plan for major life challenges – and being prepared to pivot, if necessary – is a key element to living the choice to be better. In her second book (in progress) and in her inspirational keynotes, Caryn guides readers and audiences through her roadmap for living the choice to be better, driven by both a personal readiness plan and a personal resilience plan.

Read Caryn’s op-ed piece about the Global Resilience Project here.