Image by: NY Times
Life is never perfect. We all live with some form of option B. This book is to help us all kick the shit out of it.
Sheryl Sandberg didn’t imagine her husband would die at age forty-seven. Dave Goldberg died suddenly while the couple was vacationing in Mexico.
‘And so began the rest of my life.’
Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, a strong, independent woman was left powerless in the face of adversity. As she worked through her grief and learned to live with it, she somehow found the capacity to persevere and to rediscover joy.
Sandberg’s book, Option B: Facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy written with a psychologist, Adam Grant, is a set of principles and values that can help navigate adversity when it hits us, or those we love.
Financial difficulties. Divorce. Unemployment. Sexual assault. Addiction. Incarceration. Illness.
We are all affected by adversity.
When Sandberg told a friend, ‘But I want Dave,’ he put his arm around her. He said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the s*** out of Option B.’
How do we learn to live with Option B?
How do we help others who have been affected by adversity?
15 Principles from Option B
1. Show up for others facing adversity. At times, caring means that when someone is hurting, you cannot imagine being anywhere else. Don’t avoid them, even if you feel awkward. Show up.
2. Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.
3. It gets better. ‘The grief felt like a void, like it was sucking me in and pushing on me, pulling me in and I couldn’t even see or breathe,’ Sandberg said. ‘People who have been through things like this told me it gets better. And I really didn’t believe them… I want other people going through things to believe it does get better.’
4. Prepare for adversity: Sandberg believes strongly in pre-traumatic growth–people’s ability to build up resilience before something bad happens so that they are able to deal with it better.
5. Building resilience takes time: Adam Grant defined resilience as ‘the strength and speed of our response to adversity … Resilience is not a fixed personality trait but rather something that can be developed over time.’
6. After adversity, your goal is ‘post-traumatic growth.’ You can come back stronger.
When we can’t change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor Frankl
We might make a career change, or significant change because we’ve changed … The disappearance of one possible self can free us to imagine a new possible self.
7. I am more vulnerable than I thought but much stronger than I imagined.
8. Cultivate joy. Rather than waiting until we’re happy to enjoy the small things, we should go and do the small things that make us happy.
A day of joy is fifteen minutes. A day of pain is fifteen years. No one pretends this is easy, but the job of life is to make those fifteen minutes into fifteen years and those fifteen years into fifteen minutes. Larry Brilliant
9. Find collective resilience. Find your posse and love each other hard. Having strong social relationships is one of the best predictors of psychological well-being in the long run, and so anything that enhances your bonds with others—like expressing compassion for them—makes you more resilient.
10. Failure doesn’t mean you failed. After every low score you receive, you should give yourself a second score based on how you handle the first score … Even when you get an F for the situation itself, you can still earn an A+ for how you deal with it.
11. Love and laugh again. Option B still gives us options. We can still love … and we can still find joy.
12. Adversity is not evenly distributed among us. There is always someone doing it tougher than us.
13. Lean on others if you need to. Before, Sandberg taught others to lean in, now she had to learn to lean on. It is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn.
14. Express your emotions. Option B is about facing hardship, not with grim determination, but with a quivering lip and tear-swollen eyes.
15. Grief isn’t a linear or logical process or a stiff upper lip. We confuse resilience with closure. Grief has to unfold.
What helpful principles have you found through facing adversity?