Option B How to survive adversity, gather strength, and feel the joy of life again: Awesome summary by ebookhike

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Authors: Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant 

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant 2017

Option B
Option B

What to do when plan A doesn’t work (Option B)

Authors: Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant 

Option B: David Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg got married in 2004. Both had successful careers: Cheryl became the COO of Facebook, and David took over as CEO of SurveyMonkey. They had two children. It seemed like life was turning out for the best. But in 2015, everything changed. During a mutual friend’s birthday celebration, David was found dead on the floor next to the elliptical trainer. He died as a result of the exacerbation of coronary heart disease.

The familiar world has collapsed. For the sake of herself and the children, Cheryl had to look for answers to questions that she had never planned to face: how not to give up? how to deal with loss? How do help children cope with loss? how to find the strength to live on and live happily?

In search of answers, Cheryl turned to her friend, psychologist Adam Grant. Adam convinced her that the main quality determining the further course of a person’s life is psychological stability. All people face difficulties, go through difficult times, and experience loss. Whether a person gets out or surrenders under the pressure of circumstances often depends not on the severity of what happened, but on what he does immediately after the tragedy. However, resilience is not an innate quality, but a skill that can be trained. 

This book is about how to find the strength in yourself to develop a plan B when plan A did not work, and how to help yourself survive in the most difficult circumstances, and not lose faith in the future. In their book, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant offer specific steps that a person can take to help themselves and others; talk about the psychological mechanism of recovery, how to regain confidence in yourself and in life, how to rediscover joy, how to talk about tragedy and comfort suffering friends, and how to create a sustainable community or company, raise strong children and love again.

The book will be useful both for those who are in a difficult situation themselves and for those who want to help their loved ones survive the grief. But most importantly, this book will be useful to anyone who wants to develop resilience and learn how to cope with any trials that life presents us. 

Let yourself breathe

Resilience to negative events is determined by how we react to them, what we think in these moments, and what way of interacting with the world we choose. 

Three main factors that can slow down the exit from the crisis:

1) personalization – the belief that “I myself am to blame for everything”;
2) generalization – the belief that one event will negatively affect all areas of life;
3) constancy – confidence that the echoes of the tragedy will haunt a person all his life.

Usually, in my head it sounds like this: “It’s my fault that everything is so terrible. My whole life is a nightmare. Nothing will ever change.”

The first step on the path to recovery is to admit that this is not the case. Even if a terrible tragedy happened to you, it is not your fault (or at least not entirely yours), life has not collapsed (even when it seems that it is), and the worst nightmare cannot last forever. This approach helps in all areas of life – in school, at work, and in personal life.

The profession of an insurance agent belongs to the category of extremely stressful. Day after day people hear refusals, and not always polite ones. According to a study by Martin Seligman and Peter Schulman, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, agents who did not take rejection personally and remembered that tomorrow they would be able to offer the services of their company to someone else sold twice as much and twice times longer worked in the profession than those who did the opposite.

Option B

Not everything that happens to us happens because of us. The first step is to stop apologizing. If you feel that “sorry” has become a frequent word in your vocabulary, this is a warning sign. Don’t blame yourself for breaking down in tears at a work meeting over a recent tragedy. When you say, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry/ashamed,” you acknowledge that something is wrong with you. Although it is more than normal to grieve in a difficult situation. 

Then try to see that it’s not all bad. 

At some point, Cheryl’s main fear was that her children would never recover from the loss of their father and would no longer be able to enjoy their childhood. However, after some time, she noticed that the children began to sleep better at night, cry less, play more. So, something good is still happening. 

Option B

Often this helps work. Feeling that you are still valuable as a specialist and can bring significant benefits (even if not immediately) allows people to get a boost of positive emotions, which means it helps to fight depression. As an employer, try to show empathy and support for an employee in distress. Sometimes the most important thing is to know that others remember who you are and what you are capable of. Give the person as much time as they need to recover relatively, and then help them prove themselves.

Following “sorry” from your vocabulary should be the words “never” and “always” with all possible variations. Replace them with “sometimes” and “recently”. Instead of “I’ll always feel the same way,” say “Sometimes I’ll feel the same way.” Not the most fun idea, but better than it was. 

When Cheryl was drowning in uncertainty and trying to force herself to think about a bright future, which she only imagined in black colors, the psychologist suggested acting in reverse and thinking about how much worse things could be right now. For example, David’s heart may have stopped while he was driving the children to school. Sheryl might not have a loving family around to support her. She might not have a job where she is appreciated and expected. 

Option B

Gratitude is a tried and tested technique that helps neutralize grief to some extent. Keep a journal and write down three things you are grateful for every day. This will help naturally shift the focus from the negative to the positive that is in your life right now.

Talk about what’s going on

Often our first and only response to someone else’s grief is silence. We are afraid that by asking a person how he feels, we will only upset him, once again reminding him of a tragedy or illness. However, Sheryl Sandberg argues that it is impossible to upset someone with sincere involvement. It is impossible to remind a person that he is sick or has lost a loved one because this knowledge is always with him anyway. 

Even those who have experienced the most terrible suffering want to share their experience. We need to talk about our experiences to make sure of two things: 

1) we are not crazy and have the right to feel the way we feel; 2) those around us support us. 

And if everyone around behaves as if nothing happened, they seem to deny the very fact of what happened to us. Silence multiplies suffering and distance between people.

Empathy is a skill acquired with years and experience. Once Cheryl herself tried to cheer up suffering friends with the words that everything is not so bad, but it will be even better. In fact, this is a denial of reality, an attempt at wishful thinking. In difficult times, people only need to have their experience recognized and accepted for what it is. Of course, not every moment is equally suitable for intimate conversation. But instead of deciding for yourself whether someone wants to talk or not, try to be proactive and offer options: “I’m there if you want to talk. For example, now. Or later. Or in the middle of the night. Anytime you want.” This will show that you see the suffering of the other and respect their feelings and choices.

One day, Cheryl found out that her colleague was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of trying to artificially cheer her up with stories of successful recovery, she said, “I understand now you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I do not know either. But remember that you are not alone. I will be by your side every step of the way.” So Cheryl acknowledged that a colleague was in a stressful situation that scared her, but offered help and support.

Option B

If you feel that others avoid talking to you about personal grief, take the initiative into your own hands. Gather close family members, friends, and colleagues and let them know that you are open and ready to communicate: not only for questions from them but also for the fact that they will also tell you about their feelings. One colleague of Cheryl admitted that she literally turns cold when she enters the room because she is afraid to say or do something wrong which causes her to cry. Such conversations are not easy for both parties, but they help to keep in touch with others and not feel like an outcast.

Follow the platinum friendship rule

There are two types of emotional response to someone else’s pain: empathy, which motivates you to help, and confusion, which forces you to avoid the other. When we hear that someone has lost their job, started chemotherapy, or is going through a painful breakup, we feel an instant desire to help. But then we inevitably doubt: what if I say something wrong? What if she or he doesn’t like talking about it? Having doubted, we begin to come up with excuses: “We are not so close”, “She has enough things to do without me now, I don’t want to bother.” We put off calling or offering help until we feel guilty for not doing it sooner. Soon it starts to feel like it’s too late. The connection is cutting off.

Sometimes people turn their backs on each other in self-defense. The pain of a loved one subconsciously seems to them to be something contagious that they can “catch” through communication. Sometimes it’s all about the feeling of helplessness. It seems that you can neither say nor do anything that would somehow improve the situation. 

Usually, we are taught the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. But when someone suffers, it is better to replace the golden rule with the platinum one: do to others as they themselves want. Listen to the other person and respond accordingly, or better yet, take action.

With the best of intentions, we often ask our friends the question: “How can I help you?” The problem is that a person who lives at the limit of his abilities often does not know-how. It turns out that we seem to offer to do something, but in fact, nothing happens. In such a situation, it is better not to ask, but to do and monitor the reaction of a person.

When one of Cheryl’s colleagues had a sick daughter and was in the hospital all the time, a friend sent him the following message: “What should you NOT put in a burger?” Instead of asking if he wants to eat (most likely the answer would be “no”), the friend made the decision himself, but left him the choice and the opportunity to feel that he still had something to control.

Option B

Specific actions are so important because instead of fixing the problem, they help deal with its consequences. There are things that cannot be changed and pain that cannot be alleviated. But you can always lend a hand.

However, it is important to remember that a person rarely suffers alone. Not only did Cheryl lose her husband, but her children lost their father, his parents lost their son, friends lost a close friend, etc. Where can everyone else look for support? 

Psychologist Susan Silk developed her version of the “ring theory”. She proposes to draw up a kind of diagram, where the people most affected by the tragedy are in the center, and the rest will diverge from them in circles.

Whatever circle you find yourself in, console those who are closer to the center of you, and ask for comfort from those who are farther away. When offering support to those closest to you, try not to say “you can handle it” but “we can handle it.” You can remind a person that he is not alone with the simplest gesture: send a message, bring lunch to work, or stay overnight.

If you yourself are going through a difficult period, remember that friendship is a game of both sets of gates. When you feel the strength in yourself, begin to actively take an interest in the affairs of friends. There is a good chance that they have become ashamed to share “petty” problems with you, and such silence does not contribute to intimacy. 

Once Cheryl noticed that when she asked her friend how things were going, she hesitated whether to tell everything as it was. It turned out that she and her husband had quarreled, and she was embarrassed to discuss it with Cheryl, because her situation was incomparably worse. Cheryl replied, “If my friends can’t complain to me about their partners, I won’t have any friends.” 

Option B

Try to let people know that your grief does not negate the importance of their experiences.

Practice self-compassion and faith in yourself

It is not customary to talk about compassion for oneself, as it is often confused with self-pity and thoughtless self-indulgence. In fact, to sympathize means to treat ourselves with the same kindness and concern that we usually show to friends; accept your mistakes with attention and understanding, and not scold and shame yourself. 

Self-compassion comes the moment we acknowledge that our imperfection makes us human. This does not mean that you can not take responsibility for your own mistakes at all. But reproaching yourself to such an extent that you do not see a light in the future is also a bad strategy. Self-compassion is the understanding that even if you did something bad, it does not mean that you are a bad person.

The critical tool of self-compassion is words. Instead of saying, “If only I weren’t so stupid,” say, “If only I weren’t so stupid.” Even such a simple change has a huge impact on how we perceive ourselves. Blaming ourselves as a person, we fall into the same trap as with the words “always” and “never.” Such a narrative provokes shame. When we lament our own actions, we feel guilty. Unlike shame, guilt is a productive emotion, as it prompts you to correct a mistake. Shame does not involve action, it only makes us feel worthless, helpless, and angry. We pity ourselves when we are ashamed.

In addition to oral narrative, the written narrative also helps develop self-compassion. Splashing feelings on paper helps to understand and survive grief. Writing practices reduce anxiety levels and allow you to look at the situation from the outside. In writing, we try to express our thoughts more clearly, which means that we more accurately select words to define our own emotions. “I’m angry”, “I’m lonely”, and “I’m tired” are much more accurate formulations of the general “I feel bad”. The more specific you can be about how you feel, the easier it will be to deal with it.

Another important component on the path to recovery is self-confidence. When there is not enough of it, we fixate on the shortcomings and find ourselves unable to cope with a new task or acquire a new skill. The slightest risk scares, and a career stagnates. On days when life falls apart, we especially acutely feel our own helplessness and uselessness. What used to seem easy is given with incredible difficulty, something generally turns out to be beyond the scope of the possible. 

In such a situation, writing practices again come to the rescue. Cheryl advises you to keep a diary and every night write down the three tasks that you managed to complete. At first, the list might look like this: 

1) made tea for himself;
2) parsed email;
3) went to work and kept attention on current tasks for almost the entire meeting.

Over time, the number and quality of items will change. 

Sandberg points out that the gratitude list technique serves a different purpose: it helps shift the focus from the bad to the good, but it does nothing to improve self-confidence. But the list of successful cases helps to regain faith in one’s own strength. The gratitude list is passive and directed rather outward. The list of successful cases is active and focused on internal achievements.

In a work environment, encouragement and encouragement are just as necessary as empathy. 

If a colleague who is going through a difficult phase says, “I haven’t been doing well lately,” instead of “You are so strong, I wonder how you even come to work at a time like this,” say: “Really? And I think you said everything right at that meeting, it helped us make a more thoughtful decision.” Make it clear that you still see him as an equal member of the team and do not doubt his professionalism.

Option B

Move forward

It is generally accepted that after a traumatic event, a person either develops the post-traumatic disorder, becomes depressed and cannot cope with anxiety and return to the previous state, or, if the person is sufficiently stable, after some time he is able to return to the pre-traumatic state. . However, there is a third way: forward. 

Post-traumatic growth can take many forms:

1. We discover previously unknown resources of inner strength. As you know, whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. The very fact of surviving after a serious tragedy automatically makes us more resilient. Ultimately, a person comes to the conclusion that he is more vulnerable than he expected and stronger than he could imagine.

2. We gain a sincere sense of appreciation for life. 

Cheryl cites the story of an elderly woman who always loved to walk, but by the age of 66 she could not do it without pain. After a complicated hip replacement surgery and a long recovery period, she thanks life for every painless step. What that woman is experiencing on a physical level, Cheryl is experiencing on an emotional level: she is grateful to the Universe for every day when she is able to walk without pain.

Option B

3. Establish a deeper relationship. People tend to unite around trouble. They learn to trust each other, show their vulnerability, and ask for help. As they say, friends recognize us in happiness, and we recognize friends in trouble.

4. A deeper understanding of life comes to us. There is a feeling that everything has a meaning. Some discover their spiritual beginning, others become stronger in faith, and others acquire a new meaning of life in the family. Work can also be a great help: the more the profession is connected with the well-being of others, the easier it is to regain ground under your feet. 

5. We begin to see new opportunities. Having experienced a personal tragedy, people often radically change the vector of life and begin to do things that they had not even thought about before. For example, after September 11, 2001, many radically changed their field of professional activity and became doctors, firemen, teachers, and military men. As hard as it may be, when old ideas crumble and we find ourselves unable to play the old roles, new horizons open up before us, and the opportunity to reinvent ourselves appears.

Take back your right to enjoy

In psychology, there is the concept of “survivor syndrome”. It manifests itself in the feeling of guilt experienced by the survivor before the dead (in the war, as a result of a disaster, etc.). Very often it appears in people who have lost loved ones early. Having experienced real joy for the first time after the death of a loved one, they experience a tremendous sense of shame. They are haunted by endless remorse: “Why did he die, but I live and rejoice?”

Living life in the mindless pursuit of pleasure is a waste of time. A meaningful life without joy is depressing. And not only the survivor, but also those around him. Motivation to change our own behavior occurs when we shift our focus from ourselves to others. For example, Cheryl quickly noticed how her condition affected her children and decided to bring joy into her life – for them and with them.

Instead of giving up all their favorite activities that reminded them of David, Cheryl and the kids came up with the mantra “We’re taking everything back.” They watched the same series, played the same board games. One day, Cheryl’s daughter wanted to take the chip that David used to play, and the youngest son objected: “You can’t play grey, she’s dad’s.” Then Cheryl replied: “She can play grey. We’re getting our chips back.”

Option B

Allowing yourself to be happy and have fun is another form of self-compassion. Since we wish happiness for others, why not wish it for ourselves? It is important to remember that joy does not always return by itself. It often requires active practice, like gratitude or any other skill. Try to deliberately put yourself in a situation that can bring you positive emotions.

Usually, we associate happiness with the most important events in life: marriage, the birth of a child, or promotion. In fact, happiness depends on the systematic flow of positive emotions, and not on their intensity. Make a list of everything that gives (or gave) you pleasure, and promise yourself to do at least one item from the list every day. Start a third section of the diary called “Three Joys for Today” and fill it out as meticulously as the lists of gratitude and achievements. 

Of course, it makes sense to discover new activities that are not related to the “before” period. Moreover, it is good to choose those classes that require complete immersion. For example, playing a new musical instrument makes it almost impossible to think about anything other than music. This is also called the “flow state” – when a person is so involved in the current activity and focused on the task that he forgets about everything around.

Build resilience in children

We all want to help our children develop resilience to any twist of fate. Resilience is largely responsible for happiness, health, and overall success. Fortunately, resilience can be both learned and taught. 

Sustainability is based on four main premises. The child must be aware that:

1) he can affect his own life;
2) one must learn from mistakes;
3) his thoughts and ideas are important;
4) he has virtues and positive qualities that he can share with the world.

The main thing that can be given to a child is the belief that he has enough tools to control his life, that he is the master of his own destiny, and that negative experience is not a threat, but a challenge and an opportunity to express himself.

It is important here to understand the difference between fixed and flexible thinking. A fixed outlook on life implies that we are born with well-defined abilities. A flexible picture of the world implies that abilities are the same skills that can be acquired and developed. A child with this mindset will say, “I may not be a born actor, but if I rehearse a lot, then in the end I will succeed.” 

The type of thinking is laid, including through praise. If you tell a child that he is smart, then most likely he will learn that success depends on given characteristics. And when at a certain moment he cannot easily cope with the task, he will decide that he simply does not have the ability to do this, or he will begin to doubt himself. When a child is praised for deeds and efforts, he comes to the conclusion that everything is decided by the amount of effort made. And then it is much easier to accustom him to the idea that difficulties are an opportunity for development. 

If your child is struggling with math, instead of saying, “Maybe math just isn’t for you,” shift the focus to, “When you solve hard problems, your brain grows.”

Option B

One of the key skills that helps strengthen all four attitudes is the ability to ask for help. If a child understands that he can ask for help from adults and peers, he feels his importance, sees the care and support of others, understands that he is not alone, and can influence the situation by turning to someone else. So the child realizes that the pain will not last forever and everything can really get better.

If a similar tragedy has happened in a family, Sandberg advises re-creating the face of the family, rewriting what it is. Take pictures with the new lineup. Be sure to set aside time for active joint pastimes. This can be cooking, playing Monopoly, etc. Watching TV is not included here, it is a passive activity.

Join communities

The need to connect with other people is a natural response of a person faced with unforeseen difficulties. Common hope, experience, narrative – all this helps to develop not only individual but also collective resilience. 

It is very important to find your support group. Even sincere sympathy can sometimes not help as much as saying from the heart: “I really understand what you are talking about.” The most difficult thing at such a moment is to come to terms with a new role. Nobody wants to be a member of a widow’s or cancer-fighting club. But one sight of a person who has gone through the same test can inspire hope. 

A shared narrative is an important part of collective resilience. We all share stories. And by telling each other stories that highlight truly important values, we create a sense of community and confidence that together we can make a difference.

All of the above ignites a spark of collective resilience, but to keep the fire alive, it is necessary to build strong bonds between individuals and different social groups and maintain a culture of conscious leadership. Not only individuals can experience post-traumatic growth, but entire communities as well. And the more organized the resistance to difficulties, the further the whole group will stop.

The same applies to all possible organizations. It is not mistakes and failures that determine the fate of the company, but how they are responded to. Here it is important to remember the principle of raising children mentioned above: they learn from mistakes. Most often, we are afraid to admit a mistake even to ourselves, not to mention bringing it to the judgment of the team. However, only an organization where people are not afraid to admit their miscalculations can be truly sustainable, because without them there is no risk, and without risk, there is no innovation. 

Adopt the rule of two. When you get a bad grade for a job well done, give yourself a second one for how well you did on the first. Even if you get an A for your work, you can still get an A+ for moving forward.

Another sign of resilience is the ability to accept feedback. The secret to the long-term success of organizations lies in communicating as honestly and openly as possible. Most organizations fall apart for reasons that everyone knows about but no one talks about. There is a poster on Facebook that says: “Everything that happens affects everyone.” Communication channels are open in both directions: feedback is received not only by ordinary employees but also by managers. 

Sheryl was once told that the meetings would have been more fruitful if she had not rushed to express her opinion and listened to the person to the end. Instead of defending herself and explaining why she was doing this, Sandberg listened, and the reaction of her colleagues to her remarks became completely different.

Option B

Let yourself love and laugh

More difficult than allowing yourself to rejoice after a tragedy is only allowing yourself to love. In addition to the “survivor syndrome” and the general feeling of guilt towards the deceased, public condemnation also plays an important role. But love is one of the best cures for grief. In a state of love, people experience a surge of energy and self-confidence, they have increased self-esteem and a sense of being a whole person. In addition, we often adopt certain qualities of a partner – cheerfulness, calmness, and love of adventure – which we just lack in a difficult period.

The same goes for humor. Allow yourself to joke on any topic and in any situation. Do not turn the tragedy and everything connected with it into something that cannot be talked about. No one expects you to the humor with or without reason, but if your loved one was eccentric and clumsy, then why not laugh, remembering a funny incident, with those who remember him. Humor is a way to get the better of sadness.

Of course, hard times are not limited to those who have lost a partner. Often a couple is separated by a common grief. People are unable to cope with the problem together and break up, which only aggravates the situation. To prevent this from happening, it is necessary to build stable relationships from the very beginning. 

Two tips to help make a family more resilient:

1. Consciously create small family traditions. Drinking tea before bed, playing a social game, and preparing special breakfasts on the weekends all create beacons that will help you hold out even in a storm.

2. Learn to resolve conflicts. This skill requires special and close attention. Studying the topic of emotional intelligence helps to master it. In long-term relationships, conflicts are just as important as moments of joy, because, with the right attitude towards them, they help to get to know each other better and tune in to a common wave. 

Top 10 Thoughts

1. The first step to recovery is to give up the belief that I myself am to blame for what happened, that my whole life is a nightmare and nothing will ever change.

2. Try to be open about what is going on: do not gloss over your feelings and be more interested in the affairs of others. Silence multiplies suffering and increases the distance between people.

3. Be guided by the platinum rule of friendship and do with others as they themselves want. Be proactive, and act independently, but leave the person the right to choose and the opportunity to control something.

4. Treat yourself with the same kindness and concern that you show to your friends.

5. Resilience not only helps us recover from tragedy but also moves us forward. We are more vulnerable than we expect but stronger than we can imagine.

6. Reclaim your life from tragedy step by step. Allow yourself to be happy and do what you love. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones.

7. The main thing that you can give a child is the belief that he has the right to make decisions and influence his life, that he is the master of his own destiny, and negative experience is not a threat, but a challenge and an opportunity to express himself. 

8. Seek support in the community of people who have gone through the same trials. Nothing helps to gain hope and faith in yourself like someone else’s example.

9. The fate of the company is determined not by mistakes and failures, but by how it reacts to them. The main sign of a stable organization is the most honest and open communication.

10. Allow yourself to love and laugh. This is the most effective medicine. 

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