Option B [Book Review]


Sheryl Sandberg might be a role model for a lot of so-called modern women: smart, owns a good career and portfolio, beautiful, and a very good writer (the last one is my impression after reading her book). She also has a great family until a tragedy happened, the sudden death of her husband. In this book, Sandberg writes about how she deals with hardships after that tragedy. This book is also co-written by Adam Grant, who provides various psychology theories and experiments that are relevant to Sandberg’s effort to build her resilience.

While I don’t suffer from any tragedy in my life recently, I think this book provides several interesting lines that apply to our daily lives. We all need “option B” to deal with a lot of daily problems and enjoy our lives. Here are some of my notes:

  • The amount of our resilience isn’t fixed, so we need to put effort on how to become resilient. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity, and we can build it. (page 10)
  • 3 P’s theory from Martin Seligman: personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. We could speed up our recovery from any hardships by: (1) realize that not all bad things happened are our faults (intrinsic factor), but are also affected by external factors; (2) our hardships will not affect our entire aspect of life, and will not last forever. (page 16)
  • We often avoid painful conversation with people who suffer from hardships (serious illness, family’s death, etc.), sometimes we even avoid to talk to those people since we don’t know what to ask and we don’t want to hurt those people by asking some ‘dumb’ questions. Actually, we need to talk to them. It’s more hurtful to suffer from cancer and everyone around you avoid talking about cancer. Sanberg elaborates this topic in the chapter “kicking the elephant out of the room”, and I really like this topic as I found myself as the one who often avoided difficult conversation :(. “Instead of making assumptions about whether or not someone wants to talk, it’s best to offer an opening and see if they take it.” (page 40)
  • When people are in pain, they need a “button” (page 47). A button here is an emergency moral support they can rely on, which surprisingly could improve people’s resilience even though they don’t really use this emergency button. Just thinking about this kind of button makes people more assured and secure.
  • Labeling negative emotions makes them easier to deal with (page 63). Keeping a journal or record ourselves could be ways to shed our emotions.
  • A traumatic experience could trigger post-traumatic growth in 5 different forms: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationship, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities (page 79).
  • When we look for joy, we often focus on the big moments (graduating from school, having a child, getting a job, etc.). But happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Rather than waiting until we’re happy to enjoy small things, we should go and do the small things that make us happy (page 100). These are my favorite self-reminder lines!

Before reading this book, I saw mix reviews in Goodreads and Amazon about this book. A lot of readers point Sandberg’s advice would not work for a majority of people without any privilege as Sanberg has. But, I found that this book contents could be applied generally to any situation other than losing someone. One of my friends also says: “The right time to read a self-help book (like this one) is before the real tragedy happens, to prepare ourselves. Because, once a tragedy happens, it’s natural that we couldn’t think clearly to digest any book.” Well, I couldn’t agree more.


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