Sheryl Sandberg on the Hard Days

^z 18th September 2023 at 6:48am

A thoughtful-wise commencement talk by Sheryl Sandberg for the UC Berkeley class of 2016, appeared recently in edited form as an essay in the Boston Globe. It's titled "Sheryl Sandberg graduation speech: It's the hard days that determine who you are". Sandberg's husband died, suddenly, last year. She reflects on three characteristics of grief:

  • personalization — "... the belief that we are at fault. This is different from taking responsibility, which you should always do. This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us. ... [G]etting past personalization can actually make you stronger. Not taking failures personally allows us to recover — and even to thrive. ..."
  • pervasiveness — "... the belief that an event will affect all areas of your life. There's no place to run or hide from the all-consuming sadness. ... [T]here were other things in my life that were not awful. My children and I were healthy. My friends and family were so loving, and they carried us — quite literally, at times. ..."
  • permanence — "... the belief that the sorrow will last forever. For months, no matter what I did, it felt like the crushing grief would always be there. We often project our current feelings out indefinitely — and experience what I think of as the second derivative of those feelings. We feel anxious — and then we feel anxious that we're anxious. We feel sad — and then we feel sad that we're sad. Instead, we should accept our feelings — but recognize that they will not last forever. ..."

Those principles are based on psychologist Martin Seligman's work on "Learned Optimism". Many of the thoughts resonate strongly with Buddhist/mindfulness principles. Sandberg's big conclusion is uplifting:

Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings. My New Year's resolution this year is to write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night. This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful.

(a transcript of Sandberg's address is at [1; cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Thank Goodness (2002-12-25), Move On (2007-01-16), Solve the Problem (2007-05-24), How to Win Friends and Influence People (2008-05-17), Personal, Permanent, Pervasive (2009-04-27), Tough-Minded Optimists (2009-12-22), How to Be an Optimist (2011-08-24), Smile at Everyone (2013-02-15), Mantra - It's All Good (2015-01-09), Mental Toughness (2015-12-06), Power of Optimism (2016-02-23), ...) - ^z - 2016-05-22