Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In garnered a lot of attention and ignited a movement with which many attorneys are familiar. Sandberg is already a household name for her perspective on women in the workplace. Recently, Sandberg released a new book entitled Option B, written in conjunction with Adam Grant. In Option B, Sandberg discusses her husband’s sudden death, and the subsequent struggle to find joy and meaning for her two young children. While the core theme of Option B is resilience after experiencing profound grief—there are several lessons that are more broadly applicable to our lives and practices.
Mastering Resilience and Bouncing Forward.
In recent years, much has been written about lawyers and the importance of resilience in our profession. While Option B explores resilience in the face of losing a loved one, the lessons can be expanded to aid in finding resilience in many other challenging situations—including a less than desirable work outcome or family challenge.
Option B discusses post-traumatic growth, which is the idea that people can actually experience positive change in unexpected ways after trauma. (See Jenny Anderson, Sheryl Sandberg’s new book isn’t just a memoir on grief, it’s a critical guide to reclaiming life.) In fact, according to Grant, more than half of people who experience a traumatic event report at least one positive change, compared to less than 15 percent who develop PTSD. (See Kathryn Dill, In ‘Option B,’ Sheryl Sandberg presents meaningful work as an antidote to trauma.) Post-traumatic growth can manifest in different ways, such as, finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities. (See Anderson.)
To maximize your potential growth in the face of adversity, Sandberg recommends avoiding what psychologist Martin Seligman termed the “three Ps”—personalization (“the belief that we are at fault”), pervasiveness (“the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life”), and permanence (“the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever”) and finding support in community.
The ability to be resilient and actually bounce forward is a tool that we can utilize in our practice. Not every day in our careers goes as planned—there will be challenges of varying degrees that require us to show our resilience. If we deploy these tips to maximize growth in the face of adversity, we stand a better chance of turning challenges into future successes.
Finding Joy and Appreciating Your Accomplishments.
In addition to lessons on resilience, Option B offers lessons that we can draw from to support our practices and daily lives, such as recognizing joyful moments and appreciating successes.
A practice that perhaps everyone can benefit from is one that Sandberg implemented after her husband’s death—writing down three moments of happiness a day.Some of Sandberg’s recorded happy moments were small (for example, things such as how her coffee tasted), but she points out that memorializing these moments at the end of her day made her notice and appreciate all the moments of happiness that otherwise tend to fly by unrecognized. Reflecting on joyful moments can be uplifting and can enhance our perception of life, including our satisfaction with work.
Another lesson is to be kind to yourself—one that likely hits home for many women. Sandberg discusses how after the loss of her husband, she found herself distracted at work. She goes on to explain how such distractions can lead to a loss of confidence at work. Work distractions come in a variety of forms—whether it is a sick family member, a new baby, or buying a new house. These distractions can threaten our ability to give our utmost concentration to work. Much like Sandberg’s lesson of finding daily joy, when Sandberg felt that she was losing confidence in her work, she started writing down three things that she did well each day.
Writing joyful moments and successes down daily is not an easy feat. But as Sandberg says—“joy is discipline.” An easy way to implement discipline is to find a regular time to reflect and write down the moments of joy and success. A suggestion is to write down three successful outcomes each day before leaving the office and write down three joyful moments each night before bed. The ability to focus on what is working in our lives, instead of what is not working is another tool that has the ability to enhance our mental state, boost our confidence, and improve our work product.
Option B is not only for those who are facing tragedy—it provides tools that can benefit us all. Challenge yourself to create healthy positive habits and the next time you face adversity remember you possess the ability to bounce forward.
Juliana Yanez is an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in Silicon Valley, California