Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Option B book
Read more: https://optionb.org/book

A powerful read. I remember feeling very shocked on the day the news about Dave was out.


my notes

Because life is not perfect, we all live some form of Option B when Option A is not available, so let’s just kick the shit out of Option B. All life involves suffering. Aging, sickness, and loss are inevitable. The question is not whether these things will happen.

In the wake of the most crushing blows, people can find greater strength and deeper meaning. It’s possible to experience pre-traumatic growth – that you don’t have to experience tragedy to build your resilience for whatever lies ahead.

When life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.

3 P’s that can stunt recovery, and quick tips to overcome them:

  • Personalisation – the belief we are at fault. Not everything that happens to us happens because of us.
  • Pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life. It’s important tot get back to normal routines as soon as possible.
  • Permanence – the belief that aftershocks of the event will last forever. Eliminate words like “never” and “always”.

Cognitive behavioral therapy suggests writing down a belief that’s causing you anguish and follow it with proof that the belief is false. Respecting our own feelings helps – such as allowing yourself to take “cry breaks”. Learn to pinpoint self-limiting beliefs to rewrite them as self-freeing beliefs. I strongly believe constructing a story can lead to insight. (Recording voice also works.)

Gratitude overtakes some of the grief. Thinking on worst-case scenarios on how much worse things could be. Reminding ourselves of the good things in life keep us positive and mindful of our daily blessings. Each night, find something or someone to be grateful for.

How to care for someone grieving: Avoiding feelings isn’t the same as protecting feelings. Have courage to have the intimate conversation. Being worried about upsetting them or saying the wrong thing != not talking about it. It’s best to offer an opening and see if they want to open up. People who have faced adversity often want to talk about it and teach others how they went through the unknowable.  Silence can increase suffering. Speaking to other survivors help them to support each other and feel understood.

Being there as a friend is checking in and showing up.Treat them as they want to be treated. Instead of offering ‘anything’, just do something. Example: Instead of asking if she wants food, ask “what do you NOT want on a burger?” Not only is it making the choice for her easier, it also gives her the dignity of feeling in control. Sometimes people don’t want to ask for help and worry about being a burden or inconvenience to others – but friendship is not about what you can give, but also what you can receive. In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends.

Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.

Self-compassion is important in making sure we don’t beat ourselves up so badly that we damage our future. Self-confidence is critical to happiness and success. When we lack it, we dwell on our flaws, fail to embrace new challenges and learn new skills. We don’t muster the courage to ask for what we want. When we struggle in one area and suddenly stop believing in our capabilities in other areas, this can become pervasive and lead to loss in confidence.

“We all need other people, but at the end of the day the only person who can move my life ahead, make me happy and build a new life for my kids is me.” – Sheryl in one of her diary entries

“I am more vulnerable than I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined.” When we face the slings and arrows of life, we are wounded and the scars stay with us. But we can walk away with greater internal resolve. “Let me fall if I must fall. The one I become will catch me.”

It feels ironic to experience tragedy and come out of it feeling more grateful. Alongside sadness, Sheryl is determined to have a much deeper appreciation for what she used to take for granted: family, friends, and simply being alive. Seeing others in worse plight put her problems into perspective.

Make efforts to mark the milestones – these are moments to be cherished. Appreciate what was had, and what we have now. Write thank-you notes. Finding a sense of purpose and create meaningful impact on others helps us feel energised and capable of dealing with difficult situations.

“A life chasing pleasure without meaning is an aimless existence.
Yet a meaningful life without joy is a depressing one.”

Happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Joy is a discipline.

Resilience is built among individuals, fueled by shared experiences, narratives and power. People who have endured tragedies together, can build hope together with a shared identity. Believing in new possibilities propels people to seek out new options, find the will and make a plan to move forward. Believing it will all work out helps it all work out.

We learn more from failures than successes, because we scrutinize them more closely. Aim to have at least one hard conversation each month – by speaking more honestly with each other. Note that feedback should always go two ways.

To make people more open to negative feedback, can say something like: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

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