What is your Option B? For Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, her Option B was living life with her two children after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband. While living out a backup plan or an Option B does not always come as a result of tragedy, it often comes from a place of pain, stress, or adversity. Sandberg’s latest book with Adam Grant, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, tells her story while offering solid, research-based suggestions for thriving in spite of challenge and adversity.
This post is part of an occasional series discussing how non-library-specific books and materials are relevant to library school students.
Read the first in this series, a review of Onward
Read the second in this series, a review of Trace
Read the third in this series, a review of The Knockoff
Read the fourth in this series, a review of Dead Mountain
Sheryl Sandberg never imagined life without her husband, but had to face that reality in 2015. Option B was her opportunity to share about this difficult time in her life and about the key tools and ideas for others in in similar situations. Beyond her personal story, she shares stories from many different lives and illustrates some of the ways others have experienced trauma, setbacks, and challenges and then worked their way back to new lives, careers, and relationships. While Sandberg’s experience is moving and poignant, it is these other stories that really make the book work. While anyone can have empathy for someone grieving the death of a loved one, it is difficult to relate to the support that a billionaire has access to in the aftermath of a tragedy. These additional stories bring practical application to the ideas put forward about building resilience and recovering from tragedy.
When I read Option B, one set of instructions resonated with me, to the point where I share the insights at any semi-relevant opportunity. Sandberg and Grant highlight the work of psychologist Martin Seligman on how to handle negative and difficult events: “three P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization–the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness–the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence–the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever” (2017, 15-16). When confronted with a tragedy, setback, or even a frustrating work experience, striving to avoid these specific kinds of negative thoughts can make all the difference.
Keeping in mind the three P’s has done wonders for the way I think about work, school, and life in general. Let’s face it: librarianship has a lot of emotional work. Navigating relationships with co-workers, serving customers with a wide variety of needs, and handling changes or challenges in your library or system all take an emotional toll. And that doesn’t even take into account the challenges that school and regular life can throw at you. Keeping the three P’s in mind can be a key to staying emotionally healthy in the midst of challenging work.
Nearly everyone is living an Option B in some form or another: library school students included. Maybe you didn’t plan to be in a library career. Maybe your library career isn’t panning out the way you had hoped. Maybe there have been personal struggles affecting your library life. No matter what situation you find yourself in, the ideas and suggestions in Option B can be a great support.
For library specific suggestions and further readings about resilience and emotional work, check out this post from 2016 on LIS Mental Health, this week’s post on compassion, and this post from our recent collaboration with the ACRLog about the specific challenges faced by many LIS students of color.
Sandberg, Sheryl and Adam Grant. 2017. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. New York: Alfred A Knopf.
Sarah Davis is a Bilingual Youth Librarian at a public library in Oklahoma and an MLIS student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.