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Gratitude: The Most Important Advice Sheryl Sandberg Shared At UC Berkeley's Commencement

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg gave the commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley over the weekend, but she didn’t talk about Facebook or business or careers at all. Instead, she chose to focus on how the death of her husband impacted her life and how overcoming adversity is an important part of everyone’s life journey.

“You will almost certainly face deep adversity […] today I want to talk about what happens next.”

Sandberg highlighted psychologist Martin Seligman’s three Ps to overcome hardship: personalization, pervasiveness and permanence.

Personalization is the tendency for people to believe that they themselves have caused the pain. While taking responsibility is a good thing, Sandberg pointed out that “not everything that happens to us happens because of us.”

The second P, pervasiveness, is believing that a negative event has ruined every area of your life, including work, school and social activities. Sandberg initially felt a great deal of apathy when she returned to a Facebook meeting 10 days after her husband’s death.

“But then I got drawn into the discussion, and for a second — a brief split second — I forgot about death.”

Things get better over time if you return to your normal daily routine as soon as you’re able.

The third P, permanence, is the idea that the pain will last forever.

“For months, no matter what I did, it felt like the crushing grief would always be there,” Sandberg said.

People tend to think that the way they currently feel will be the way that they will always feel.

Instead, Sandberg says that we need to realize that it’s natural and normal to feel bad sometimes, but those feelings will not last forever.

Sandberg concluded that her husband’s death and her experience in the year that followed taught her a number of valuable lessons about keeping life in perspective.

“It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude — gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children.”

“You are born with a fixed amount of resilience,” she concluded. “Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are — and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”

Disclosure: The author holds no position in the stocks mentioned.

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