May 2017 | 

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

Option B

Two weeks after the untimely death of her husband in 2015, Sheryl Sandberg was faced with one of what would be countless painful milestones: coming up with a plan for a father-child event. When a friend volunteered to attend, she cried, “But I want Dave.” Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

Option B, written by Sandberg and Wharton psychologist Adam Grant, is a deeply personal and practical account of living with and moving through grief. As the authors explain early in the book, “We all encounter hardships .... The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next?”

Grant’s research into finding strength in the midst of adversity is woven into a first-person narrative that also includes moving stories of others who have overcome great odds or profound loss. There is a Syrian refugee who, after losing her husband and young child, finds comfort and even happiness cooking Syrian food in her new home in Turkey; a legally blind artist who continues to paint portraits; and a Google executive who moved beyond a childhood that included hunger, neglect, and homelessness.

But Option B is more than powerful memoir, moving storytelling, and insightful lessons from research. It is also an actionable guide for recovering, strengthening what the authors call our “psychological immune system.” There are explicit steps for overcoming adversity, for helping others who are experiencing loss and hardship, and for working to build more resilient children, workplaces, and communities.

Perhaps the greatest gift of Option B, though, is that it doesn’t stop with surviving life’s most difficult challenges. Using research, personal experiences, and concrete actions, the book urges readers to reclaim happiness and joy. “Even when we’re in great distress, joy can still be found in moments we seize and moments we create .... When these moments add up, we find that they give us more than happiness; they also give us strength.”