Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

– Written by Sarah Rench and Laura Chung

“We all live some version of Option B, so we should make the most of it”

On the 24th June, a few of the team members from DevelopHer attended an Intelligence Squared panel event featuring Sheryl Sandberg, CCO at Facebook, Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani Activist for Female Education and Founder of Malala Fund and Adam Grant, American Author and Professor at University of Pennsylvania. The event theme was based around discussing ideas from Sheryl’s new book Option B and addressing how we can better face adversity, build resilience and find joy.

The panel explored the idea that everyone experiences some form of ‘Option B’. Whether it be experiencing loss of a loved one, loss of a job or changes to our health. However, rather than questioning whether or why these things happen, the discussions focused on how we face them when they do happen. Loss, pain and even stress can be a sensitive and somewhat silent topic at the workplace. However, we learnt there are open and expressive ways to cope with this.


In 2015, Sheryl’s husband, Dave Goldberg, suddenly died at the age of 47. Sheryl and her two young children were naturally devastated and this was still apparent when she explained this story at the event. When Sheryl was talking with a friend about the “first father-child activity without a father” they discussed a plan for someone to fill in. However, Sheryl stated “but I want Dave”. This is when her friend embraced her and said “option A is not available. So let’s just kick the sh** out of option B”.

From Sheryl’s devastating happenings, both her and Adam Grant worked on her latest book to explore the idea of coping with adversity, studying stories from different people, including Malala Yousafzai, who have recovered from hardship, both personally and professionally. “These people did more than recover, many of them became stronger”.

We’ve included our key learnings from the event:

How to help those dealing with adversity:

  • Show that you are there for them
    “Sometimes we are too scared to do the wrong thing, so we don’t do anything. Sometimes just showing up and being there is enough” (Sheryl)Helping those dealing with adversity is not easy. We are inclined to be respectful and sincerely acknowledge their loss by saying “Sorry for your loss. Let me know how I can help”. Sheryl points out that sometimes actions are louder than words. Being there in person, or face to face for someone who is dealing with loss, even if they say they don’t want you there, can mean a lot more than sending a message.“We have a social responsibility to be there (…) be with people, to sometimes cry with them. In our culture this is important for all communities.” (Malala)
  • Encourage to talk about it
    “Sometimes the times we need people to talk the most, are the times we speak the least.” (Sheryl)
    This speaks for itself, people experience harder pain when dealing with it by themselves. Opening and encouraging those to talk out it, even if it is difficult can in fact be more reassuring than not mentioning it at all.

Discover small ways to find hope:

  • Write down 3 moments of joy at the end of the day
    “Joy is something we have to take for granted and we can’t just celebrate the big stuff. It’s the little things we celebrate in our lives. So I write down 3 moments of joy at the end of every day. Prior to this I use to worry about the things that had or would go wrong. By doing this becomes my focus. I think this has changed my life.”
  • Accepting the situation and being positive for the future
    “It’s good to be hopeful and positive. If you are hopeless you waste your present and your future” (Malala)
    After Malala regained her speech and memory after her attack, she told herself and now others, that know whatever situation you are in, no matter how hard it is, you must believe things will get better. Malala emphasized that we have to accept we have stressful times, whether big or small, and we will get through it.

We know personally and professionally, there’s a lot going on in our lives. It’s the small steps in finding hope and being positive, that can help us grow as individuals and be stronger in the future. If you have any interesting topics that you would like to see DevelopHer address for future events and help us grow as individuals, please let us know hello@developher.org


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