Vivek Murthy: The Loneliness Epidemic

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Discussion Questions for Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

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1. “And so began the rest of my life,” Sheryl Sandberg writes about life after her husband unexpectedly died. “It was—and still is—a life I never would have chosen, a life I was completely un-prepared for.” Do you have a similar story of a significant “before” and “after”? What version of option B are you living?

2. Option B is a book about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere after—and sometimes even before—trauma. Studies show that we recover more quickly when we believe hardships aren’t our fault (personalization), don’t affect every aspect of our lives (pervasiveness), and won’t follow us around forever (permanence). Which of the three “p’s” is hardest for you to resist? What tiny shifts in perspective or practice help you to breathe again when you’re feeling their pull?

3. When you experience a physical loss, people ask what happened. When you experience an emotional one, they go silent. How have noticed this “mum effect”—or avoidance of hard news—in your community? What keeps you from saying something when someone is suffering? What do you say to someone who is grieving?

4. “Is there anything I can do?” is one of the most flummoxing questions Sheryl got from friends when she was struggling to get back on her feet. Specific acts of kindness are more helpful, she says, because they attend to the problem rather than trying to fix it. Describe a time when a friend showed up with a specific something that eased your pain.   

5. Writing is a powerful tool for growing self-compassion and self-confidence. Sheryl gives the examples of people writing letters to themselves after failure, processing traumatic events through journalling, and making lists of small wins. Which of these tools helps—or could help—you practice more kindness and courage within?

6. Post-traumatic growth is the ability to bounce forward after loss. It can take five different forms: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities. Which, if any, of these growths have you experienced? 

7. “We take it back” became Sheryl’s mantra for embracing the joyful things that reminded her and her children of Dave rather than giving them up. How have you taken back joy in your life after loss?

8. Children with a growth mindset respond better to adversity than those with a fixed one. One of the surest ways to teach a growth mindset is to pay attention to the praise we give. Think “Way to try!” instead of “Great job!” What’s one way you’re teaching the kids in your life to learn from struggle? 

9. Researchers have found that collective resilience is built on shared hope, experiences, narratives, and power. What community of resilience have you been inspired by? What community of resilience do you turn to during difficulties? What makes these communities a source of strength?

10. Sheryl says a single sentence can help people be more open to negative feedback about their work, “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” Is your home or work a place where you are free to fail and learn? What would you need to hear to make it so? 

11. “There is a light within us that will not be extinguished,” writes Sheryl. Do you believe her?

Bonus: After reading Option B, what part of the book resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you? 

Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.