Resilience comes from understanding three "P's" — personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence — Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, told the University of California, Berkeley's class of 2016 in her commencement speech, invoking the research of psychologist Martin Seligman.
"You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience," Sandberg said. "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."
Recognizing the three P's are key in processing setbacks, Sandberg said: Personalization is "the belief that we are at fault," the lesson being that not everything that happens to us happens because of us; pervasiveness is the belief that an event impacts all parts of life, the lesson being that not all things in life are awful; and permanence is the belief that the sorrow will last forever, the lesson being that we should accept our feelings but know they are not everlasting.
For Sandberg, the speech was about finding areas for growth in moments of deep loss. The author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, who gained a reputation for pushing women to fight more for their own success, lost her husband, Dave Goldberg, unexpectedly during a vacation in 2015. For the graduates, she hoped the speech would include lessons of strength, hope, and the core belief that the "light within will not be extinguished" in the face of any disappointment — from getting a low grade on a college paper to losing a loved one.
"I'm sharing this with you today in the hopes that on this day in your lives, with all the momentum and the joy, you can learn in life the lessons I only learned in death," Sandberg said.
Dave’s death changed me in very profound ways. I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, find the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void, or in the face of any challenge, you can choose joy and meaning.
For Sandberg, however, there is a fourth "P" in this process of cultivating resilience, one that is separate from Seligman's work and is perhaps something the graduates at UC Berkeley are already familiar with: pizza, specifically from celebrated Berkeley establishment Cheeseboard.