It’s graduation season and there are some wonderful commencement speakers who have interesting insight and advice for those who are graduating. I always enjoy reading or listening to the many varied points of view and advice for those achieving this milestone in their lives.
Many times the speeches are aimed for those in transition – leaving the land of the learning into the employment arena. But most often the messages pertain to life and the messages that we all need to hear regardless of your age.
One speech in particular was quite poignant. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and champion of the Lean In movement, gave the commencement address at University of California at Berkeley. As you may remember, Sheryl’s husband Dave Goldberg died of a heart attack last year at the age of 47.
Sandberg discussed her period of grief after her husband’s death and what she learned from psychologist Martin Seligman, who described people’s approach to confronting adversity with “three P’s”- personalization, pervasiveness and permanence.
“The first P is personalization—the belief that we are at fault. This is different from taking responsibility, which you should always do. This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us,” Sandberg said. After psychologists encouraged her and her children to return to a normal routine, she realized that she could briefly escape the second P- the pervasiveness of her sadness. Permanence, the third piece of the puzzle, is the “belief that the sorrow will last forever,” said Sandberg. “For months, no matter what I did, it felt like the crushing grief would always be there.”
“The three P’s are common emotional reactions to so many things that happen to us — in our careers, our personal lives, and our relationships. You’re probably feeling one of them right now about something in your life,” Sandberg said. “But if you can recognize you are falling into these traps, you can catch yourself.”
Though she’s filled with “a huge reservoir of sadness,” Sandberg said she also celebrates life more than ever before.
“I used to celebrate my birthday every five years and friends’ birthdays sometimes,” Sandberg said. “Now I celebrate always. I used to go to sleep worrying about all the things I messed up that day — and trust me, that list was often quite long. Now I try really hard to focus on each day’s moments of joy.”
“You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive,” she explained. Sandberg urged the graduating students to “lean in” to find hope and joy.
“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,” she said, choking back tears. “My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude, not just on the easy days like today, but on the hard ones, when you will need it.”
A well done speech and lesson for all of us to appreciate today and find the joy in your life.
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