Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address at UC Berkeley has gone viral. Here’s why: It will not only inspire you to savor your life more deeply, but it also has the power to transform any stuck or stale relationship.
Every human relationship hits seasons that are dark, stale or flat-out disastrous. Sandberg, the COO at Facebook, went through her own family nightmare last year when her husband died suddenly and she was left to care for her emotionally destroyed family. She sought out the best expertise and wisdom she could find. What she learned about recovering her life illustrates what it takes to recover any relationship: You must avoid the three P’s:
- Stop taking it personal. When a relationship gets painful, don’t take it personal. It’s not about you. And it’s not about the other person. Relationship pain is about the relationship. And relationships always get better when you decide to take better care of them. As long as you think the problem is inside of you or inside of the other person, change is impossible.
- Don’t let it be pervasive. Don’t let one frustrating thing paint the whole relationship or your whole life as bad. Lean into the relationships you still enjoy, including your deepest spiritual connection with God. Sandberg said it like this: “I have learned that in the face of any challenge you can choose joy and meaning.”
- Remember that this relationship problem isn’t permanent. Nothing is. A bad season in a relationship doesn’t have to last forever. People change and grow up. Everything that is alive, including a relationship, is constantly changing and growing. My wise mother still reminds me when times are tough, “this, too, shall pass!”
This past Friday my wife, Karen, and I were both in a foul mood and frustrated with each other. We didn’t feel like being together. But we had already made plans to join friends at a new and trendy restaurant in our favorite part of old Detroit. So we took a deep breath and went. It didn’t take long before we were talking, laughing and even flirting with each other again. By the end of the night we couldn’t even remember what we were so annoyed with each other about.
Here’s the bottom line: Your life and relationships will start improving when you stop making it personal, trust things will change, and choose joy and meaning, even in the face of pain and challenge.
Curious? Check out the full speech here.