How much worse could things be?

When we’re caught up in misery and pain, everything somehow becomes all about ourselves in the darkness – nothing else matters. Everything is just black, awful, unimportant, cold and there seems to be no prospect of anything ever getting any better. But what if things could get better? And what if they could get better by thinking ‘How much worse could things be?’

During her commencement speech at Berkeley on Saturday, COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, brought up the subject of gratitude several times in several different ways. Throughout an extremely touching, honest and truly inspirational speech she shared her hard core and heart breaking story publicly for the first time since the sudden loss of her husband a little over a year ago. Several times, she came close to letting her emotions take over and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one truly in awe of her strength as she stood there and shared her life’s biggest struggle with everyone.
Sheryl Sandberg touched base on so many incredibly important and very interesting subjects during her speech, but there was one subject in particular that caught my attention; Her ability to find gratitude during the absolute darkest hours of her life.
She managed to find gratitude with help from her friend and therapist, Adam Grant, who, one day, suggested she think about how much worse things could be.


Sheryl Sandberg tragically lost her husband, Dave Goldberg, due to a cardiac arrhythmia that the doctors had not yet discovered he had. In an instant she lost the love of her life and became a single parent to two children, yet she, like so many others who are suddenly faced with severe sorrows in life, managed to make life work regardless of tremendous heartbreak and pain. So when Sheryl Sandberg was asked to consider how much worse things could be, her reply was ‘Worse?! Are you crazy?! How could things be worse?!’ Adam Grant replied: ‘Dave could have had that same cardiac arrhythmia driving your children’. And just like that the situation was put into perspective. A perspective that made her realise how much she had to be grateful for.

Now, Sheryl Sandberg’s example is obviously rather hard core, but maybe that’s what makes the point so clear; that gratitude can always be found. Always. Regardless of what happens, you’ll always be able to find something to be grateful for in the light of a scenario that’s worse than the one you’re in.  And that little grain of gratitude can end up being the star that shines and leads the way on your otherwise dark road. The trick is to then add more stars to the sky and eventually you will have enough light to recognize the beauty that surrounds you.

I have formerly brought up exercises that can help you increase your gratefulness (and thereby also your happiness). Sheryl Sandberg actually mentions this one in her speech and another one can be found here. You might not be able to feel the effects of these exercises immediately, but I promise you that if you repeat them every day, you will feel it eventually, as what you put your attention to grows stronger. Put your attention towards the positives – always.

If you’d like to see Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech, which I highly recommend, this can be found below. You might think it’s slightly long, but trust me – it’s worth every minute and will stay with you for quite some time if you really let it sink in.

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10 thoughts on “How much worse could things be?”

  1. This is such a beautiful motivational speech and I admit I wouldn’t know what to do without the love of my life and with children to raise. But the fact of putting it into perspective changes a lot. We need to be grateful more.

  2. This all rings so true with me. My son was diagnosed with epilepsy last summer. It was a very dark time for us. We didn’t know how to help him or what it meant for his future… but we drove ahead… finding positivity is the only thing that can bring you out of a dark hole like that. And it absolutely could be so much worse, and there are SO many things to be thankful for. (My son is almost 3 months seizure free right now, praise GOD!)

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Sheena ❤️ Well done for staying positive through the dark times! I’m so happy to hear that your son has been seizure free for 3 months! That’s fantastic!

  3. This really hits home to me. I think I can get caught up in the hard parts of life but when you think of how much worse it can get, you are grateful for what you have. I also love that quote when she says tiptoe if you must but take the step. This was awesome to read and listen to!

  4. I love the quote, it’s true the smallest step in the right direction can be the biggest step we make. Life can get hard (I know!) I’ve had hardship but I keep trying and keep stepping forward! love this topic!

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