Resilience and the three P’s

Understanding the concept of the three P’s has been and remains very helpful in working through the grief of losing my father, but has also served for difficult relational encounters, work challenges, or coaching others as they build resilience to deal with what life throws at them.
Research by Martin Seligman shows that our ability to cope with setbacks is determined by how we interact with these three P’s:

  • We may think: This is happening to me because of something I did or didn’t do. It’s my fault.
    (i.e. thoughts like: if only... if only I had been there, if I had stayed on the phone for 5 more minutes, if I had noticed and done something sooner).
  • Instead of: This is happening to me not because of me.


  • We may think: This is going to affect all of my life. It’s all going to be dark and terrible.
  • Instead of: This event does not mean doom and gloom will invade every area of life. Other areas of life can still bring me joy.


  • We may think: This is going to last forever.
  • Instead of: This event is not stable and eternal, the negative (feelings, season) will diminish and other more positive (feelings, seasons) will emerge.
lone tree.jpg

Our approach to negative experiences may be determined by our individual differences, but the good news is that even if you are inclined to see things as personal, permanent, or pervasive, you can change.
Simply being aware and acknowledging the fact that we do this is already a first step. And I have found that saying the false messages out loud reduces their power, and stating the truth out loud helps me believe it. 

Sheryl Sandberg shares more detail in this article as well as in her and Adam Grant's book Option B.