Are You Hardy Enough?

The term “Psychological Hardiness” was coined in 1982 by psychologists Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa, following a research study on upper-level executives who experienced considerable stress over a 3-year period. Those who exemplified “hardy” personality traits were less likely to become physically ill during this time of stress compared to those who developed health problems. This observation lead Kobasa to propose that personality “hardiness” traits may decrease stress levels and decrease one’s chance of developing illness. The hardiness traits fall into 3 major categories: Challenge, Control, and Commitment (Kobasa, Salvatore, & Kahn, 1982).

Fast-forward 3 decades, and these “3 C’s” are still used today to refer to strategies, attitudes, and beliefs that help individuals cope with life’s stressors.

What are the “3 C’s” and how do we develop them?

Commitment: A tendency to involve oneself in stressful life situations, rather than avoiding them. How many times have you said to yourself, “If only I could go back in time and deal with that situation differently…” (Lambert, Lambert, & Yamase, 2003).

To increase your level of commitment:

  • Try rehearsing what you would do the next time the specific stressful event occurs. Go over in your mind how you could have handled the situation in a better way. This will help you practice how to actively become involved in the stressful event rather than passively retreating and avoiding a similar situation when it arises.
  • Try to express yourself directly to the involved person(s), and ask for explanations of the other person’s feelings or interpretations as they relate to the specific situation.

Control: A tendency to act as if one can influence the events taking place, rather than feeling helpless when faced with adversity (Lambert, Lambert, & Yamase, 2003).

To increase your level of perceived control:

  • Try seeking out information about the situation. For example, read a book or article on the subject that is of concern, or consult with a knowledgeable person.
  • Don’t forget to review your options. When you feel like you don’t have control over a situation, make a list of all possible courses of action. Ask others for their ideas as well!
  • Phase out negative self-talk such as, ‘I have no choice’, and, ‘I can’t…” and replace these phrases with, ‘I choose not to,’ or, ‘I don’t like my choices, but I will…’ Recognizing that you always have a choice can help you accept and cope with your situation.

Challenge: The belief that change is a normal part of life and presents opportunities for personal growth rather than threats to security (Lambert, Lambert, & Yamase, 2003).

 To increase your level of challenge:

  • Try to identify successes and accomplishments, no matter how small. You may find that successes far outweigh failures!
  • Work within your environment to develop support systems, or join professional organizations and become actively involved in bringing about change for your profession. By fostering openness and flexibility, challenge should allow you to accept and integrate change into your life!

These strategies are not an exhaustive list of approaches to increase psychological hardiness, however, they may be helpful in coping with stressful situations as they arise. Need more information? Don't be shy to Contact Us

How do you demonstrate hardiness in the workplace? Let us know in the comments section below!


Post by: Lesley, student occupational therapist. 



Kobasa, S., Salvatore, M., & Kahn, S. (1982). Hardiness and health: A Prospective Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 168-177. doi: org/10.1037/0022-3514.42.1.168

Lambert, V., Lambert, C., & Yamase, H. (2003). Psychological hardiness, workplace stress and related stress reduction strategies. Nursing and Health Sciences, 5(2), 181-184. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-2018.2003.00150.x

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