3-C's to Psychological Hardiness


What is constant in our world:  personal and organizational uncertainty, and constant need for improvement.

What’s the result:  stress

What’s the prescription:  build your “psychological hardiness

Psychologists Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa coined the term “psychological hardiness” and spawned much research into the relationship between it and physical health.  They concluded and others have largely affirmed that hardiness promotes physical health under stress.  Maddi and Kobasa identified three dimensions that tend to promote this sense of hardiness and in turn physical wellness.  As you read them, you might ask:  how do I promote this both in myself and in those experiencing stress around me.  They are:

1. Commitment.  People with psychological hardiness tend to have and hold a sense of purpose in what they do.  Meaning seems to be part of their game.  So, if they are on the sinking Titanic, they are working with purpose; if in a downsizing company they are holding to purpose.  Personally, this measure invites us to reach to our deeper values, which exist no matter what the context.  So, if dignity, respect, honesty, love, or creativity (not to mention God) matter to me, I can invoke these core values no matter where I am.

2. Control.  People who have a sense that there are things they can do, and people who focus in the domain of what they can do, rather than what’s outside their control, tend to be more hardy and less painfully stressed.

3. Challenge.  People with hardiness, enjoy challenge.  They generally see themselves as capable of change and expect life around them to change.  They don’t respond in the mode of my friend Charlie Ross’ line: “Change is great; you go first.”  Instead, mistakes are cause for learning, losses are preludes to winning, weaknesses create opportunities to grow better.

Maddi and Kobasa in their original research found that people who possessed the three C’s were flat-out healthier.  But their research begs two questions, which are the challenges for each of us in these tough times:  How do I build my psychological hardiness?  And:  How do I build a team, company, culture, family where others continually increase their given level of hardiness?

Re-commit to your values and purpose this morning, keep fixed on your sphere of control, and grab an attitude that says: I’m gonna keep learning my way to success.  And that’s a heckuva good start to

Lead with your best self!



  • I love this term “psychological hardiness.” Thank you for today’s short and simple “lesson” Dan It’s a litmus test for me as a father, husband, son, friend and business owner to remember what’s important…and to stay true to my unique purpose on earth.

  • To reduce stress and acquire psychological hardiness requires knowing your life signature (www.LifeSignature.com) and living a lifestyle putting into play an actionable formula for managing your energy, time and where you place your attention. This is especially important for women according to Dr. John Gray, author of “Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress.”

    The more stress a woman feels, the more overwhelmed she becomes. There are too many things for her to do before she can relax. The more exhausted she feels, the more urgent it becomes for her to get everything done.

    In a woman’s brain there will always be more to do. That’s why she finds it inconceivable that a man can effortlessly sit in front of the TV and not think about other things to do.

    When a woman allows herself to undertake activities that create oxytocin, her stress levels drop, her sense of being overwhelmed disappears, and her energy returns.

    Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that seems to be involved in reproductive behavior in both men and women, and apparently triggers “caring” behavior. When women have plenty of energy, they take great pleasure from their responsibilities.

  • What a great term and excellent outline for qualities to build during this time.

    My psychological hardiness requires constant stoking — good friends, prayer, meditation, setting goals, findinh humor, and keeping the faith.

    Let’s all try not to catch a Fear Flu amidst all of the tumult.

  • There are some articles that resonate and some articles do not. This article was one that did move me. Now, if only our politicians followed the points in this article, we could see some positive progress in our country and in our world.

  • Thank you Dan —
    You helped me get motivated this morning.
    Thinking about building my psychological hardiness caused me to stop and Concentrate on the challenges and goals ahead.

    I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

    Thank you for sharing this great perspective.

  • Thank you for sharing this. This has been an area of interest (and past research) for me as it seems that the same environment and events have such diverse effects on different people. It seems that we expect failure because of negative events and yet some people just keep going on. Sometimes there is pressure put upon with the expectation of forcing someone into failure as a result; and yet there is success. Many times it is because of committment to something felt so deeply that challenge is embraced at a level many do not understand and attention is focused on the small things that matter when others are swayed by the appearance of overwhelming odds. My life in the last year has been a confirmation of this process. I focus on the embodiment of the phrase, “We Shall Overcome”. Like anything involved in love, it comes from the inside and shows on the outside for those who can see it.

  • The 3 – C’s you mentioned are similar to the 3 – P’s of Purpose, Power, and Potential.

    Purpose is the ideal that we keep in front of us to direct our plans and actions. Our purpose comes from the 3 – A’s of Awareness, Activity, and Action.

    Power manifests itself in the 3 – R’s of Relationships, Relevance, and Reinforcement.

    Potential is what has the capacity to come into Expression through Excitement and Encouragement – the 3 – E’s.

    There could an acronym here CAPER or RECAP.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Great suggestions Dan. I would add another suggestion I learned at the Happy Healthy Lawyer conference last week. We had a fabulous speaker, Jane Dutton, from the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the Ross School of Business. http://www.bus.umich.edu/Positive She explained how individuals and organizations can flourish when they have positive connections with others, positive meaning in their work, and positive identity. It was a very enlightening presentation, especially directed at a profession where “happy” and “lawyer” are often an oxymoron. I am committed to finding more positive attributes in my work and my interactions with my co-workers.

  • Great thoughts and well put by Dan.

    However, I always understood the word was “Heartiness”, not “Hardiness”, which pretty much says it all.

  • Great thoughts. And well put by Dan.

    However, I understood the word is “heartiness”, not “hardiness”, which pretty much says it all.

  • This was the perfect time for me to read about psychological hardiness, as I move from June, when I was unable to walk or stand (the result of back surgery), to this week, when I am standing and moving independently. Hardiness, I realize, is what got me here, with a big dose of physical therapy. After what seemed like an endless period of time with no improvement,
    I challenged myself to try things that were just a little bit harder, I began to take control of my own progress, and committed myself to getting out of this physical prison. It was a total change in attitude and belief, and the progress is noticeable. Thanks for putting into words what I have been practising.

  • Dan, thanks for another great article.

    Your emphasis on commitment, control and challenge is something we can all act on. Commitment to our values and purpose is what makes us leaders – no matter our level in our company or organization. Control of ourselves and knowing what steps we can take to make any situation better will empower us to take that next step. Challenging others to improve is also a huge part of leadership, but we must take that first step by showing others our leadership by the example we set.

    We can show our ability to adapt to stress and change as a daily lesson to our team, owners and customers. We can help them all become “hardy” to the constantly changing environments in which our organizations must succeed!

    If you have no problem with it, I’d like to post your article on my weblog with my comments.

    Thanks Dan!

    Dennis Sergent
    Sergent Results Group

  • >