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Weekly Lesson: "The 3 C's of Hardiness"


How hardy are you?




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What does it take to get through a tough time? Why do some people seem to thrive on stress while others collapse? Psychologist Dr. Salvatore Maddi claims that it is our level of psychological hardiness that determines how we respond to the pressures of life.

Maddi began his work with hardiness in 1981 with a company that downsized its 26,000 employees to half that number. Of the employees who remained on the job, some thrived while others developed significant physical and emotional health problems. According to Maddi the people who did the best demonstrated the three key features of psychological hardiness.

Known as the 3 C's of hardiness, they are challenge, control, and commitment. These key characteristics of successful coping have been evaluated in a variety of demanding settings ranging from businesses to battlefields and from schools to medical clinics. They have proven useful in explaining what helps people to flourish through hard times.

Challenge is the first C of hardiness. How we view a problem is important. Psychologically hardy individuals see problems as challenges rather than threats. This difference is important because when faced with a threat, there is a tendency to try and avoid it. Hardy people see problems as challenges and rather than being overwhelmed and seeking to retreat, they get busy looking for solutions. Seeing a problem as a challenge mobilizes our resources to deal with it and encourages us to pursue the possibilities of a successful outcome.

The second C of hardiness is control. In a tough situation hardy individuals do not become overwhelmed or helpless. Instead, they strive to gain control of what they can by going into action. While acknowledging it is true that many aspects of a crisis situation cannot be controlled, they also understand that by intentionally developing and holding onto a positive, optimistic, hopeful outlook, we can always determine our reaction to any predicament we face. We can choose our best attitude, and the better we are at doing this, the greater our sense of being in charge of our circumstances.

Commitment is the third C of hardiness. It refers to persevering or sticking it out through a hard time. Being committed to an outcome keeps us going even in the midst of setbacks, obstacles, and discouraging news. Being committed to a goal helps us overcome occasional losses of motivation and remain steadfast in our efforts.

If we engage in the daily practice of hardiness, we may be surprised to find ourselves not only surviving but also thriving on adversity. Thriving refers to an ability to benefit and grow from a difficult experience so that we are able to function stronger, better, and more joyfully than we did prior to facing hardship.

When tough times come your way, don't strive to just be a survivor. Learn to thrive with the 3 C's. Look for a challenge, take control of what you can, and demonstrate your commitment in daily efforts to reach your goal.

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