What is Resilience?
Many of us want to learn how to build resilience during these tough times. Don’t worry…you got this!
But first, we need to define what we are talking about? What is resilience?
Resilience goes by many names. We’ve been researching it for decades. It doesn’t matter whether you call it cognitive hardiness, mental toughness, personality hardiness, or resilience.
Resilient people remain healthy under stress because they have strength in reserve.
We’re all going to need to dig deep to find the grit and fortitude to carry us through the rest of 2020 without falling apart. Resilient people are able to manage uncertainty and adversity. They can also bounce back and rebuild their lives after daunting setbacks.
We all need a certain baseline resilience just to deal with the setbacks and losses that are an inevitable part of ordinary life.
Resilience is the ability to manage uncertainty, resist and overcome fear while transcending obstacles that may appear to be preventing you from succeeding.
Fortunately, we know a lot about resilience; what it is, and how it works.
We’re going to need to know how to build resilience in the months ahead. This post is going to take a deep look at the research on resilience and mental toughness and offer you some valuable resources.
The History of Resilience Research
It was Suzanne Kobasa who started this line of research. I could not find a picture of her online, but she deserves the credit for initiating this vitally important research.
Dr. Kobasa did this by studying a group of Bell Telephone company executives who were under massive amounts of stress due to the fact that their entire industry was being restructured.
What once was a boring, predictable, industry was now completely in chaos. She learned that specific personality traits protected the mental health and well-being of these managers.
This was a longitudinal study. Kobasa studied these executives for over eight years, Dr. Kobasa found 3 personality traits in the executives who remained the healthiest as Bell Telephone underwent enormous change.
Personality Traits that are Protective
Kobasa reported that these traits protected these managers from the toxic physiological impact of stress. She measured their levels of depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration, as well as their overall emotional responses.
Dr. Kobasa also measured their loss of confidence, levels of despair, distrust, anxiety, wishful thinking, inactivity, impatience, and emotional withdrawal.
In her foundational paper entitled Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardiness published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1979, Dr. Kobasa introduced the concept of psychological hardiness.
Kobasa posited that hardiness is the mitigating factor between stressful life events and illness. She and Dr. Maddi went on to write a popular book about their research, The Hardy Executive.
According to her research, tough-minded resilient people are buffered against stressful situations in life because they regularly display specific emotional, mental, and behavioral responses. Kobasa’s initial understanding of psychological hardiness or resilience was that it had three distinct elements, which she called the 3C’s.
How To Build Resilience…Master the 3 C’s and You Got This!
- Commitment – Resilient people are utterly committed to what they intend to accomplish. Their goals give them a compelling meaning to their lives. But their sense of commitment isn’t just in one particular aspect of their lives. Their existence is one big, overarching commitment– they commit to their marriage, their kids, their friends, their faith, and their values.
- Challenge – Resilient people view a difficulty like a coronavirus not as a paralyzing disaster, but as a challenge to overcome. This is the essential reframe of mental toughness and resilience. They see any mistakes or failures as meaningful suffering, as opportunities to grow, learn, and improve. They don’t view failure as an emblem of their inadequacy.
- Personal Control – What do I have control over? And how can I use it to my best advantage? Resilient people only invest their time and energy on situations that they can influence. They put their intention where they can have the most impact. They go through life feeling confident and powerful. They don’t waste time focusing on things over which they have no control.
Kobasa’s groundbreaking research described these elements in detail. Salvatore R. Maddi, added to her research, as did S. Kahn, Paul T. Bartone, and W. D. Gentry.
These researchers were the original wrecking crew of mental toughness.
Much research followed afterward, and throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, researchers continued to be fascinated with mental toughness and how to build hardiness and resilience.
What Resilience is Not…
Resilience isn’t optimism or wishful thinking.
Resilient people embrace the suck. They face difficulty with a mental toughness which allows them to work through challenges and recover. Resilience supplies the determination to face directly into adversity, and even supply emotional support to others in the process.