How I developed "Psychological Hardiness" & resiliency

Discussing chpater 7
Experiment and take Risks
 Soraya Fallah

This chapter explains the idea of “Challenges the Process,” which is one of the five practices in Kouzes & Possner’s book. According to them, one of the ten commitments of exemplary leadership is “experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience” (K&P, P. 189). This means that in order for a leader to make extraordinary things happen in an organization, they should have “a willingness to try new things and take chances with new ideas” (K&P, P.188) and more importantly they should be able to encourage and convince others to do the same. K&P also challenge their reader by discussing “Psychological Hardiness” (K&P, P. 192). A leader should be able to take risks and experiment; prevail over adversity, gain power over opposing forces, and learn from their experiences.

Before I start answering the question of whether “Psychological Hardiness” is flawed, I would like to give a quick definition of “Psychological hardiness.” Psychological hardiness does not mean hardship; rather, it is a set of attitudes and coping skills. It is associated with positive psychology and some people already have this disposition, while others can develop this in themselves so that they can have better outlooks regarding the stressors in their lives. Developing ‘psychological stress” can help a leader make the most of every experience.

According to  Suzanne C.Kobasa,who first came up with this term, psychological hardiness is a pattern of personality traits and characteristics of leaders who remain healthy under stress while others, under similar stress levels, develop health problems. Kobasa, her associates, and later theorists developed the idea that “psychological hardiness” is the “courage to grow from stresses.” Psychological hardiness and psychological resilience were related together and some tests were developed to measure these attributes in people who are in management positions. (See: Maddi, S. R. (2006). "Hardiness: The courage to grow from stresses". Journal of Positive Psychology 1(3): 160–168. doi:10.1080/17439760600619609.)  

According to K&P, psychological hardiness can be taught and can be cultivated in others. I do believe that there are people who cope very differently with stress than others. For example, some people commit suicide when their loved ones dies of an illness, while others, faced with a similar tragedy, create foundations and non for profits to raise awareness about the cause of their loved ones’ passing. They show resilience and use the tragedy for something more. We have to wonder what factors set people apart when they are faced with similar stressors. I do think “psychological hardiness” is a fact. Some people are more in control of their emotions because they can more easily see the silver lining in situations of difficulty. This is often due to upbringing or level of insight into one’s own thought patterns.

K&P explain the following as key factors of hardiness: commitment, control, and challenge.  They bring examples of leaders who “were challenged and energized by it [stress]” rather than “being debilitated” (K&P, 192).

I disagree with: “The greater the challenge, more they learn” because sometimes a challenge is so burdensome, it can break a person. So I don’t think it is true that everyone can learn to face challenges in a positive way. Sometimes certain stressors are simply not healthy for anyone, no matter how resilient an individual is.

Each group of people who have already developed or naturally have the dispositions associated with “psychological hardiness” have their own perceptions of what it means to take risks and be a leader in their fields. For a business leader, this might mean accepting risks when increasing productions of products, for a Social Worker it may mean catalyzing social change and supporting each individual of a group, or a collective action, for an educational leader, it may mean dealing with a school’s atmosphere or unmanageable students.


“Psychological hardiness” in me was developed out of necessity. I believe I would not have survived if I didn’t develop the coping skills and the “can do” attitude that my life demanded of me. I was only thirteen years old when I joined social and civil rights movements. My friends and I truly believed that we could change the world. Not too long after I started taking part in political and human rights activism, I found myself in solitary confinement. I survived and became a voice. I made the choice not to break under such stress and rather use the experience. Later, I had to escape political persecution by leaving my family and belongings behind and live in a few different countries with extraordinary challenges. Celebrating “small wins” helped me keep going.

I was committed and passionate enough to be able to survive these circumstances and try to make a change in the world through education and consistent engagement with different groups of people. As K&P tell us we should do, I became involved and engaged in the work I was doing. I also involved and engaged my “constituents.”

I controlled my personal life and worked on my internal battles, and finally I used the opportunities presented to me as a challenge. I continued reading more, learning more, writing more, published on various topics, and was also teachings.  


I think I built resiliency and “psychological hardiness” through a process. I don’t believe one can create resiliency in one night or simply by wishing to do so. It is not an easy task. It is often a long and difficult process.







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