Self-care for parents

Is hardiness the new resilience?

Is hardiness the new resilience? I think it will be come January 2020, when Dr. Steven J. Stein’s new book Hardiness: Making Stress Work for You to Achieve Your Life Goals comes out.

Hardiness: Making Stress Work for You to Achieve Your Life Goals
Hardiness: Making Stress Work for You to Achieve Your Life Goals

I had the good fortune to hear Dr. Stein speak at a recent event at The Globe and Mail (full disclosure: I oversee events at The Globe). It was hosted by the Psychological Foundation of Canada.

Here’s what I learned about the concept of hardiness, and how to get it.

Who is Dr. Steven J. Stein?

Dr. Stein is a clinical psychologist and the founder and CEO of Multi-Health Systems, a leading publisher of scientifically validated assessments.

He’s an expert in measuring Emotional Intelligence, and has written half a dozen books on the subject. In 2015, he won the “EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award” for Health Sciences in Ontario.

In addition to writing and developing assessment tools, he consults with professional sports team, corporations like Amex and Canyon Ranch, and the US and Canadian military and special units of the Pentagon.

What is Hardiness?

Stein defines hardiness as a set of characteristics that define how people see the world and make sense of experiences, particularly disruptive or stressful ones.

The more hardy you are, the more likely you are to remain physically and mentally healthy in stressful situations.

He described it as something slightly different from resilience: where resilience is the ability to bounce back from stressful experiences, hardiness is the ability to bounce back and be even better than you were. It has a protective nature to it. Like a harder shell.

And while hardiness was once thought to be a fixed personality trait, Stein argues people can be coached to be more hardy.

How do you know if you’re hardy?

Hardiness is measured by three characteristics, known as the three ‘C’s: challenge, control and commitment.

To get a scientifically validated assessment of your hardiness, you’d need Multi-Healthy System’s Hardiness Resilience Gauge™ (HRG). However, you can get a sense of where you might sit on the hardiness scale with a little introspection:

  1. Challenge: This is your ability to see variety and change as opportunity. You’re adventurous and willing to step out of your comfort zone. You see difficult situations as problems to be solved, rather than just problems.
  2. Control: You have a strong belief that you can influence outcomes in your life. You might not be able to control what’s happening, but you are confident your actions and decisions can influence results.
  3. Commitment: You see most parts of your life as interesting and meaningful. You show up in the world and have a sense of self-worth and purpose.

How to increase your hardiness?

If you’re lacking in the hardiness department, don’t fear. Stein says you can build hardiness with nine exercises. I’ve listed all nine below, but given most days I’m just trying to get by, I’ve lowered the bar a bit to focus on three that really resonated with me.

  1. Set goals in what’s important to you. There’s a catch to this one — you have to know what’s important to you. If you’ve spent months or years entirely focused on your kid’s health, you may not know. So, you might need to spend some time thinking about this. What do you want?
  2. Understand what you can control and what you can’t control and don’t waste your energy on the latter. I wrote a bit about this in an earlier post about how taking responsibility for what I could actually control and letting go of the rest made a huge difference in my life.
  3. See failure not as failure, but as an opportunity to learn. I’ve heard this a million times, but every reminder is welcome. I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a parent, but I’m slowly learning to look at them in light of what I’ve learned.

Take your hardiness to the next level

And for those of you who are already pros at dealing with stressful situations, here’s how you can take your hardiness to the next level:

  1. Set goals in what’s important to you.
  2. Improve your skills and competencies.
  3. Pay attention to what’s going on in the world–be aware, read, observe
  4. Understand what we can control and what we can’t control and don’t waste energy on what you can’t control
  5. Set stretch goals – goals that are just beyond your ability. In between boredom and anxiety is the flow state
  6. Break down projects into smaller pieces–what can you do in three minutes, even if the answer to that is take a few deep breaths
  7. Be flexible. Be willing to change plans and shift goals.
  8. No matter what happens, accept that change is part of life. Remember change is good, so embrace the opportunity.
  9. See failure not as failure but as opportunity to learn

Further reading:

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