The Human Capacity for Resilience

The Human Capacity for Resilience Stress affects people differently, an observation that first led Suzanne Kobasa and others (1982) to wonder why some of us are more resilient than others in the face of stress. Kobasa studied some 200 business executives who were under stress. Many said they were fre- quently sick, affirming the link between stress and illness; others had managed to stay healthy. The two groups were similar in terms of age, education, job status, income, and ethnic and religious background. But it was clear from various tests that they differed in their attitudes toward themselves, their jobs, and the people in their lives. Based on these differences, Kobasa identified a personality style that she called hardiness and concluded that hardy people have three characteris- tics: (1) commitment—a sense of purpose with regard to one’s work, family, and other domains; (2) challenge—an openness to new experiences and a desire to embrace change; and (3) control—the belief that one has the power to influence important future outcomes.

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