Hardiness-the key to resilience


This website provides useful information on psychological hardiness, and provides a collection of free articles by Dr. Paul Bartone and colleagues.

Psychological hardiness is not a new idea.  It first appeared in the scientific literature over 40 years ago....

Psychological hardiness is a constellation of personality qualities found to characterize people who remain healthy and continue to perform well under a range of stressful conditions (Kobasa, Maddi & Kahn, 1982; Bartone, 1999; Bartone, Roland, Picano & Williams, 2008).  The key facets of hardiness are commitment – an active engagement and involvement with the world, and a sense of meaning in life (versus isolation), control – a belief that through effort one can influence events and outcomes, and challenge – a receptivity to variety and change. 

The “hardiness” theoretical model was first proposed by Kobasa (1979) as a framework for understanding resilient stress response patterns in individuals and groups.  Conceptually, hardiness was seen as a personality trait or style that distinguishes people who remain healthy under stress from those who develop symptoms and health problems (Kobasa, 1979; Maddi & Kobasa, 1984).  Hardy persons have a strong sense of life and work commitment, a greater feeling of control, and are more open to change and challenges in life.  They tend to interpret stressful and painful experiences as a normal aspect of existence, part of life that is overall interesting and worthwhile (Kobasa & Maddi, 1977). 

History of a Concept 


While Kobasa (1979) described hardiness in terms of three personality tendencies (commitment, control and challenge), it is more of a general style, a holistic pattern rather than individual, discrete traits. In Adler’s (1956) terms, hardiness would be a “worldview” or broad framework that people apply to interpret their entire experience. The hardy outlook or style includes cognitive, emotional and behavioral features, and has been found to characterize people who stay healthy under stress, in contrast to those who develop stress-related health and performance problems.

The concept of hardiness is theoretically grounded in the work of existential philosophers and psychologists (Kobasa & Maddi, 1977) such as Heidegger (1986), Frankl (1960), and Binswanger (1963).  It is a broad, generalized perspective that affects how one views the self, others, work, and even the physical world (in existential terms, umwelt, the “around” or physical world;  mitwelt, the “with” or social  world,  and eigenwelt, the world of the self).  People high in hardiness see life as meaningful and worthwhile, even though it is sometimes painful and disappointing.  The commitment facet of hardiness builds on the work of Antonovsky (1974), whose “sense of coherence” entails commitment and engagement with others, which lends resistance to the ill effects of stress. White’s (1959) ideas on self-awareness and striving for competence also influenced Kobasa’s  and Maddi’s understanding of commitment. Hardiness-commitment provides a sense of internal balance and confidence which is important for realistic assessment of stressful and threatening situations. 

The control facet of hardiness derives primarily from Rotter’s concept of locus of control (Rotter, Seeman & Liverant, 1962), and Lefcourt (1973) on control beliefs.  Kobasa’s ideas on control were also influenced by experimental research showing that when subjects have control over aversive stimuli, the stress effects are substantially reduced (eg., Averill, 1973; Seligman, 1975). 

In the hardiness concept, challenge involves an appreciation for variety and change in the environment, and a motivation to learn and grow by trying new things. Early theoretical influences on challenge can be seen in Fiske & Maddi (1961) on variety in experience, and Maddi (1967) on engagement vs. alienation.  Maddi used the term "ideal identity" to describe the person who lives a vigorous and proactive life, with an abiding sense of meaning and purpose, and a belief in his or her own ability to influence things. This is contrasted with the “existential neurotic,” who shies away from change, seeking security, sameness and predictability in the environment.  Although Maddi wasn’t using the term “hardiness” at the time, one can see the roots of the idea in these early works. 

Today, hardiness is often referred to as a “mindset,” and there is an extensive body of research indicating that people who approach life with a hardiness mindset are not only more resilient under stress, but often are able to grow and get better in the aftermath of stressful encounters (Stein & Bartone, 2020). Hardy people are curious, eager to learn, and quick to adapt to new and surprising conditions.

Useful Links

https://hardinessmindset.com/  ...2020 Hardiness book by Stein & Bartone
https://storefront.mhs.com/collections/hrg   ...The Hardiness Resilience Gauge
https://www.cstsonline.org/  ...Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress  
https://www.uib.no/en/ccp   ...Center for crisis psychology, University of Bergen  
https://www.taps.org/   ...Tragedy Assistance program for survivors