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Steve Stein and Paul Bartone wish you a hardy – as in hardiness – New Year.

Stress affects us all differently. But those who fare the best maintain a spirit of hardiness. If that seems a vague concept, the two clinical and research psychologists – Mr. Stein, a former professor at York University who is executive chair of the assessment firm Multi-Health Systems and Colonel (Retired) Bartone, a visiting research fellow at the U.S. National Defense University – boil it down to commitment, challenge and control.

People high in hardiness see life as meaningful and worthwhile. They also strive for personal competence. “To be high in commitment means looking at the world as interesting and useful, even when things are difficult. Those kinds of people pursue their interests with vigour, are deeply involved in their work, and are socially engaged with other people. They are also reflective about themselves and aware of their own feelings and reactions,” they write in Hardiness: Making Stress Work for You to Achieve Your Life Goals.

Hardy folks also have a strong sense of challenge, enjoy variety and tend to see change and disruptions and challenges in life not as nefarious but as interesting opportunities to learn and grow. They accept challenges as part of life and, rather than running away or avoiding those challenges, set out to solve them. They understand such situations are an interesting way to learn about themselves and their own capabilities.

Control is also crucial. It’s the belief that your own actions make a real difference. When facing adversity, you can play a role, affecting the outcome. By contrast, people low in the hardiness-control factor feel powerless to control or influence events in their lives. “High-hardy people are authentic in this sense, seeing themselves as being in charge of their own destinies, even though the future is always somewhat uncertain and frightening,” they note.

To get more in control, they urge you to focus your time and energy on things you can influence or control. Work on tasks that are within your capabilities – moderately difficult but not overwhelming, which corresponds with the prized state of flow identified by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Recognize your successes. When you hit roadblocks, ask for help if you need it and, when you can, turn your attention to other things you can control.

Studies of Olympic champions have found them high in hardiness. They have strong mental resilience and believe they can overcome obstacles, setbacks and challenges. Their skills that you can emulate include practising being in the moment, trying not to focus on the environment or venue, and preparing for mistakes. They know after missing a basket in basketball or taking two strikes in baseball, they must control their negative emotions.

Mr. Stein studied Aref Jallali, who coached Canadian tennis sensation Bianca Andreescu from ages 11 to 15, and found he scored high on the three hardiness factors. In explaining his prize student’s success, the coach highlighted her ability even at age 11 to rise to challenges and learn. His athletes are taught to visualize: “Think of your body, think of all the situations that are going to happen to you, think of how you are going to overcome the challenges and think how you are going to beat this guy six-love.”

But it’s not just in sports. It applies to work. “Can hardiness help you be a better leader? Based on a growing body of evidence, the answer appears to be yes,” they say. Commitment, challenge and control can be the key to rising above stress and being successful at your job.

Power Points

  • Marina Koren, a staff writer at The Atlantic, looked at the many articles sharing what famous people do after awakening and concluded “morning rituals have been repackaged as sacred rituals” that if mimicked by others, might prove to be a false promise
  • More false promise: Although abstaining from social media is often touted as likely to improve well-being, an experimental study found that not true. It’s no better or worse than remaining active on social media.
  • False promise No. 3: Don’t trust applicant tracking systems to judge your job résumés properly. You’re much better off tracking down the hiring manager’s e-mail address and sending your résumé directly, says the careers site Get Five.
  • Employees at the online file-sending service WeTransfer get one “Innovative Friday” a month where they can work on a project of their own choosing.
  • Consultant Alan Weiss says he has found people who complain the loudest that they don’t have enough support, need additional resources and are asked to do too much are the same folks resistant to change when support and resources are improved and demands on them reduced. “It’s because their feeling of indispensability is removed, and their martyrdom is unnecessary,” he argues.

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