Surviving And Thriving: Study Looks What It Means to be Mentally Tough

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Want to be more hardy, mentally tough, and taker fewer sick days? A study by PsychTests assesses the benefits of developing three key personality factors: Commitment, Control, and Challenge.

Mentally tough people commit to every task they take on, view obstacles as challenges to overcome, and believe that they determine their own fate.

Hardy or mentally tough people have a unique approach to life: They live purposefully, view obstacles as temporary, and believe that they control their destiny.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to stress is that your perception of the stressor is what will determine your emotional experience, your attitude, and your behavior.

Any story that starts with “In my time…” will no doubt lead to a lecture on how older houses, older cars, and older generations were made of sterner stuff. After all, most grandparents and great-grandparents alive today likely lived through at least one war and one major economic crisis, often surviving through sheer will and determination to become the hardy people they are today. But what does it really mean to have a “hardy personality”? Researchers at PsychTests looked at the impact of three key traits that have been the subject of numerous studies since the seventies: Commitment, Control, and Challenge.

Studies conducted by stress resilience pioneers Salvatore R. Maddi and Suzanne C. Kobasa revealed that a person’s ability to cope with a traumatic event or hardship was a matter of perception: According to Kobasa, hardy individuals have developed three essential traits that not only allow them to survive difficult experiences, but in fact help them thrive thereafter:

  • COMMITMENT: People with a hardy personality commit themselves to whatever task they take on, no matter how minor. They have a sense of purpose, whether it’s work, family, community, or a specific aspiration.
  • CONTROL: Hardy individuals act with intent. Rather than viewing themselves as victims of their circumstances, background, or fate, they are proactive. They believe that they have the power to change their life for the better.
  • CHALLENGE: When experiencing a setback, hardy individuals view these difficult circumstances as temporary. The only constant in life is change, so while things may be difficult now, they believe they will get better eventually. An obstacle is merely a challenge to overcome, and while it may significantly test their skills and emotional fortitude, in the end they will come out stronger and wiser.

Researchers at PsychTests examined data from 9,283 participants who took their Hardiness Test. They discovered that hardy individuals take a unique approach to life that allows them to thrive even during difficult times. For example:

  • When they don't succeed at a task or goal, 38% of hardy individuals (vs. 2% of the non-hardy group) said that it only motivates them to try harder and do better next time.
  • When a plan they’ve put into place fails, 36% of hardy individuals (vs. 2% of the non-hardy group) see it as a chance to make a new and better plan.
  • When given a project at work that is outside their comfort zone, 49% of hardy individuals (vs. 5% of the non-hardy group) view it as an opportunity to learn something new and expand their skill set.
  • 44% of hardy individuals (vs. 6% of the non-hardy group) embrace change and the unknown.
  • 44% of hardy individuals (vs. 4% of the non-hardy group) are able to find something enjoyable in even the most mundane tasks.
  • 63% of hardy individuals (vs. 11% of the non-hardy group) will staunchly stick to a goal, even when they don't see immediate progress from their efforts.

PsychTests study also indicates that a hardy personality can have a positive impact on an individual’s physical health and potential for success. For example:

  • 62% of hardy individuals (vs. 35% of the non-hardy group) had top grades in school.
  • 69% of hardy individuals (vs. 26% of the non-hardy group) are among the top performers at work.
  • 60% of hardy individuals (vs. 11% of the non-hardy group) are very satisfied with their job.
  • 71% of hardy individuals (vs. 23% of the non-hardy group) take less than 4 sick days in a year.

“We often choose to tiptoe around conflict situation, take the easier or familiar road, complain when we hit our first obstacle, and wallow in self-pity when things go wrong in our life,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “The interesting thing about hardiness is that every obstacle and hardship we face makes us wiser and tougher. Going through tough times can be to our advantage. We learn to be resilient and we learn new information and skills that will help us get through the situation…and any other hardship we may face in the future. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”

“The most important thing to remember when it comes to stress is that your perception of the stressor is what will determine your emotional experience, your thoughts, your attitude, and your behavior,” explains Dr. Jerabek. “We like to use the example of a rainy day: Some people will lament about the weather; hardy people will simply grab an umbrella, put on their raincoat, and head out like they would on any other day. Even when dealing with a hardship that is more long-term, like an illness, how you view the situation can significantly increase or decrease the emotional turmoil surrounding it, and affect the way your body deals with the illness on a physical level. There are those who will spend their days fearing their illness and creating more stress for themselves, and then there are those who will use their circumstances as inspiration and embrace life more fully and enjoy every minute. Hardy individuals have a more hopeful, proactive, and determined attitude. They live fully, purposefully, and with the attitude that no matter what happens, they will find a way to get through it.”

Want to assess your level of hardiness? Check out

Professional users of this test can download a sample report for the PsyHP - R (Psychological Hardiness Profile - Revised - Therapy Version) or request a free demo for any assessment from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery:

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook: Spotting Diamonds in the Rough. (

About PsychTests AIM Inc.
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

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Ilona Jerabek
PsychTests AIM Inc.
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