Positive psychology has produced a lot of research on an aspect of courage that I connect with artistic living, since it shines in sports, is visible in in the fine arts, and it does not necessarily have moral connotations. This quality is an essential part of that superb attitude in life that is called grit, resilience, toughness, or hardiness.
Salvatore Maddi spent decades studying and teaching hardiness. At the University of Chicago during the 1970s and 80s, he worked as a consultant for Illinois Bell telephone company during the chaotic period when its parent company, AT&T, was being broken up by the federal government, a time during which half the employees were fired. His longitudinal study of managers found substantially less mental and physical stress among those who had “hardiness.” This he analyzed as embracing three attitudes, which he termed “commitment, control, and challenge.”
• “What we called commitment was a predisposition to be involved with people, things, and contexts, rather than be detached, isolated, or alienated.
• Control involved struggling to have an influence on outcomes going on around you, rather than sinking into passivity and powerlessness.
• Challenge signified wanting to learn continually from your experience, whether positive or negative, rather than playing it safe by avoiding uncertainties and potential threats.”
According to Maddi, the attitudes ingredient in hardiness become more effective when associated with skills in coping, social interaction, and self-care.
People who manifest all three of these attitudes under stress suffer much less mentally and physically; only half as important were social support and physical exercise. Through his Hardiness Institute, Maddi and his associates have developed programs for training individuals and personnel in organizations in the attitudes and skills of hardiness, with significant success. Thus there is evidence that people can undertake programs that use techniques from counseling psychology designed to help them develop hardiness, and they can genuinely achieve progress.
Among philosophers, to my knowledge only William James fully values attitudes. It became the fashion for a while to use the word “attitude” with pejorative connotations: “He has attitude” meant “He has a bad attitude.” But the concept is too valuable to let the word be captured by such a fashion. Attitudes integrate (1) a worldview, (2) a sense of self, and (3) a dominant feeling, are the basis of resilience.
Some people find it easier than others to show forth a positive attitude, and yet we all can (more or less indirectly) improve our attitude. What have you found helps you to cultivate the habit of a positive attitude?
The Society of Consulting Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association gives an annual award to an individual with a distinguished career in the practice of consulting psychology. In 1999, that recognition was awarded to Salvatore R. Maddi, a professor in the interdisciplinary School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine, and founder of the Hardiness Institute. The article summarized here, derived from the talk that he gave in response to this award, is “The Story of Hardiness: Twenty Years of Theorizing, Research and Practice,” published in Consulting Psychology Journal (54), 2002, pp. 173-185. The quotation comes from that article.
Photo credit: Vs. Avenmouth 3-4-10-018
By Jusben http://mrg.bz/J98375