Whether we are talking about students beginning their university selection process or preparing to begin their first day at the university, if I could give them a gift it would be the gift of hardiness.
Hardiness is defined as the capacity for enduring or sustaining hardship, privation, etc.; capability of surviving under unfavorable conditions or courage; boldness; audacity.
I would wrap it up and present this gift to them on the first day of their new journey through the university search process or for their first day of class. When working with students to assist them in their search process, my first word of advice is to explore many options. There should be a first, second and third choice group of institutions they are willing to check out. Then, within these options, I suggest a Plan A, B, C…. Yet, I am consistently amazed at some students who insist on focusing on one institution only. If denied admission, these same students contact me only to emphasize that they will not try again. They describe the college search experience as too overwhelming or say they are too depressed by their rejection to move forward.
For some students who actually arrive at the campus of their choice, I have seen them quietly derailed by an unexpected turn in the road. My examples include, students who struggle to adapt from secondary school to university level courses and want to give up, or the student who is overwhelmingly homesick and wants to go back home, or the dynamic student who runs for student council and is not elected. I have witnessed these twists and bumps in the road lead to high levels of frustration, sometimes depression and a general sense of being overwhelmed.
This is where that wonderful gift of hardiness could best be used. Students need to know that many of us have experienced what they are going through and we have survived. I consider myself a survivor and someone with enough hardiness to have overcome both personal and professional challenges. I also see myself as someone who has addressed these challenges with humor and calm, but I never understood how this was really done until after participating in a presentation titled, Who Will Survive the Changing Workplace presented by Dr. Neda June Salazar. In this workshop, I learned that I had a stress-hardy personality.
In her presentation, Dr. Salazar discussed research done by Doctor Susan Kobasa in the late 1970’s regarding the personality traits that protected some executives and managers from stress including:
Commitment-Commitment means having a purpose to life and involvement in family, work, community, social, friends, religious faith, ourselves, etc., giving us a meaning to our lives. When we have this commitment to something or someone that is important to us, this gives our life a purpose. When committed to something we tend to be motivated to put in more effort. This can help us to find a goodness and meaning to our lives.
Control-Studies have shown that how much control we perceive we have over any stressor will influence how difficult the stressor will be for us to cope with. Researchers have found there are basically two types of control, Internal and External, and these can either exacerbate or reduce a stressful situation.
-----Internal-With the internal locus of control, people are aware that they cannot influence all the external events that go on in their lives, but they do have a deep sense that they have a choice in how they react to that stressor and believe that although they cannot totally influence it, they do have some influence over the event.
-----External-In the external locus of control people believe that they have little or no control over what happens to them; what happens is due to fate or destiny and that they will not be able to influence it
Challenge is about how we perceive the events that occur in our lives; seeing our difficulties as a challenge rather than as a threat and accepting that the only thing in life that is constant, is change (Stress Hardiness, 2014)
Was I born hardy or did the day to day events in my life make me hardy? This is what I am not sure of however, according to Dr. Kobasa, stress hardy people have a natural advantage than those… who do not have these personality traits; however, research is suggesting that those of us who do not naturally have the stress hardy personality traits can actually learn them, with time and practice…(Stress Hardiness, 2014).
Yes, this is the gift I believe we should share with students while at the same time letting them know that stress hardy people should also know when to seek assistance from others. This is a gift that can carry them through a lifetime of new experiences, challenges and change.