Last updated: Mar 26, 2009


Diane is a blind-from-birth woman whos had her share of tough times. Her husband, whod been supporting her, died suddenly. She then got a job for the first time in her life, only to be laid off when the economy took its nosedive. What advice do I have for her and all of us going through difficulties right now? Well, resiliency experts Suzanne Kobasa and Salvatore Maddi have found that those who thrive best in adversity all believe in the three Cs:

Challenge: They see change as a chance to grow.

Control: They believe they can change their lives for the better and act on it. Rather than focusing on whats outside their control, they concentrate on things they can influence.

Commitment: Theyre passionate about their pursuits and see life as having meaning and purpose.

Developing bounce-back qualities with the three Cs can give you an enormous advantage right now. Research shows that resilient folks are more likely to be kept on staff during downsizing, more likely to get hired, more likely to learn new skills when their job is eliminated, better able to help their families and communities through hard times, and less likely to get ill under stress. Sign me up!

I asked Diane about the three Cs when she came to see me. Shed been living on her own in the house shed owned with her husband, despite her parents begging her to move in with them, so she had the challenge part down. As for control, without a job Diane, nevertheless, thought of a way to support herself. “I live in a big house near a university,” she said. “I could rent rooms to graduate students.” And when I asked about her passions, she revealed that she cared deeply about helping young people with disabilities use new technologies. Shes now looking for work in that field. Despite her difficult circumstances, Dianes using the tools of resilience to move forward.

The three Cs can help you find balance in difficult times. Here, some questions to make sure youve got them by your side.

Consider the challenge. “How could what Im going through be a growth opportunity?” If you dont have an immediate answer, work toward it by focusing on the small stuff first. If, say, you lost your job, think about how you finally have more time to see friends.

Take control. “What can I control? What can I do to feel more in control?” Remember Diane—she took in boarders while looking for work.

Make a commitment. “What gives me meaning and purpose, and how can I get involved?” If you love animals, volunteer at an animal-rescue center. When you get in touch with what you truly care about, you feel better about yourself and live a happier life—no matter what else is going on around you.