It would be easy to assume that, related to "hardy," stress-resistant personalities in an organization, "control" would apply to those persons who controlled resources, decision-making, etc., -- i.e., the bosses. This, however, is not the case. Instead, it correlated to workers with a mindset that closely paralleled the language of the St. Francis of Assisi-inspired Serenity Prayer, a cornerstone of the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things that I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Kobasa and her colleagues, then, learned that the more stress-resistant workers – regardless of the stressors present in the organization at any given point in time – were those who were most capable of:
- exercising appropriate control over things they legitimately could control and
- letting go of what
is not within their control
This is different, too, from the prevailing conventional wisdom that it is necessary to exercise control over everything in order to reduce one's stress. Paradoxically, the conventional wisdom would lead to an inherently stressful outcome, since it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be in control of all variables, all the time.
Think back to the Personal Power Grid in the Letting Go portion of our major Stressors and Sustainers section. This is precisely what Kobasa and her colleagues found to be the case regarding control.