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Using Your Psychological Capital (PsyCap) in a Global Pandemic

By James B. Avey PhD
Co-author of the Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PCQ) 
Professor of Management, Central Washington University
April 20, 2020

Your psychological capital (PsyCap), or the way you think and feel, the disciplines you practice, and the habits you have developed, influences how you respond to the term ‘global pandemic’ and to the implications of a worldwide contagion. Positive psychological capital (PsyCap) is a vital component in this process. PsyCap includes resilience, optimism, hope and self-efficacy. You will see PsyCap in your neighbors and in the mirror. People with PsyCap take positive action. People low in PsyCap may be paralyzed with inaction.

You can develop and use your PsyCap to take positive action in this time of crisis, uncertainty, and fear.
  • Resilience is your anchor. Identify what you can control, what you can’t control, your assets (social, emotional, relational, financial, cognitive), and your liabilities.
  • Optimism keeps you motivated to take action. Things will get better. If you don’t believe things will get better, you won’t execute a plan to make them better. Resilient optimism is the voice in your head saying, “…this too shall pass”.
  • Hope is your pathway builder. A hopeful person makes plans with small manageable steps to achieve their objectives. Break down big challenges into executable chunks and stay motivated for each step of your plan.
  • Self-efficacy (confidence) is your fuel. You need self-efficacy to take action. When you believe you can do something, you try it, and usually you do it. What happens when you don’t believe you can do something? Nothing. No action is taken, which leads to… nothing. But, if you DO believe you can _________________ (fill in the blank with your situation: homeschool my kids in quarantine, learn how to make a Zoom call to my adult children, sew a mask for my elderly neighbor, find a new job, etc.)… then you will take action, and you will succeed.
Consider the four components of PsyCap in the context of COVID-19, when the foundations of medical technology, the stock market, and governments have been shaken.
As a person with PsyCap, how will you respond if you…..
  • Get bad news?
  • Argue with your spouse but can’t leave the house?
  • Are furloughed?
  • Are parked in a mile-long line at the food bank?
  • Get the call that Dad is sick and “getting tested”?
You will pause and be mindful. You will engage your optimism and remind yourself that this is not a permanent situation. You will marshal your resilience and list the things you can control and those you can’t control. You will apply your hope and build a plan for the things you can control and build contingency plans for the things you can’t control. Then you will use your self-efficacy and remember great accomplishments you have made in the past. With confidence that things will improve, an objective but upbeat view of reality, and your plan for next steps eliciting hope, you can engage your world and pursue your plan toward success.

Engage your PsyCap as a habit and you, your family, and your organization will be better for it. Strengthen and build your psychological capital using the PCQ online assessment. Individual, and Multi-rater [360] Reports are available. See PCQ product information.