America's Positive Attitude Makes Us More Resilient

True to form, Americans are vastly more optimistic than their counterparts in the developed world, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

True to form, Americans are vastly more optimistic than their counterparts in the developed world, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.


Americans ranked much higher than the global average of respondents, in a survey taken from 44 countries spanning the globe, when it came to believing that (1) hard work is more likely to result in success; (2) God provides the world with moral order; and (3) today is a good day.

"When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a '10' or 'very important,' compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations."

When we believe in our own power to make it through difficult situations, we are more likely to actually succeed in doing so. This is a lesson Dennis Charney, MD, learned while conducting psychological evaluations of American war veterans. Charney, who is dean of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a world expert in the neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, shared his story recently with Big Think:

"Jim Stockdale was a heroic POW, and the Stockdale Paradox really defines the optimism that is most important in becoming a resilient person and that is, when you're faced with a challenge or a trauma, you look at that challenge objectively. You might make the assessment, 'I'm in really big trouble.' You have a realistic assessment of what you're facing. On the other hand, you have the attitude and the confidence to say, 'But I will prevail. I'm in a tough spot, but I will prevail.' That is the optimism that relates to resilience."

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