Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

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Martin Seligman, a renowned psychologist and clinical researcher, has been studying optimists and pessimists for 25 years. Pessimists believe that bad events are their fault, will last a long time, and undermine everything. They feel helpless and may sink into depression, which is epidemic today, especially among youths. Optimists, on the other hand, believe that defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge--it doesn't knock them down. "Pessimism is escapable," asserts Seligman, by learning a new set of cognitive skills that will enable you to take charge, resist depression, and make yourself feel better and accomplish more.

About two-thirds of this book is a psychological discussion of pessimism, optimism, learned helplessness (giving up because you feel unable to change things), explanatory style (how you habitually explain to yourself why events happen), and depression, and how these affect success, health, and quality of life. Seligman supports his points with animal research and human cases. He includes tests for you and your child--whose achievement may be related more to his or her level of optimism/pessimism than ability. The final chapters teach the skills of changing from pessimism to optimism, with worksheet pages to guide you and your child. --Joan Price

Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to demonstrate how optimism enchances the quality of life, and how anyone can learn to practice it. Offering many simple techniques, Dr. Seligman explains how to break an “I—give-up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue. These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and make you happier..

With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school, at work and in children, Learned Optimism is both profound and practical–and valuable for every phase of life.

Customer Reviews:

  • Not a fly-by-night self-help book
    It's all about attitude. If you've ever noticed that you're looking at life from the glass-half-empty perspective, then get this book. And even if you only sometimes approach life from that angle, it's still well worth the read. This is not a fly-by-night self-help book. In fact, I wouldn't even lump it in the self-help category; it's more self-awareness... self-learning. Seligman is a psychologist who other psychologists think is exceptional. And not only is this book well researched, it's readable and practical. Seligman shows us how we learn pessimism and how we can break away from it. He even talks about how we can help our children escape it. So if you find yourself sometimes caught up in negative thoughts that just won't go away, read this book. It's freeing....more info
  • Is The Glass Half Full Or Half Empty?
    Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman, is a book that will help you overcome your pessimistic lifestyle. The author has studied both optimists and pessimists for twenty-five years and determined that pessimist are negative people that believe bad events are their fault that will last a very long time and will undermine everything. Pessimistic people feel helpless and will eventually fall into depression. It's a problem for lots of people especially youths. The author has discovered that optimist believe that defeat is just a temporary setback and even a challenge. But don't worry according to the author "Pessimism is escapable." The book teaches you cognitive skills that will enable you to overcome pessimism and take charge of your life.

    After you read this book it may be a good time to consider reading my book entitled "The Enlightenment, What God Told Me After One Million Prayers, a Message for Everyone" (See Profile Above) There are lots of way to handle life's many problems.
    ...more info
  • The font is too small to read!
    Martin Seligman visited my university and I heard him speak. Since I was very impressed with his talk, I bought several of his books. Probably, the paperback version of "Learned Optimism" has jewels of wisdom. However, the typesetting is in an unusually small and unreadable font. After about 10 pages I gave up due to eye strain. If this book were readable, I would probably be giving it a 5 star rating, assuming it has content similar to his presentation. Unfortunately, I will not be reading this book because of the poor quality typesetting, and I feel like I wasted my money....more info
  • For pessimists everywhere
    For those of us who have a pessimistic outlook on life this is a must read. Seligman makes a great case for rooting out the "explanatory patterns" that we hold, but that are mostly unconscious, and which we use to explain bad events and failures in our lives. The pessimistic explanatory style can wreak havoc on ones life. The good news is that it can be changed simply by becoming aware of it and consciously replacing it with an optimistic style of explaining events, both good and bad, in our lives. Seligman has much psychological science and therapeutic practice backing him up on this too....more info
  • Keep walking...don't pick this book up
    I think I was expecting something else from this book. This book left me bored and reading it took me back to my experiences in high school when I was forced to read some boring text book. I found the majority of this book to be nothing more than an author bragging about their past. Too much of this publication was about research the author had done and findings they had concluded. It was a well-written book but I was expecting to see something more along the lines of "this is what is wrong = this will fix it". If you are looking for simple and direct information about how you are feeling then I suggest finding another book. ...more info
  • Pivotal book makes optimism achievable
    Despite equal talent and drive, it turns out that optimists will succeed where pessimists fear to tread. The good news is that you can learn optimism and lean on it to respond to adversity and inculcate greater resilience. Through descriptions of dozens of studies performed since the '70s, author Martin Seligman conveys the history and landscape that define "positive psychology," the science he helped to found. He offers cognitive techniques designed to tweak your natural disposition and give you the advantage of optimism. We recommend this book as a seminal work of positive psychology. ...more info
  • This book changed my life
    Over the years, I've read a lot of self-help and psychology books. None has made the difference like "Learned Optimism." I was in the midst of a bad marriage, had lost my career, and wondered how the hell I had ended up in such a lousy life. Seligman's book helped me see (1) how incredibly pessimistic I was, which I hadn't realized, (2) how the expectation of failure had kept me from pursing goals, and (3) how optimism and taking reasonable risks could help. Since that time, I got out of the awful marriage, moved to a new city, found a job I love, and have taken many more risks, most of which have had very happy results. Largely because, from Seligman, I learned how to put optimism to work for me.

    Yes, he spends a lot of time on the history of his research. But that's what makes his ideas convincing. If you are a skeptic, this part really makes his case. If there's a single book that will help you get out of your pessimistic rut, this is it. It sure did for me. I am so grateful that Dr. Seligman wrote this book. ...more info
  • A truly excellent book
    In Learned Optimism, the author does an excellent job of explaining the different ways optimists and pessimists view their circumstances and events. One learns that optimists are less acccurate in evaluating their circumstances. They are cheerful, persist and succeed more often because of their expectation of success (even when the expectation lacks substance). When the consequences of failure are far reaching, optimism can be dangerous. One also learns that pessimists are more accurate in their evaluations. I believe this is an essential book for those who seek understanding about how we view the world. I would also strongly recommend Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self, a practical how-to book that shows the reader how to be an optimal realist (making the most of situations at hand)....more info
  • Overcome Depression Through Self-Delusion
    For the most part I consider this book a complete waste of time. The author takes forever to get to the point (which is; How to Change Your Mind and Your Life) and when he finally does, his half baked philosophy is disappointing. He seems to think that self-delusion is the answer to what ails us. If we find something upsetting or that causes us to be depressed, just mentally conjure up an alternative reality for ourself and all will be well. Also, I really don't see the benefit of the author's rather arbitrary categorization of 'pessimism and optimism' regarding mental self-reflection. Shouldn't the primary focus be cognitive distortion itself? Isn't that the root cause, of mental anguish, which should really be addressed? Just because 'winners' in life are often delusional (as expounded by the author), that doesn't substantiate that delusion is an optimal way to live ones life. What of the long term effect on not only the individual but society itself?

    The author's pick and choose method of choosing when to be 'optimistic' or 'pessimistic' regarding events, strikes me as ludicrous, as well as unnecessarily complicating the issue. Why not just focus on a commitment to a rational assessment of the events of one's life? Isn't that in itself difficult enough, without creating artificial divisions, and delusions, in which to view events? If an accurate assessment makes a person feel bad, then that should be an indication that that event is a problem and a solution needs to be pursued. Placing problems into an 'optimistic' frame of reference may make a person feel better but it does nothing to address the underlying problem.

    If a person chooses to delude themselves as the author advocates, how is that creating an environment where future change is even possible? Are we to just live in a fantasy world while the troublesome events around us remain unchanged? Shouldn't the core of a persons cognition always strive to adhere to self-honesty as well as an accurate assessment of reality? I don't see how a sane person could think otherwise.

    Obviously, I really didn't get much, that was useful, from this book. The two books I've found helpful and would recommend are;

    * 'The Feeling Good Handbook' by David Burns
    * 'Power Therapy: Maximizing Health Through Self-Efficacy' by Michael Aleksiuk...more info
  • Overcome Depression Through Self-Delusion
    For the most part I consider this book a complete waste of time. The author takes forever to get to the point (which is; How to Change Your Mind and Your Life) and when he finally does, his half baked philosophy is disappointing. He seems to think that self-delusion is the answer to what ails us. If we find something upsetting or that causes us to be depressed, just mentally conjure up an alternative reality for ourself and all will be well. Also, I really don't see the benefit of the author's rather arbitrary categorization of "pessimism" and "optimism" regarding mental self-reflection. Shouldn't the primary focus be cognitive distortion itself? Isn't that the root cause, of mental anguish, which should really be addressed? Just because 'winners' in life are often delusional (as expounded by the author), that doesn't substantiate that delusion is an optimal way to live ones life. What of the long term effect on not only the individual but society itself?

    The author's pick and choose method of choosing when to be 'optimistic' or 'pessimistic' regarding events, strikes me as ludicrous, as well as unnecessarily complicating the issue. Why not just focus on a commitment to a rational assessment of the events of one's life? Isn't that in itself difficult enough, without creating artificial divisions, and delusions, in which to view events? If an accurate assessment makes a person feel bad, then that should be an indication that that event is a problem and a solution needs to be pursued. Placing problems into an 'optimistic' frame of reference may make a person feel better but it does nothing to address the underlying problem.

    If a person chooses to delude themselves as the author advocates, how is that creating an environment where future change is even possible? Are we to just live in a fantasy world while the troublesome events around us remain unchanged? Shouldn't the core of a persons cognition always strive to adhere to self-honesty as well as an accurate assessment of reality? I don't see how a sane person could think otherwise.

    Obviously, I really didn't get much, that was useful, from this book. The two books I've found helpful and would recommend are;

    * 'The Feeling Good Handbook' by David Burns
    * 'Power Therapy: Maximizing Health Through Self-Efficacy' by Michael Aleksiuk...more info
  • What Makes Winners?
    "Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better. . . the optimist bounces back from defeat . . . the pessimist gives up and falls into depression." Why are some people optimists and others pessimists? Can we change our own thinking style and explanation for why bad things happen? These questions are discussed simply in Seligman's landmark book for the lay.

    Seligman's book is an excellent treatise on how thinking patterns affect how we perform and feel. The most valuable item in this book are his two optimism tests that help determine how optimistic a person is. Seligman explains there are three crucial dimensions to how you explain why things happen (your explanatory style). These three dimensions are permanence, pervasiveness and personalization.

    Not only is there a test for adults, but there is also a test for children. (As well as a depression test.) I have used these tests to test prospective employees as I have found that optimists are better employees in my field of work. Although the book's last four chapters only briefly discuss how to change your explanatory style as an adult in your personal life, at work and to help your own children avoid the pain of depression, his subsequent book, "What You Can Change and What You Can't" provides more self-help answers....more info
  • Tough read, to many history
    I actually bought this book via reference from '100 ways to motivate yourself'. The first two thirds are very dry and it taughts about the history of research on learned helplessless.

    What I am seeking is 'How to'..which is later part of the book but it was a bit hard to digest....more info
  • Helping to change my life
    This is one of the most fantastic and helpful books I have ever read. Much of the discussion is a touch more scientific in tone, when compared to other mainstream psychology or self-help books. The first three quarters of the book is also dedicated to research that had been done earlier, rather than educating the reader on how they might apply these practices to benefit their own life. In the end though, all that research backing serves to add a serious amount of weight, and value, to the chapters towards the end which outline how you as the reader can focus on changing the way you think. The book is NOT a magic pill to change your life. There are NO magic pills like that. This will help you learn to think differently though, and realize that many of us are hindered primarily by our own self-defeat. Thinking positively, expressing yourself, and going after your dreams are the keys. When you do feel down, depressed, or fearful, debate your illogical beliefs and change the feelings you generate!...more info
  • Cured my year-long depression literally overnight
    I will be forever grateful to Dr. Seligman and the therapist who gave this book to me. Ten years ago, I had been suffering from depression over a failed relationship for over a year. After a few months of therapy, my counselor recommended this book to me. I read it ravenously, staying up overnight to finish it after starting it in the afternoon. The realization that I had control over my feelings was astonishing. I do not exaggerate in saying that I felt cured of my depression the very next day. Amazing and empowering. Highly recommended for those who are ready to hear it....more info
  • Broad Usefulness
    Although Seligman intends for this outstanding book to be used for individual growth, I first learned of it in a context of organizational development done by my friend and colleague, Dr. Mila Baker.

    Not only individuals, but entire work groups can learn to become helpless. Martin's analytical framework is priceless in understanding and breaking down this group dynamic in workplaces. I would highly recommend it to HR professionals as the pliers in their toolkit......more info
  • Une des cl¨¦s de la r¨¦silience
    Ce livre m'a permis de d¨¦couvrir comment on peut ¨¦valuer la pr¨¦sence de l'optimisme chez une personne et comment on peut l'aider ¨¤ faire grandir cet ¨¦tat cognitif et ¨¦motif.

    ¨¤ conseiller ¨¤ tous ceux qui se demandent encore comment ¨ºtre plus heureux ou comment ressentir qu'ils r¨¦ussissent....more info

  • More of a "why..." than a "how to..." book.
    This was a fairly interesting read. Seligman spends 80% of the book discussing what he has discovered about learned optimism over the years, and what other researchers have found on the subject. All of this information helps build an strong case for the idea that we humans can, and should, learn to be more optimistic.

    That being said, I gave this book such a low rating because I feel that the title is completely misleading. I didn't want to read all sorts of information about WHY changing my mind and life is important and possible. I wanted to learn HOW, and that's what the title promises.

    To be sure, there are some suggestions of how to learn optimism, but such little space in the book is dedicated to this topic that I felt misled and "ripped off" by the title.

    It's like reading a book called "Instructions for Knitting a Sweater for your Baby" and discovering that only the last chapter is in fact instructive; the first 100 pages are about the history of knitting, the need for babies to wear sweaters, what happens to those poor babies who don't wear sweaters, and why the author considers himself to be the best darn knitter in the entire county. Enough already!...more info

  • ***** for self-help, 0* for scholarship
    This book starts by demonstrating that animals can learned to be helpless. Seligman then goes on to examine the explanation styles that people have and how these beliefs affect the way they behave.

    Generally speaking the first part of the book, which is dedicated to the differences in explanatory styles is quite interesting. The section also contains a couple of self-test to measure your own level of optimism and your level of depression. I should say in passing that it is somewhat regrettable that the portion that shows readers how to change their explanatory styles is at the back of the book rather than immediately following the test results. I say that because chronic pessimist/depressive people like myself (I scored abysmally on both test) might be tempted to give up and kill themselves before they find out that the author actually tries to help them feel better. The portion at the back (learn how to be an optimism) constists of simple but undeniably effective tricks to change your way of thinking. All is consistent with "mood therapy" "cognitive psychology" types of similar works.

    While there is no question that Seligman in on to something with his theory on optimism, he tries to use it to death by applying to just about everything including politics, society and history. Through history, there has been no shortage of philosophers who attempted to use one basic principle to explain society. Be it weather (Montesquieu), atoms (atomist Greek philosophy) or the evolution, it generally turn out to produce simplistic and poor scholarship. That kind of explanation also hides (although rather poorly) a deep sense of ethnocentrism.

    If Seligman seriously think that one can explain voters' choices on the sole base of the optimistic/pessimistic profile of the candidates, I hope for him he is smoking good crack. What is more worrysome is his complete lack of understanding of basic concepts such as society, ideology and culture. For instance, one chapter is a comparison of East and West German media. Not only does it leave out important questions (such as how are the media produced and how closely do they reflect the readers' view)but what about ideology. Well of course, you'd expect a communist regime to give less weighting to individual agency in their explanation of events. Duh! At any rate the chapter explains nothing since his theories would have us expect that more optimistic group perform better which is not the case.

    Personnally, I would have preferred a much shorter self-help book devoid of Seligman's naive positivist supertheories. It is a shame because in the end, his book could have raised good questions.
    After reading the introduction on how explanatory styles influence people's lives I thought "How interesting? What is the relationship between learned helplessness and poverty? What is the role of ideology and social institutions in reproducing social inequalities through teaching people to be helpful or helpless, etc."
    But instead, Seligman was more interesting in whoring himself out by helping a life insurance company determine which job applicants are best suited? Guess what? I could not care less....more info

  • Unlearn Pessimism
    Martin E.P. Selligman has written a ground breking book on how to unlearn pessimism and Learn Optimism.This excellent book blends hard-edged science with practical advice that really works. Learned Optimism gives us an understanding of how we hold ourselves back and how we can change for the better..I wholeheartily recommend this book for everyone who wants to learn how to change their mind and their life and is genuinely interested in in helping and understanding their fellow human beings....more info
  • A psychology book. Some interesting ideas.
    This was more of a psychology book rather than a self-help book. There were more contents on ?¡ìWhat is the problem ??¡§ instead of ?¡ìHow to tackle the problem ??¡§ It contained a lot of description of experiments, making the book looked like the author?|s personal research history. Some contents were repetitive, e.g. the casual relationship between pessimism and depression. The reading was not light, although not hard to understand either.

    Having said that, the contents showed the author was an expert in the optimism area with plenty of experience and research. He was objective. For example, the author recognized pessimism has its values, the idea of ?¡ìflexible optimism?¡§ is at most a tool only. The book includes a section for parents to guide their children.

    There were some interesting concepts or ideas:
    ?P Why depression is so serious nowadays ?
    ?P Argued the difference between optimism and pessimism does matter.
    ?P The three aspects of optimism and pessimism differences.
    ?P Positive idea: optimism can be learnt.
    ?P ?¡ìMaximal self?¡§ theory. How the meaning of life is reduced....more info

  • Great Book For Understanding Role of Optimism In Success
    Non-negative thinking, not positive thinking, is the key to success, according to Martin Seligman author of "Learned Optimism: How To Change Your Mind And Your Life."

    Seligman writes: "The optimistic individual makes the most of his talent... .The optimistic individual perseveres."

    As a graduate student, Seligman made a significant discovery--dogs can learn their actions are futile and can learn to become helpless. According to Seligman, people, too, can learn to become helpless. And, such negative thinking can lead to depression.

    So, what separates optimistic people from more pessimistic people? Seligman says it's the way we explain events and outcomes to ourselves. If something good happens to us, how do we explain it? Was it luck? Or was it the result of our talent?

    If something bad happens to us, how do we explain that? Is it that conditions just weren't right? Or did the bad event happen because we're somehow horribly flawed as individuals? Will this flaw eternally damn us in all other endeavors?

    After extensive research, Seligman concludes that optimists and pessimists attribute the reasons for success and failure differently. Pessimists tend to attribute failure and bad events to permanent, personal, and pervasive factors. Optimists tend to attribute bad events to non-personal, non-permanent, and non-pervasive factors. Conversely, for good events.

    By "permanent," Seligman means factors that will be with you throughout life. By "personal," Seligman means factors that relate to us as individuals. By "pervasive," Seligman means factors that affect our efficacy in other parts of our life.

    Seligman writes: "Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. ... Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair."

    "Learned Optimism" includes a test to determine your own attributional style. And, to improve optimism, Seligman offers a solution called ABCDE. Seligman writes: "When we encounter adversity, we react by thinking about it. Our thoughts rapidly congeal into beliefs. These beliefs .... have consequences."

    D is for disputation, where we find evidence against the negative beliefs, alternatives to our negative reasoning, and limit the implication of the beliefs. Seligman writes: "Much of the skill of dealing with setbacks ... consists of learning how to dispute your own first thoughts in reaction to a setback." E is for energization, which we feel after we've disputed our false, negative beliefs.

    Seligman points out that optimism is essential to success in many careers and that a lack of optimism limits one's life. For example, salespeople who explain failure in personal terms often don't want to make more sales calls. And, that leads to lower performance. In hiring for certain positions, Seligman says optimism is a key criterion. Seligman worked with Met Life and showed that optimism is a crucial success factor for hiring insurance salespeople.

    Organizations, too, such as a hockey team, can develop optimistic or pessimistic ways of explaining poor performance. For anyone interested in handicapping sporting events, CAVE techniques discussed in "Learned Optimism" might be helpful for separating the teams that crumble under pressure from the teams that don't.

    Seligman's book shows that most elections tend to be won by the more optimistic candidate. Seligman successfully predicted several races in the 1988 elections, including the presidential primaries, the presidential election, and 25 of 29 senate races.

    Seligman writes: "Among Republicans, there was also a clear winner: George Bush, far and away the most optimistic... Dole would fade fast by our predictions." [This was before Viagra].

    It would be interesting to see if more current political races have been predicted with that much success. Did they continue their predictions?

    The book also has an excellent discussion of the role of optimism and how it affects health. In particular, pessimism weakens the immune system. For example, in one test, rats were given cancer and three groups studied. The amount of cancer injected corresponded to a 50% chance of the rat developing cancer. One group of rats were given conditions where they could control their environment and prevent shocks. One group were given conditions where nothing they did mattered to prevent shocks. And, the control group had nothing special about their conditions and no shocks.

    Seligman writes: "...50 percent of the rats not shocked had died, and the other 50% of the no-shock rats had rejected the tumor; this was the normal ratio. As for the rats that mastered shock by pressing a bar to turn it off, 70 percent rejected the tumor. But only 27 percent of the helpless rats, the rats that had experienced uncontrollable shock, rejected the tumor."

    Seligman also discusses the beginnings of treatment of patients using psychological therapy for treating physical illness. Because this was started in the 1990's, it would be interesting to know what the results have been.

    However, optimism isn't always best. Seligman says a pilot, for example, shouldn't be "optimistic" the wings of his plane won't ice up and fail to de-ice them before a flight. And, Seligman points out that depressed people actually have a more accurate perception of reality than optimistic people (That sort of [stinks]if you think about it.). Pessimism is useful because it forces us to confront situations where we really have no effectiveness and change course. (Relentlessly optimistic people seem to be somewhat blinded to reality.)

    Seligman recommends developing a healthy and flexible optimism. Doing so should allow a person to live a fuller and richer life.

    Peter Hupalo, Author of "Thinking Like An Entrepreneur"...more info

  • Amazing Book. Used by Professional Counselors
    This book was recommended to me by my psychology professor, who's also a very successful counselor in private practice. He uses this theory himself (it's been used professionally for at least 2 decades now). He told us that the cognitive behavioral therapy that's detailed in this book is a revolution in treating depressives. Dr. Seligman has identified that depressives have a pessimistic thought pattern that's destructive-- and that can be changed. Depressives tend to berate themselves with a mental brutality that's a hundred times worse than they would ever endure outside of their heads. This book identifies those negative thoughts and teaches you how to think more rationally and realistically.

    There are no Stuart Smalley mindless "I'm good enough and smart enough" chants in here, no "confront your family & lovers and tell them just how much pain they've caused you" nausea. Instead, there's just sound and simple advice on how to recognize your own self-abusive thoughts and refocus them so you don't beat YOURSELF into a downward spiral of hopelessness.

    The only negative I can say about this book is that there is a lot of Dr. Seligman's professional history and it has plenty of clinical justifications and statistics for the professionals. Take comfort in knowing that this is a well-researched and well-supported theory, and then skip just over this dry stuff.

    Research has proven that in most cases of mild to moderate to depression, cognitive behavioral therapy is as effective as anti-depressant medication. All the good and none of the weight gain or loss of sex drive. I definitely say it's a better way to go!...more info

  • A Classic Part of Any Thinking Project
    I guess you could call it my 'personal project' -- for several years I have been investing a lot of time working on improving my thinking style and emotional attitude. I have worked my way through the classic inspirational books and the more recent psychology self-help books. And I would not call Learned Optimism 'outdated' but rather 'classic' in that literature. It seems to me that different books are best for different people (Personality Psych 101). The optimistically inclined might like Learned Optimism, the realistically inclined might prefer Optimal Thinking, the pesimistic might like The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, whereas the Zen inclined might prefer How To Change Your Entire Life By Doing Absolutely Nothing .... William James called it 'Pluralism' and popular culture calls it 'Different strokes for different folks' and personality psychology calls it 'individual differences in temperament and culture.' So I recommend Learned Optimism with the understanding that people differ in optimism, pessimism, and realism in ways that make different books necessary depending on where you are coming from. Improving thinking styles does take time and effort, but improvement can make life better. Certainly Dr. Seligman's books are a potentially useful part of such a project....more info
  • A book that enlightens the reader
    This book helped me understand pessimism and optimism. Dr. Selligman explains when pessimism works and when optimism is preferable. If you are interested in thinking, this book is aworthwhile read....more info
  • A must Read
    Dr. Seligman provides compelling proof in his research about learing to be an Optimist. I always thought in half-empty or half-full terms. What he teaches you is how to help let go of things that are harmful and how to "rephrase" things to assist you AND your body. After 6 months of reading this book, and listening to his tape, it has helped me take control. I recommend it to my clients, friends and family. A self-help book, with real action items and REAL studies to back it up!...more info
  • Become More Resilient
    In Learned Optimism, Dr. Seligman teaches that people possessing a pessimistic style of explaining events are at risk for becoming depressed and helpless. The result is a loss of energy, poor thinking, inattention, and impaired health. When faced with hardship or failure, pessimists tend to give up.

    Seligman explains that this is because of pessimistic explanatory talk, which is both permanent and personal, e.g. "This bad thing happened because there is something wrong with me."

    On the other hand, resilient people usually have an optimistic explanatory style, allowing them to recover from failure and bounce back. The key to becoming optimistic is to change your self-talk to something external and temporary, e.g. "The bad thing happened because she was stressed out at the time."

    A skeptic might ask, "Isn't this simply avoiding responsibility for one's role in a given situation?" Dr. Seligman agrees that this is possible, but counters that the benefits of optimism are desperately needed by pessimists, who usually take far too much responsibility for the bad things that happen in their lives.

    Ultimately, Dr. Seligman says we can choose to leaven our pessimistic loaf with the yeast of optimism, and become happier, more resilient, and more successful in life. Or we can remain pessimistic, depressed, and helpless. It's our choice.

    Learned Optimism is a great follow-up to Dr. Fredrickson's excellent book entitled Positivity....more info
  • Good Info; not enough of it to warrant a book of this size
    The book makes some excellent and rather useful points regarding learned optimism, cognitive therapy, and thought patterns. It also contains some useful inventory tests. However, this whole book could've probably been written in around half the space. It is very redundant. Again, good info but he is long winded and could explain the whole book much more quickly and efficiently. I consider checking it out at a library first....more info
  • Interesting read!
    I'm not a person who reads self help books. A professor who i respect mentioned the book in a social psych class. I like the idea of positive psychology, so I decided to look at the book more. I almost didn't get it because it was listed as self help, lol. But I did, and I loved the book. Everything is based on research, which sets it apart from the vast majority of self help books. I'd say that my optimism was a healthy level before beginning the book, and it was even more so afterward, and I was skeptical about applying it to myself.

    It's a learning experience, and I enjoyed it.

    Plus it's an easy and pleasant read.

    BTW, if you are interested in the author's work, try browsing:
    You can set up your own account to take tests that determine different strengths and compare them to your area, and other demographics. Also on the main penn state site you can also volunteer to participate in online research, which I love doing. ...more info
  • Powerful, Informative and Accessible
    After reading this book, I can't NOT hear the 3 Ps that mark a pessimistic reaction to misfortune. And once you can hear them, you can change them. This has helped me reverse my own reactions to bad events as well as helped me shift the thinking of others at critical times.

    As a management consultant, I appreciate every new tool that I can use to help others improve their performance. This book's concrete, specific steps are so much more valuable than all the sweet talking platitude preaching that quickly melts away like cotton candy when it rains.

    This book also discusses the benefits of optimism, the important role of pessimism even for eternal optimists, and more. Informative, fascinating and accessible - I highly recommend Learned Optimism to anyone interested in helping themselves or others have more control over their reactions to the vicissitudes of life....more info
  • Must Read
    Great introduction to positive psycholgy. Also, this book has stoked my interest in cognitive therapy. Seligman writes in an accessible style and lays out the compelling scientific evidence for his theory. He brings credibility as the former president of the American Psychological Association and years of research. This book has made me look at some of my errors in thought and improved the quality of my life. I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with their own emotional issues or helping others with their own. ...more info
  • Is Learned Optimism Worth It???
    I purchased this book to add to my collection of "self help" materials. I thought it was going to be just another "rah rah Anthony Robbins" type book. I came to find out this is serious stuff based on empirical evidence. The first few chapters are a little too scientific for someone like me, it took actually deep reading and putting the theories together. But then again, I am more of an Arts and Humanities than a Science Guy. Once you get past the scientific stuff (involves dogs), there is some mind bending life changing stuff to read. This book is more of a clinical research based book on "positive" psychology with concrete steps to take to turn negative thinking around. If you are looking for get happy cheerleading fluff, you can safely pass by this book!...more info
  • Self-Inflated Author Offers Little Advice
    I got this book with great hope in it's title. I'd hoped for something motivating and inspiring but it was a great disappointment. The author spends most of the book talking about his awards and recognitions for this or that and little if anything actually helping a negative thinker be optimistic. I saved chapter 15, I think, and discarded the rest of the book, something I NEVER do. Stick with Tony Robbins' Awaken The Giant Within, much better read, much more advice on being optimistic....more info
  • Learned Optimism
    Dr. Seligman tries to convince us that pessimism is the source of all our problems and optimism is the panacea in this book. It's basically divided into three parts: the first part deals with research in learned helplessness, the second about the advantages of optimism, and the third about how to change from pessimism to optimism.

    Seligman defines optimism as not letting negative thoughts distort reality. But what if negative thoughts are reality and positive thoughts are distortions? When I realized that was true and I've been distorting reality with optimism (after I had read the book and had been applying the refutations for a couple weeks), I realized that the book had been inapplicable. He then says that even if the negative thoughts are true, what are the implications of them? He seems to think the only implications are minor things not worth bothering yourself with, but that hasn't been my experience.

    To put it succinctly, it's a nice book, well-written and well-researched, but it fails by presenting depression and pessimism as not only the same thing, but something that can be cured in a one-size-fits-all kind of way that just didn't work for me....more info
  • Reformation of An Extreme Pessimist.
    Although it's a struggle to wade through almost half a book of how research was conducted, I gave this book a five star rating because it really has changed my life. I honestly thought there was nothing I could succeed at and also believed my children would probably fail at everything too. But I've learnt to rewrite my internal script and delibertely think like an optimist and there's been an instant positive response from the children. We have a much happier home and a bright, bright future. If you ever get even a little depressed you should read this book and do the exercises....more info
  • Important Book
    This book tells how to be more optimistic and gives solid scientific reasons why depression is associated with feelings of helplessness. In my search to achieve a more positive and productive life I have read many self-help books. Most are theories devoid of any compelling scientific rationale. Once you are exposed to the ideas in Learned Optimism you find them so rational that they become second nature. I knew of cognitive therapy but never the research that preceded it. I find that knowing the research behind the theory makes the mechanics of cognitive therapy totally intuitive.

    Don't be put-off by the tests that comprise chapters three and four. These are useful, scientifically proven tests that have little in common with the tests that litter the average self-help book.

    If there are any flaws in this book it may be the overuse of dialogs demonstrating how to learn to be an optimist. These are useful for those not familiar with cognitive therapy but I found them a bit repetitive....more info
  • Great approach for depressed people
    I absolutely loved this book. It helped me to start working on my world view. Although I was a very optimistic person because of a bad marriage and harsh relationship, my attitude went down. This book helped me to realize that we can make a difference in our life. I am still work in progress and we have to be patient about it but I believe world would be better place by having more optimistic people around us....more info
  • Changed my life
    I found out that a) I am a pragmatic realist w/ an optimist's bent and b)if i choose to apply what I've read it can make a difference in my outlook and in everyday as well as professional problem solving....more info
  • A Real Life Changer!
    This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I'm not talking just psychology or self-improvement books...but all books...period. The science behind it, the practices outlined, the insight, will change your attitude and your life. It is unlike any book in its genre, and I can't for the life of me understand why it isn't required reading and a guide book for therapists...but I guess that would make therapy effective! :0. Not really providing a lot of information here...just read it and see for yourself. I have read all his books. This is the first and the best. If you're interested in Positive Psychology or shaking off depression/anxiety or knowing more about yourself and others...start with this book. It is not only a great read...it works. I credit it for changing my life for the better, and I no longer take medication. I would also check out the author's program of study and website and UPENN which is http://www.authentichappiness.com....more info
  • Applied Psychology With Leadership Implications
    When I picked up this book, I was in hopes that since it was in the Sociology section, that it would be more than a useless text that suggests for people to "think positive thoughts", regardless of whether these thoughts have substance or whether one actually believed these thoughts. Thankfully, I did not experience any disappointment with this book.

    Seligman takes a different angle from this by applying psychological principles that he has extensively researched in his lifetime. While some may not be interested in the psychology surrounding theories such as learned helplessness, the format of the book allows people to skip directly to the application of techniques which would allow them to use optimism AS NECESSARY as well as providing tools that would make this easier.

    I emphasize "as necessary" because optimism, as it is defined psychologically, is not a cure-all in the real world. I'll leave it up to the reader to figure out why not.

    I find this book to be a useful resource for leaders, and those with an interest in Behavioral or Positive Psychology. The book as a whole supports the "Look for heart, train for skills" mentality....more info
  • Wonderful Inspiring Book!
    This book is incredible! Seligman discusses how, through our life experiences and relationships, we have become pessimistic in our thought and how to cognitively now "learn" optimism. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has only the slightest bit of negative thinking!! Thanks to the most amazing Mary H for recommending this book - you are the BEST Life Coach anyone could be blessed with!...more info
  • And then what ?...
    I came to this book with high hopes, having recently had a huge improvements after reading Bryan Tracy's fantastic Time Power I thought that a extra zing of optimism would do me good and that this book would help me archive it - I was wrong and here is why.

    As other reviewers have pointed out, this book contains allot of compelling evidence that being a optimist beats being a pessimist. This can hardly come to a surprise to anyone, but nevertheless the author drags your through one depressing example after the other, speculating about how a more optimistic approach would have saved the day.

    As remarked earlier this is not new knowledge nor are most readers so socially defunct as to require this repeated a 100 times. What would have been new was factual plans on how to side track this train of gloomy thoughts. Many techniques exists such as positive affirmations, index cards containing optimal wording for desirable behavior, promising improvements to others and so on - but none are presented here. In short I think the author missed a golden opportunity, he certainly has his facts rights, but provides no answers. ...more info
  • fantastic tool for sales people
    I was extremely hesitant about purchasing this book for many reasons, one of which is my aversion to smiley face books that are based on personal anecdotes rather than solid research. We'll let's just say that this book was freaking awesome! Yes it is that good. Everything in this book is based on solid research, which I might add is transformed into easy to understand tools. The writer provides a reassuring array of evidence for everything and better yet the simplification of the ABCDE process of understanding the thought process that you encounter is the key to actually applying all of it into your daily life.
    Since College I have worked in sales and let me just say that Chapter 14 should be mandatory reading for any professional sales person especially when dealing with big comissions. Naturally, since reading this book my prospecting has improved dramatically. Mental resilience is the by product of this book. However, let me be clear about one thing, you will have to practice internalizing all the tools he gives you. For me chapter 14 applied to my field of work so I practiced and read the chapter every day for a month. The effort you put in will be returned to you 10 fold. ...more info
  • Like the light bulb in the joke...
    Learned Optimism is a - sometimes uneasy - mix of the theoretical and the practical. Seligman is clearly captivated by his subject, which he has made his life's work. Not surprisingly then, he sees the value of an optimistic outlook in every aspect of life. It's not just that optimists do better than pessimists at school, work and sports, but they even live longer. Seligman makes the case that "the arrow points both ways": that pessimism is not a consequence but also a contributing cause of depression and that an optimistic "explanatory style" for the misfortunes of life, large and small, can actually prevent a descent into morbid depression. He even says he can predict the outcome of elections by analyzing the explanatory styles of the competing candidates - because in a head-to-head contest the most optimistic candidate will prevail.

    In Part 1 of the book he lays out the theoretical case for optimism and the techniques by which it can be measured. In Part 2 he describes how the optimist's advantage is played out in the different "realms of life", such as work, sports, politics, etc. In Part 3, he explains self-help techniques for moving from pessimism to optimism.

    I found Part 1 the most interesting - not least because I got to fill out a couple of tests to help me discern my explanatory style and determine if I was currently depressed (and how deeply). It turns out I am moderately optimistic about bad events and moderately pessimistic about good ones. But I am not at all depressed, so I guess I must have learned to live with the contradiction.

    Part 3 gets us into the land of the light bulb joke (where to change, the light bulb must truly desire change). I am convinced from my own experience that optimism is like a muscle that can be worked and strengthened. I also recognized in Seligman's techniques ones that I had stumbled onto myself.

    In the final analysis, whether the reader will find reading Learned Optimism helpful will depend on the reader. Judging by the Amazon reviews, the experience for some will be life-changing; for others not so. Perhaps underlying explanatory style may have something to do with that. Perhaps also a self-help book is not the best therapy for the truly, deeply depressed (as the book suggests, you can improve your outlook but you have to be motivated to start a mental workout routine and stick with it to see the positive results). However there is much to learn here and I would not hesitate to recommend the book to anyone interested in understanding more about the origin and effect of individual explanatory styles - including one's own - and what can be done to change them.
    ...more info
  • A New Angle to Psychology
    An easy-to-read introduction to the world of Dr. Seligmann, the cognitive world, with tests galore to make you rethink your reactions and behavior patterns. Missed a deeper dive into the theories, but followed the history of how psychology changed with enthusiasm. ...more info
  • Fabulous Book
    This is only my first or second review for Amazon but I feel compelled to write it simply because this book is amazing - it really struck a chord with me. As others have mentioned, the book has a lot of extra background and stories and only gets to the steps explaining how to become more optimistic in the last third. However, I personally feel that the extra information serves to really drive home how important explanatory style is - how you internally explain to yourself various good and bad events in your life and how your style of self talk helps to define your reality.

    I've only been trying the techniques for 2 weeks but so far I have noticed a difference - as has my wife. She told me last night that I've been more upbeat lately and haven't been getting down about minor annoyances and setbacks as has been a common occurrence for me for a long time.

    If you feel that you have a generally pessimistic outlook, do yourself a favor, plop down the 10 bucks and give the book a shot. Also, if you are the type that is tempted to jump to the end and start doing the optimistic steps I'd recommend you hold off at least until you've read through Chapter 3 and taken the optimism test along with the analysis - There were some real "aha!" moments that came out of that experience for me....more info
  • Optimism Wins

    This is a book packed with science yet written in a style that is interesting and easy to understand. Reports of experiment after experiment systematically convince the reader.

    Seligman's book describes how the mental attitude of helplessness can be learned and unlearned, how helplessness both results from and exacerbates a pessimistic personality style, and how helplessness/pessimism ends in depression. A test is included so you can find if you are an optimist or a pessimist. A second test reveals if you are suffering from depression. But if you are a pessimist/depressed don't despair. Just as helplessness can be unlearned optimism can be learned and this book tells you how.

    Next we learn how optimistic people succeed better at work, school, sports, health, politics, religion and culture.

    If I have one criticism of this book it is that Seligman strangely does not provide scientific evidence that his cognitive therapy methods for learning optimism work. Instead he simply writes: "The National Institute of Mental Health has spent millions of dollars testing whether the ... [cognitive] ... therapy works on depression. It does." (p.75). A report of at least one study would have been useful at this critical point.

    I have suffered from depression and I found this book provided me with an invaluable technique that work for me. This is one of the very few books that I can say has changed my life.
    ...more info
  • not bad!
    i found the book interesting and, being a psychologist myself, entirely applicable to my client group (children in primary and secondary ed settings). i think that someone who does not have a background in psychology might find the ideas addressed superficial or hard to follow or difficult to apply in real life. personally, i think that it could be used with clients in all age groups as long as the clients come to believe in the theory of personal choice and internal control....more info
  • Life Changing Book - Evidence That Changed Me From a Pessimist To An Optimist
    I have always been very skeptical of all "self help" books, believing they were mainly fluff and a waste of time. On a whim I thought I would buy this book since it was written by a psychologist and clinical researcher, and claimed to have evidence that optimists actually do succeed more and accomplish more.

    As stated earlier, the author is a psychologist and clinical researcher who has spent the majority of his life studying learned helplessness and optimism. After many clinical trials, he has been hired in many "real world" situations (including Met Life Insurance and sports teams) to improve results and test optimism and success. The results are astounding. The book describes the results using these real-life projects. As evidenced by these studies, optimism helps persons succeed in business, sports, politics, health, school, and literally all walks of life.

    The book demonstrated over and over again how I was handicapping myself by being negative and a pessimist. I am a very logical person and it took a book like this, written factually instead of emotionally, to open my eyes to pessimism. Since reading this book, I have dedicated myself to being an optimist, and I must say I have already noticed major differences in my life. I am succeeding at things I never would have even attempted before, and I have become very resilient in non-favorable situations. I have surprised myself over and over again.

    Not too many "life changing" books come along, but this book was definitely one for me. If you are a pessimist, this book can transform your life. If you are average or only slightly positive, this book can improve your life greatly. Do yourself a favor and read this book!
    ...more info
  • Fascinating
    Not only did I like the advice about changing my own outlook, I found the research fascinating! Definitely worth a read....more info
  • An intelligent self-help work that is both very readable and extremely compelling
    I am a psychologist myself, and ever since i first began studying psychology, I have been fascinated by the work of Dr. Seligman. Once I started working as a therapist, I purchased and this book to facilitate my work with clients. Dr. Seligman is a talented, amusing, and engaging writer who presents an extremely pursuasive review of his research into the effects of learned optimism on mood, performance, health, etc. Because his research includes areas as diverse as including health (showing greater breast cancer survival rates for those who are more optimistic), sales success (proving that optimistic salesman are more successful), and sports/politics (providing evidence that both sports teams and political candidates are more likely to win when optimism is increased), his methods are beleivable to even the most die-hard psychological skeptic.

    Dr. Seligman explains your attribution style--that is, how you explain your successes/failures--can have a major impact on mood as well as all of the other dimensions mentioned above. He provides the reader with a concrete, easily understandible model to asses their own thinking style, emphasizing that being able to monitor your thoughts is the first step towards changing them. Finally, he presents a simple plan for changing though patterns which involves easy to implement steps. This book will definitely help you to better understand how your thought patterns affect your mood and how to go about making changes in order to live a happier, healthier life; highly recommended....more info