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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Landmark Research Findings That Will Improve Your Life

Seldom have I seen a book of such extraordinary timeliness that I knew I was witnessing history in the making, but such is the case with LEARNED OPTIMISM. As Seligman writes, '... the things we say to ourselves when trouble strikes can be just as baseless as the ravings...
Seldom have I seen a book of such extraordinary timeliness that I knew I was witnessing history in the making, but such is the case with LEARNED OPTIMISM. As Seligman writes, '... the things we say to ourselves when trouble strikes can be just as baseless as the ravings of a drunk on the street. Our reflexive explanations are usually not based on reality. They are bad habits that emerge from the mists of the past...' This, in essence, gets to the heart of LEARNED OPTIMISM, as it turns out that we can radically improve our self talk during all times of disappointment. The key is to learn to dispute your first internal thoughts when you encounter setbacks. Seligman shares tips for how we can vault the walls we construct for ourselves... the ones that sometimes can stop us in our tracks right before we otherwise might have been met with spectacular success. I was thrilled to discover this extraordinary book on the subject of how we can address social and personal problems with hopelessness and depression by applying some of the most exciting findings from the field of psychology. When I took psychology classes at UC Berkeley, I was deeply impressed by studies I read about dogs that became helpless after experiencing situations they learned they had no control over. As it turns out, one of the researchers involved in these early studies, Martin Seligman, was deeply motivated to understand the root causes and possible solutions for helplessness and depression, because his father had suffered catastrophic strokes that prevented from him running for office and achieving his dreams. LEARNED OPTIMISM presents landmark research-based discoveries that not only have the power to dramatically improve your life, but also include tools you can utilize to assist others who suffer hopelessness and depression. What sets this book apart from all others is the extraordinary gift of hearing from one of the pioneers in psychology his cutting-edge ideas, research experiences, and tools for assessing and improving optimism. The significance and timeliness of this book is phenomenal, and Seligman's ability to explain why mere positive affirmations and self-esteem programs cannot help people learn optimism is priceless. There is cause for celebration in LEARNED OPTIMISM's central thesis that once optimism is learned, people have the power to overcome bouts of hopelessness or depression and become much more resilient 'can do' individuals who bounce back whenever facing problems in their lives. LEARNED OPTIMISM just might be one of the greatest findings of our time.... I give this book my highest recommendation!

posted by CynthiaSueLarson on September 6, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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 ...
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 and 'Power Therapy: Maximizing Health Through Self-Efficacy' by Michael Aleksiuk

posted by Anonymous on March 10, 2006

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2006

    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 and 'Power Therapy: Maximizing Health Through Self-Efficacy' by Michael Aleksiuk

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Landmark Research Findings That Will Improve Your Life

    Seldom have I seen a book of such extraordinary timeliness that I knew I was witnessing history in the making, but such is the case with LEARNED OPTIMISM. As Seligman writes, '... the things we say to ourselves when trouble strikes can be just as baseless as the ravings of a drunk on the street. Our reflexive explanations are usually not based on reality. They are bad habits that emerge from the mists of the past...' This, in essence, gets to the heart of LEARNED OPTIMISM, as it turns out that we can radically improve our self talk during all times of disappointment. The key is to learn to dispute your first internal thoughts when you encounter setbacks. Seligman shares tips for how we can vault the walls we construct for ourselves... the ones that sometimes can stop us in our tracks right before we otherwise might have been met with spectacular success. I was thrilled to discover this extraordinary book on the subject of how we can address social and personal problems with hopelessness and depression by applying some of the most exciting findings from the field of psychology. When I took psychology classes at UC Berkeley, I was deeply impressed by studies I read about dogs that became helpless after experiencing situations they learned they had no control over. As it turns out, one of the researchers involved in these early studies, Martin Seligman, was deeply motivated to understand the root causes and possible solutions for helplessness and depression, because his father had suffered catastrophic strokes that prevented from him running for office and achieving his dreams. LEARNED OPTIMISM presents landmark research-based discoveries that not only have the power to dramatically improve your life, but also include tools you can utilize to assist others who suffer hopelessness and depression. What sets this book apart from all others is the extraordinary gift of hearing from one of the pioneers in psychology his cutting-edge ideas, research experiences, and tools for assessing and improving optimism. The significance and timeliness of this book is phenomenal, and Seligman's ability to explain why mere positive affirmations and self-esteem programs cannot help people learn optimism is priceless. There is cause for celebration in LEARNED OPTIMISM's central thesis that once optimism is learned, people have the power to overcome bouts of hopelessness or depression and become much more resilient 'can do' individuals who bounce back whenever facing problems in their lives. LEARNED OPTIMISM just might be one of the greatest findings of our time.... I give this book my highest recommendation!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2005

    Optimists Only Need Apply

    Roughly 80% of this book is dedicated to rehashing 20 years of clinical research proving the proposition that pessimists are more likely to be depressed and underachieve. Gee, do ya think??!! The title promises life changing advice that can be summed up as: when you think something negative, stop, realize this and try to disprove the negative thought. After wading through a couple of hundred pages, this pessimist felt duly brow-beaten. Upon finally reaching the sections suggesting how to change that thinking, I found them perfunctory and wholly without any of the scientific and statistical proof that filled the first 80% of the book. The title oversells the book and I can't for the life of me figure out how the other reviewers could laud this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2000

    Practical, scientifically-valid self-help.

    I recommend books often, and this book is the one I recommend most. It is practical information everyone should know about. No matter how optimistic you are already, if you became even more optimistic, you would feel better, you'd be healthier, and your ability to succeed would improve. These statements sound like hype, but there is plenty of scientific evidence to verify them, and quite a bit of that evidence can be found in this book. Early in the book, you'll find a questionnaire so you can discover not only how optimistic you are but in which of the six areas you are the LEAST optimistic, and Seligman tells you what you can do to change. It is not hard. It takes some diligence, but the principles are simple, and they work very well. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I'm an expert on self-help material. Seligman's book is at the top of my list.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2006

    Pros and cons of optimism and pessimism

    If you believe that optimism is the best way to live, you will be enlightened by this book. Seligman points out that optimism is less accurate than optimism, and that it shouldn't be used when the price of failure is high. Seligman discusses the advantages and disadvantages of optimism and pessimism, provides tests to see where you rate, and gives some good advice. What is lacking is a discussion about realism. I absolutely recommend Rosalene Glickman's best-selling book, Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self if you want to learn how to make the most of feelings, thoughts and situations.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2003

    MUST READ, MUST LEARN

    This book is one of the cornerstones of my Emotional Intelligence (EQ) coaching. Optimism is, in fact, the facilitator of all the Emotional Intelligence competencies, and what allows us to fulfill our potential, and -- according to Seligman's research -- live longer, healthier, happier lives. Dr. Seligman gives clear, plain English instructions. He presents his theory and all his many years of research, builds the case, marshals his argument, and will leave you not only convinced that optimists have better lives and that you can learn it, but eager to begin the process. And he tells you exactly what to do! I've seen it change the life of a many a coaching client. 'Great book' is an understatement.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2002

    Still Good -- Needs Update on Constructive Pessimism

    This reprint edition of the original book is still good. It is based on research and theory by Dr. Seligman and other psychologists during the 1980s and earlier decades. So of course it is not up to date about the 1990s research findings limiting the benefits of optimism and demonstrating (for some people) the adaptive value of constructive pessimism. And the original optimistic bias of the American 'positive psychology' movement is now recognized by scholars such as Ed Chang to have been an overly one-sided, and thus unbalanced, theory. A good, very recent book with the new research and theory is "The Positive Power of Negative Thinking" by Julie Norem. Optimism is 51% effective, but for at least 33% of people it is a less adaptive strategy than constructive pessimism. No one-size-fits-all theory of psychological health works for human beings because individual and cultural differences are the real key. Everyone can benefit from looking at both sides of the optimism--pessimism dynamic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    This book is very interesting. Seligman talks about physcology expierments over the years and some of the results are very unexpected. The test in chapter 3 will open your eyes to whether you think optimistically or pessimistically. Towards the end of the book you will learn how to change to become an optimist. Very good book, that you can learn a lot from. Can help yourself, spouse, or child.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2006

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2005

    ABSOLUTELY a 'must read!'

    This is probably the first 'self-improvement' book that I've devoured from cover to cover; I couldn't wait to read more. Seligman's book makes complete sense. It's all so logical and easy to understand. This is also the first book that's made me want to do the exercises in it. Previous books, I'd skim the exercises and not really participate. This one compelled me to try out the examples. Not only that, but I'm already putting the ideas to work in my real life. I highly suggest this book - for pessimists and optimists alike!

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    Posted December 6, 2013

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    Posted September 27, 2010

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    Posted September 18, 2010

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    Posted November 7, 2013

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    Posted November 14, 2009

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    Posted May 1, 2010

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