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Learned optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman

Learned optimism (edition 1992)

by Martin E. P. Seligman

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97698,821 (3.85)6
Title:Learned optimism
Authors:Martin E. P. Seligman
Info:Milsons Point, N.S.W.: Random House Australia, 1992. 319 p. ; 21 cm.
Tags:Psychology, Positive, Happiness, Insightability

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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman

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I give up, just give up. Even the abridged version is undigestable.
Some writers are not scientists, and some scientists are not writers. That is why we need good science popularisers, who can take someone else's research and write an exciting book about it. Why the researcher will stick to what he does the best - his research. NOT. WRITING. ( )
  NatalieAsIs | Oct 23, 2014 |
I learned, in reading this book, that I am a pessimist. This came as news to me, since I'd always thought of myself as an optimist. But optimism - at least not as Seligman defines it - is not a soft-focus view of the world, where you believe that if you just do the right thing, everything will work out in due time. (That's magical thinking - something Seligman addresses without naming it. I learned an expensive lesson in thinking this way in grad school.) I come from a family of pessimists, so I wasn't even aware I thought this way. It's amazing how unchallenged thoughts can guide a person's life.

But this book hit so many points for me: the churning, negative thoughts that never let me alone, the failures that haunt me at four o'clock in the morning, the way I can blow minor issues completely out of proportion, the way I can make the fear of failure a self-fulfilling prophesy, the way I can give up or collapse internally when things go wrong. Oh, and the way I internalize criticism and make it permanent inside me, like a stone. Oh, I've done all these things, and more, which makes me realize I'm a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. (I'm now wincing at the amount of time I spent on a barstool in my twenties, regaling my problems to friends and anyone else who would listen. But it's nice to finally put a name to the feeling.)

These things are universal. Every adult goes through them. I've had to learn the hard way that a big factor in deciding whether you fail or succeed is how you talk to yourself, especially when things go wrong. This is a good book to read if you're one of those people who frequently needs friends and relatives to "talk you down from the ledge." You can build the skill of thinking optimistically yourself, without putting that burden on other people - AND without discounting some of the very real benefits of pessimism.

In other words, Seligman doesn't define optimism as high self-esteem, or the power of positive thinking, or any nonsense. It's really just correcting a disordered way of thinking - all of the negative beliefs a person can hold without challenging them. If it came from you, it must be true, right? WRONG. So wrong. Say you want to write a novel. If writing a novel seems shrouded in mystery, if you have a deep pessimism that you can never hold back the curtain in writing it, you'll fulfill that prophesy. You'll get the same results as if you really didn't have the ability. Either you'll give up somewhere along the way, or you'll write a crappy book.

Optimism is endurance. That's all. This book can give you some tools for retraining. ( )
  stacy_chambers | Aug 22, 2013 |
"What is crucial is what you think when you fail, using the power of 'non-negative thinking.' Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism." —this is my favorite quote from Seligman's Learned Optimism. And when I sum up the book for others I use a variation of this sentiment, saying something like, "When you experience failure or some form of life not going your way, what explanation do you give yourself? Not what you would say in front of others, but privately?" This is the foundation of your self-esteem, a way of knowing if you're more of an optimist or a pessimist.

Seligman's book reads like a textbook in parts which makes for some uneven reading, and at other times he shifts into memoir-mode, sharing events that shaped his career in psychology. Too much of this pulls the reader away from the core message. And that message, a powerful one that is described right in the title, is this: You need not be a passive observer to the events of your life. Most things that happen are out of your control, but your reaction to them can be very much in your control. And that's a skill to be learned and developed. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Jul 19, 2013 |
A bit repetitive at points, but still has very useful info on how to gauge your own optimism/pessimism level and why it is important. ( )
  MarkNeu | Mar 31, 2013 |
I've been fascinated with happiness in the last five years, so it seems obvious that this book, now considered a classic in the field, would be a book I should read.

And now that I have, I must say that I agree with the crown that has been placed upon this book's head; it's a worthy read for anyone interested in happiness.

I took away from it a paradoxical and disquieting idea: the happiest people are the most optimistic, but fail again and again to see the dark truths in life, while the unhappiest people are able to see and act on the grimmer life truths yet suffer deeply from the sadnesses that looking at reality brings.

What do you do with that?

Seligman encourages us to use optimism in most everyday situations, to keep us buoyed up, to face the daily difficulties of life, but to weigh in with realism in situations that could endanger our physical existences.

I have heard that Seligman has a new edition of this book (this is a library book, copyright 1991) which I probably need to seek out. I am also interested in reading his book entitled Flourish. ( )
  debnance | May 27, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Learned Optimism is an important work in the self-help field because it provides a scientific foundation for many claims. The book is not simply about optimism but about the validity of personal change and the dynamic nature of the human condition.
added by mikeg2 | editCityWire, Tom Butler-Bowden (Apr 1, 2011)
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yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

- e. e cummings, "love is a place", No Thanks (1935)
This book is dedicated with optimism about our future to my newborn, Lara Catrina Seligman
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The father is looking down into the crib at his sleeping newborn daughter, just home from the hospital.
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Haiku summary
Optimism wins!
Use A-B-C-D-E mode
To clarify mind.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671019112, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:56 -0400)

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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. --Publisher.… (more)

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