Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  7,065 ratings  ·  342 reviews
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 fo...more
Paperback, 319 pages
Published January 3rd 2006 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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sckenda
Stand up to your inner-bully. Fight for your happiness. The inner voice of pessimism devours your peace, sense of achievement, and likeability. How are you going to slay that wizened old crow that stalks you and squawks about your unworthiness? Rewrite the story that you tell yourself.

Psychologist Martin Seligman spent forty years studying optimism and pessimism, and he concludes that you can escape pessimism and learn optimism by employing cognitive strategies. Seligman does not proclaim the p...more
Deviant Geek
(4 out of 5) because its informative, but boring.

im reading this for my friend. to help her find optimism and hope.

what i love about this book is that it does not believe that optimism is an attitude you should adapt for every situation in life. and that is what made the book so real!

when you're friend is hurt or feeling betrayed or sad, optimism will make them feel that you are undermining their problems.
having the "I CAN DO IT" attitude does not apply in everything. >> having a drink and...more
Sasa
Don't confuse this for another bullshit self-help guide. This book is actually based on Dr. Seligman's (and others') extensive scientific research. It includes tests that offer valuable insight and effective techniques to battle those crippling negative thoughts. It's a bit lengthy, but that's the only downside I could find. Strongly recommended to anyone struggling with feelings of helplessness, pessimism, and/or depression.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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 unhappi...more
Nita
If only this stuff were as easy to apply as it is to understand.

Here's a quick summary: 1) Be specific. I'm not a bad person. I just made a mistake. 2) Notice the tendency to think of a negative outcome as more likely than a positive one. 3) Notice the tendency to take responsibility or blame yourself for things that could possibly be someone else's fault. The book includes a word of caution about blaming others. The idea isn't to shirk self-responsibility, it's just to notice and reframe the k...more
David
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Silvert
Authors like Dr. Martin Seligman give ‘self help’ books a good name. In his meticulously researched yet engaging style, Seligman’s Learned Optimism makes a near bullet proof case for optimistic thinking as an inexhaustible engine for personal improvement. Seligman focuses on a person’s ‘explanatory style’ as the key indicator of how they will respond to difficult situations. Explanatory style is what we say to ourselves when the chips are down. According to Seligman, this self coaching is both d...more
Kirsti
Compelling account of the author's decades of research. Seligman is best known for developing the concept of learned helplessness, which is covered in most psychology courses.

The book includes a test so you can determine how optimistic you are in different situations. I think it's an extremely well-designed test because it's often hard to tell what the "right" answer is.

The author studies optimism in many groups: rats, dogs, college students, life-insurance sales reps, East German working men, a...more
Isabell
I enjoyed the insights the author provided into the history of learned helplessness theory, as well as bits and pieces about the beginnings of cognitive behavioral therapy. This book has a lot of research and quite a bit of psychology in it, some of it boring to me, some of it fascinating, some of it convincing, some of it unconvincing.

It is not just a self-help guide to positive thinking. In fact, the author decries positive thinking, making the point that chanting inflated mantras to oneself...more
Yannick
The cover on this book does it a great disservice, making it sound like self-help nonsense. But far from any boosterism, this book is actually a scientific vulgarization of "positive psychology." Since psychology is mired in so much quackery, I feel I have to underscore that this branch of psychology is widely recognized, and Martin Seligman is the 13th most frequently cited psychologist in introductory psychology textbooks of the twentieth century. Seligman takes the reader through the foundati...more
Kathryn
I was expecting Learned Optimism to be as airy-fairy and worthless as Full Catastrophe Living, and was very pleased to discover that it is quite the opposite. It is a scientific treatment of optimism and its effects on how people respond to problems; that is, it examines who gives up and who perseveres, and why.

Dr. Seligmann has been studying optimism his entire life. He leads us through his intellectual journey, beginning when as a young grad student, he was exposed to a study in which a group...more
Converse

I read this book after seeing that Steve Kendall, one of my Goodreads friends, had rated it highly. I am glad that I did.


The basic premise is that most cases of depression in people are a formed of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is the reaction to unpleasant events by giving up attempts to change one’s circumstances. Learned helplessness can be studied in other mammals besides humans. Most depression in Seligman’s view is not a function of some biochemical imbalance (though it can

...more
Michelle
Anyone in need of an attitude adjustment (as I was when I picked up this book) will benefit from knowing that how you view good and bad events can have a big impact on how effectively you deal with the normal ups and downs of life. In a nutshell, if you see bad events as persistent (things will never change), pervasive (this disappointment means my whole life is a disaster) and personal (I always mess things up), you are a pessimist and probably not a very happy camper.

Optimists see the world f...more
Caroline
My dad had me read Learned Optimism when I was a kid. I don't know if it had any effect, or if I am naturally optimistic--or perhaps particularly American? But I do believe that an individual will be happier when optimistic, and that this book provides tools to get one there. It's a philosophy book, at heart, but has practical steps to take. Kind of like tai chi; you have to both absorb and practice to figure out how to make it work.

Usually I hate self-help books, but this one didn't leave the u...more
Bill
Jan 23, 2011 Bill added it
I read Seligman's Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death before picking this up. This is a very different kind of book - it's a self help book, basically. Coincidentally, it sold much better, too...

If you're at all familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy, the contents of this book will be at least a little familiar to you. Seligman relates some results from his research on how to defend against and recover from "learned helplessness", an phenomenon in operant conditioning that's...more
Elle
Feb 22, 2008 Elle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pessimists
I learned a lot from this book. 1. That I am an extreme pessimist, which I probably already knew but here it is scientifically proven via a series of abstract quizzes. Having someone else verify what I might have known in the back of my mind was really helpful becuase it has made me realise that I need to change the way I think. We always think that our thoughts are rational and thats not necessarily true. He provides evidence of his assessments by providing examples of tests done in labs with m...more
Jen
Reads a bit like a textbook. I appreciated the refresher on the progression from behavioral psychology to cognitive-behavioral. The history was interesting to me. I was hoping to get some ideas on how to infuse optimism into some of the kids with whom I work--especially the ones who come from tougher home situations. Instead it read like a self-help book on anxiety. A lot of emphasis on counteracting negative thoughts with positive self-talk. Reframing the "why" when bad things happen (not neces...more
Candace
This is not a new book, but it was still fascinating to read about all the research people have done to figure out that whether you have an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style for what happens in life can determine whether or not you will struggle with depression, and how successful you will be in life. The good news in all of this, is that people can learn a set of skills to change their outlook to one of optimism. A big surprise: pessimists actually have a better grip on "reality", but...more
Allen
Learned Optimism discusses optimism and how to change from being a pessimistic person to an optimistic person. The author is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and he bases the book on research he conducted over a period of decades.

The book is divided into three sections. The first five chapters define the main concepts of the book and state the author's thesis. Chapters 6 through 11 discuss how the concepts discovered earlier apply to different areas of life. The final fo...more
Victoria
I find this book important and useful. It is a basic primer in cognitive behavioral therapy - changing attitudes and mood through how we interpret the world, what narratives we tell. I find the construct of the "3 p's" of pessimism really helpful in catching myself in negative self talk. Personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence are easy illusions to fall into. Most troubles aren't my fault or because of or about me, don't pertain in every aspect of life, and won't last forever. Using the t...more
Cheri
Feb 26, 2009 Cheri rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheri by: Geoff
Shelves: nonfiction
The second Seligman book I've picked up; previously read Learned Helplessness. Interesting stuff.

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11/23/08 - progress: p. 54
I like this paragraph immediately following the first pessimism gauge test:

"Most assuredly we want people to own up to the messes they make, to be responsible for their actions. Certain psychological doctrines have damaged our society by helping to erode personal responsibility: Evil is mislabeled insanity; bad manners are shucked off as neurosis; "successfully tre...more
Michelle
This book has some good ideas and interesting evidence of the helpfulness of optimism, but I felt like a lot of it was too simplified. It points at rumination and says it contributes to Depression, but I read that and I think, "So I'm supposed to stop thinking about things? I don't think so." Seligman didn't really say that--his solution would obviously be to change the thought patterns instead of the act of thinking. But the examples also seem overly simple. When you dispute your negative think...more
Billie Pritchett
In general, Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism is about how to change your negative pessimistic thinking patterns into more positive ones. Although some people are born natural grouches (me included), even natural-born grouches can be less grouchy. The basic way to do this is to change your explanatory style of thinking. For instance, when problems arise or when you find yourself ruminating on a past or future problem or past or future person with whom you have trouble, it is most helpful to thi...more
Aubrey Dalton
This book absolutely changed my outlook on my life as a whole. I made a lot of excuses for being a pessimistic person...saying things like..."If I expect the worst and then get something good, it's extra good. Then if it's bad...I was right to begin with." lol I didn't realize how that way of thinking ultimately left me feeling very...yucky. lol

I started running my Mary Kay business full time...and in the world of sales...you cannot be a pessimist. You WILL get shot down and one point or another...more
Sue
Highly recommended, because the society and era we live in has produced depression on an epidemic scale. No self-help psychobabble here: this is a famous psychiatrist's life work on how we can assume more control over personal adversity by learning techniques of flexible optimism. Explanatory style (how we interpret events for ourselves) is key to this; a pessimist views things personally, permanently, pervasively. ABCDE - adversity, behaviour, consequences, disputation, energisation - maps how...more
Jake
This is the first self-help book I've read and some of the other reviewers felt that the title of the book is misleading and makes it appear as a self-help book when it really isn't. I don't agree with that but understand why a reader would feel deceived. The first 2/3rds of this book mostly entails the history and development of the theory of learned helplessness and proving it. I think the way the book was structured is going to become even more relevant as technology becomes even more prevale...more
Justin
Optimism and pessimism are intertwined. Seligman's research began in learned helplessness where animals and people could did nothing if there was nothing they could do in a situation. The concept ties in with depression which Seligman sought to help alleviate, and so from the negative bias of psychology became a pioneer of Positive Psychology. The whole case of Learned Optimism isn't some blind optimism of empty positive self-talk or ignorance of reality as one might assume, rather it's a way of...more
Kristin
I might've had a different outlook on this book if me, myself was looking for help in the optimism area. This was a book club read and that's why I picked it up. I found the test interesting and that's it. I think the author did a poo poo job of writing it. That's a moderately optimistic outlook as to why I didn't like it. Date I finished this book: I didn't. It was boring.
Erin
If you scored a -12 on an optimist test this book might help you as it did me. All I can say is that for those who realize that pessimism has colored their lives and choices this book will be a life-changer. Mixed with my spinach-kale smoothies from my earlier self help read I will conquer the world in no time.
Natalie
Jan 13, 2010 Natalie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are depressed
Recommended to Natalie by: my former therapist
Cured a two-year depression literally overnight. I read it straight through in one night and felt completely better the next day. Teaches you how your thoughts affect your emotions and what learned helplessness is.
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Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology. He was previously the Director of the Clinical Training Program in the department. Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association by the widest margin in its history and served in that capacity during the 1998 term.[4] He is the founding editor-in-chief...more
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“While you can't control your experiences, you can control your explanations.” 4 likes
“Curing the negatives does not produce the positives.” 3 likes
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