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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  16,813 ratings  ·  830 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 February 1st 1990)
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Grant very practical, easily applied in day-to-day life... but if you want something more strategy-oriented, check out Mind over Mood.

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Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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. ...more
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
(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 drivi
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: psych
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
Sanjay Gautam
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
If you think your problems are permanent and all pervasive: you are inviting pessimism.
If you think your problems are temporary and limited in scope: this is learned optimism.
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Harold Griffin
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Ah, self-help books. Long ago I read some N.V. Peale and Dale Carnegie about thinking positively, making friends, influencing people, stopping worrying, starting living. So here I am, negative, solitary, uninfluential, worrisome, nearing extinction. And a dubious endorsement for all those books!!

Actually the old books were all right, inspirational enough in grim times, but almost always plodding and predictable. "Just when he was about to leap from a window in despair, William K. Bloop of Keokuk
Sep 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: self-help
How?! 😐
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: psycho
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
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I first read this in 2013. I was really looking for something to help me with a problem I have struggled with all my adult life: learned helplessness. What is learned helplessness? An overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that stems from either a traumatic event (true for me), or some persistent failure to succeed (also true for me, but the root cause was a traumatic event). What I discovered was that, somewhere along the line, I had become a serious pessimist.

I think the reason this book turned
Daniel Silvert
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
First, I'd like to reassure those concerned about a severe shift in my temperament that I only read this book on the advice of my psychologist and would have never touched a book with this title otherwise. I found the nugget of wisdom at the core of this book to be extremely helpful and ultimately worth the read. But even then, I think ascribing the thought patterns described as "optimism" and "pessimism" is a misnomer. Ultimately it's about positive and negative self talk and the impacts those ...more
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, convinced me through endless examples of research done by experts on how an optimistic outlook on life can lead to better quality of life and success and happiness and a tool in overcoming adversity. I really enjoyed the first half of the book but the second half became excessively repetitive. He inundated me with too many examples of scenarios that the optimism questionnaire was successful or two was sufficient. The end of the book ...more
Ginget Poulton
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really excellent
Some of it of course a bit out dated but so agree with most all of it!
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Learned Optimism is not a self-help book, it’s based on a lot of scientific research and is not a light read. But worth it.

This book validated so many of my life beliefs, so from now on, it may be the confirmation bias speaking :) Still, here are few pieces I strongly related to.

“The skills of becoming happy turn out to be almost entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, or not being angry.” We focus so much on being happy that we forget that not being sad may be mo
Jeffrey Howard
I read Learned Optimism for the first time several years ago. It pulled me out of a dark place and into more flourishing place. This 2nd reading took me to a new level of optimism and hope about my ability to control my emotional reaction to adversities in life. Reading it again in a few years should bring me to a real level flourishing I really want to be in.

Seligman challenges conventional notions about depression. He makes a hopeful case that pessimism is not a symptom of depression but the
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, american
I do not like Seligman because of his research on animals. People who think it's OK to give electric shocks to dogs have made me learn pessimism about human compassion.

Seligman created a ground-breaking experiment which was first performed with dogs back in the sixties. Three dogs went through each experiment. The first dog was given electrical shocks which stopped whenever it pressed a panel with its nose. It got shocks, but had the power to stop them. The second dog got shocks whenever the fir
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Summary: think in terms of sometimes when bad thing happens, do not take it personally, and do not stretch it over a whole life, keep it where it is.

a) Today I had a bad meeting. I slept badly this night so I was tired. Noone probably noticed. = good, positive thinking

b) Today I had a bad meeting. I am stupid it is always like that. Noe everyone thinks I am incapable= bad, pessimistic thinking in terms of always, invasive and personal

And that is all you need really from this book.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Two stars for two brilliant viewpoints the author makes: 1) the learned helplessness theory, which is well-grounded in biology, experiments and simply fascinating; 2) the good advice that we should teach kids in an optimistic way. Deducting three stars for 1) the book slips from lab controlled animal experiments to causation to prediction....and eventually to correlation 2) based on the study-based conclusions, which are only valid within the study contexts, the author gave disturbing overarchin ...more
Berna Kabadayı
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Although its informative, I would say its quite boring book. Tldr for me: In the long run, motivation, perspective we have are the key things that help us to tackle with the difficult situations we face. As The Beatles also said don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
Emily S
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
I was skeptical of this book at the beginning, but thankfully he ends with more caveats. While I still have reservations, I think this book will be helpful for changing pessimistic habits/patterns of thought.
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Apparently, after 18 days of giving up on at least 10 books, I was finally able to complete this one.
I first learnt about Martin Seligman from my A-level Psychology course book. We had to learn about depression in the second chapter and I had found his theory very convincing.
This book is about depression explained from a cognitive approach namely Learned Helplessness. According to Seligman, Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personalization together make a recipe for depression and to tack
Maithreyi Mulpuru
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Books offers a scientific approach towards recognizing your depression triggers and how you can unlearn pessimistic behaviors to inculcate more positive action oriented thinking. Overall, liked the book for its practical guidance and the fact that it's based on quantitative research. ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is NOT yet another boring informationless self-help book (it is a great example that you shouldn’t judge the book by the cover, because the cover really looks like another terrible self-help book). I found the book mostly interesting and practical with a lot of advice. The claims and the data are substantiated with research and clever experiments. There is some repetition throughout the book since it tries to give practical advice for different aspects of life: private life, children, work. ...more
Oct 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
DNF at 23%.

I tried to give this book a chance. I was skeptical after taking the Optimism test in the book. There's a series of situations and you must chose one of two responses you would have, which are then scored and categorized into a variety of categories. The categories are then individually added up giving you scores for things like pervasive bad (pessimism), pervasive good (optimism) or how hopeless you are and then a final tally is given. I had two big issues with this. First, the optio
Brian Johnson
“Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.”

“People who make permanent and universal explanations for their troubles tend to collapse under pressure, both for a long time and across situations.”

“On a mechanical level, cognitive therapy works because it changes explanatory style from pessimistic to optimistic, and the change is permanent. It gives you a set of cognitive ski
I spotted this book, a freebee discard at the local library recently, 'Learned Optimism'. I thought, this'll be good for a laugh. The first chapter is titled 'Two Ways of Looking at Life'. Only two ways, how depressing is that! Chapter four sounds more up my street, 'Ultimate Pessimism'. It is odd there is no listing of sceptics or cynics in the index, (there's a few mentions of being skeptical). The index does list 'catastrophizers', which gets interesting. Apparently, catastrophizers are into ...more
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CBT, versus Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness 1 3 Apr 11, 2020 09:42PM  
Cognitive Therapy 3 16 Nov 17, 2019 03:39PM  
Any teachers/educators out there read this book? 1 8 Jan 22, 2016 10:17AM  

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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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