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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
Unlike many of the positive thinking books that attempt to woo the reader into believing that optimism is the answer to life's ills, this well-researched book explains optimism and pessimism, how they originate and their pros and cons. It is an excellent book and should be read by all who want to understand these issues. I recommend two books in addition to this...
Published on May 4 2004

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published on April 15 2004 by Renaaah


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, May 4 2004
By A Customer
Unlike many of the positive thinking books that attempt to woo the reader into believing that optimism is the answer to life's ills, this well-researched book explains optimism and pessimism, how they originate and their pros and cons. It is an excellent book and should be read by all who want to understand these issues. I recommend two books in addition to this marvellous book. The first is Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self, a practical how-to book to show you how to resolve your emotions and make the most of every situation. The second book is Serious Creativity which shows you how to generate options, particularly when you are stuck.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and well, optmistic, March 6 2008
This review is from: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Paperback)
This is a fascinating book that leaves the reader feeling, well, optimistic. Optimism means “having a strong expectation that, in general, things will turn out all right in life, despite setbacks and frustrations.” Dr. Seligman goes further and defines optimism in terms of how people explain to themselves their success and failures. Everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives. What differentiates the optimist from the pessimist is a person’s ability to see their failures as due to some factor or circumstance that is changeable rather than as a result of some personal defect that they feel powerless to change.

Learned Optimism is an interesting read for those who want a deeper understanding of how to achieve and help others attain states of happiness, success and better health. The material was enjoyable to read and share with others. I will definitely use these practical and easy to use strategies with myself, my clients and my children. The focus on positive self-talk and recognizing a person’s strengths is much more appealing and instructive than other books which magnify weaknesses and try to “fix” a person. I highly recommend this important book as well as Dr. Seligman’s website [...] which is an excellent resource for free assessments and positive psychology information.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He's optimistic about optimism!, May 28 2003
By 
Dr. Cathy Goodwin (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
Learned optimism
When Martin Seligman deliver his APA presidential address, I was in the back of the room. His ideas were radical -- too radical for some therapists, who began walking out. These days Seligman's ideas reach beyond the research community and we can all gain.
Here's the basic thesis. When rats receive shock after shock, and nothing they do prevents future shocks, they learn to be helpless. They just give up. Dogs exhibit the same behavior and so do people. However, not all people -- and, for that matter, not all rats -- succumb. With people, Seligman has learned, thinking style is the moderator, i.e,. the differentiator between those who give up and those who keep going.
At first I seem an unlikely person to read this book, let alone recommend it. I'm known as irreverent, cynical and "cantankerous," as one reader said. However, Seligman defines an optimistic style by the way we respond to adverse events. Optimists see them as specific rather than pervasive, transient rather than permanent, and caused by factors outside oneself. In that sense, I might qualify!
I recommend this book because it is important to understand that thinking style can outweigh other predictors of success. His stories with insurance sales representatives and athletes are persuasive. One insurance company found that an optimistic style can compensate for lower aptitude, as measured by their traditional test.
Seligman also acknowledges that an optimistic style will not always be appropriate. When facing high risk, it's better to err on the side of pessimism. Indeed, he says, some occupations tend to attract and reward those who are mildly pessimistic.
On the downside, I found I could not relate to the tests in the book. Example:
Your car runs out of gas on a dark street late at night.
Either "I didn't check to see how much gas was in the tank" or, "The gas gauge w as broken." Well, it seems that the condition of the gas gauge is an objective fact, which I'd find out sooner or later. And if I stop a crime by calling the police, it's possible that a strange noise caught my attention AND I was alert that day. Then again, I get irritated at tests in general (hmm...is that a pessimistic style?)
The next step is to explore the ways our society and institutions foster a sense of helplessness. Seligman encourages us to get a medical exam if we've experienced many losses, yet the medical profession often encourages us to feel helpless. Taking a pill, which requires getting a prescription, gives all control to the doctor. Schools, prisons and other governmental institutions teach people they're wrong - and often labels students or inmates as "C student" or "bad person."
And while Seligman says we can all learn to be optimists ,every psychological relationship has limits. In today's economy, when people get knocked down over and over again, are they learning to be pessimists? And can they learn a new style of thinking?
Finally, couldn't someone be a pessimist in some life domains and an optimist in others?
These questions may be too much to ask of a book destined for a popular audience.
Meanwhile, it's enough to say, this is one of the best popular psych books around, by someone who really knows the score.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More of a "why..." than a "how to..." book., April 15 2004
By 
Renaaah "Renaaah" (Bronxville, New York) - See all my reviews
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!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars learned optimism, Feb. 18 2000
I found the book to be difficult to read and comprehend (and I am fairly intelligent person). There is all kind of unnecessary detail about various psychology philosophies, stories about other psychologists nothing to do with the subject at hand, lots of anecdotes which again have nothing to do with the subject. There are self testing questionaires for "pessimism" which are useful. There is too much info described too bluntly for "self diagnosis" of severe depression and other personality traits which would, in my opinion, put an already depressed person into deeper depression rather than inspire him to seek help (I am not a psychologist but I am an MD). The section that actually deals with changing pessimism to optimism is only about 50 pages out of more than 300 page book. The gist of the book can perhaps be summarised in less than 10 pages.
I did not find the book to be even readable (but I still read it).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ***** for self-help, 0* for scholarship, Feb. 9 2004
By A Customer
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.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm trying to learn to be optimistic - at least constructive, Nov. 21 2002
By 
"rouxprof" (Natick MA USA) - See all my reviews
OK, so many people recommend this book that I decided to try it. Friends are always telling me I'm too negative, pessimistic, unhappy, or whatever. Maybe the second time through I'll start becoming optimistic. Or maybe it is true that some people are not meant to be optimists ... To cover that possibility, I'm re-reading side-by-side, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Julie Norem. Will I start to show Norem's "constructive pessimism" or Seligman's "learned optimism" I wonder? Either way, I'll continue to be feeling better, I think. The argument that there are individual differences in personality, and therefore no single ideal of psychological health fits all people, makes sense to me. So I'll keep exploring the best psychology books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on depression and how to heal it, Feb. 10 2013
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This is an excellent book on depression and its causes. The author includes a great deal of readable information on his and other scientist's research to back up his hypothesis about the causes of most depression (excluding manic despression). I found it quite enlightening.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BUY THIS BOOK NOW, Oct. 21 2008
By 
Sean A. Fahey (Oshawa ON) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Paperback)
I have read many many many self-improvement books and by far this was one of the best I have ever read. Need I say more? Just buy it! You will be happy you did literally.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Une des clés de la résilience, June 9 2004
By 
Alain Samson (Drummondville, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
Ce livre m'a permis de découvrir comment on peut évaluer la présence de l'optimisme chez une personne et comment on peut l'aider à faire grandir cet état cognitif et émotif.
À conseiller à tous ceux qui se demandent encore comment être plus heureux ou comment ressentir qu'ils réussissent.
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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. Seligman (Paperback - Jan. 3 2006)
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