6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
He's optimistic about optimism!,
This review is from: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Paperback)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:
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.