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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life Paperback – March 1, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 431 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Library Journal

The author, a leading expert on the theory and treatment of depression, has written a lively, very accessible book on the power of a positive outlook and how to develop it. Basing his theories on his original research on "learned helplessness," Seligman goes on to develop a systematic model for the cognitive treatment of depression. This book summarizes his more recent work on a person's characteristic predisposition toward optimism or pessimism. Convincingly demonstrating that an optimistic mood contributes to one's success and happiness, Seligman goes on to demonstrate how a more optimistic outlook can be developed. Presented for lay readers, this book can be highly recommended to professionals as well for its lucid and informative introduction to cognitive therapy and its approach to issues of mood and depression.
- Paul Hymowitz, New York Medical Coll.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (March 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671019112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671019112
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (431 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. N. Cook on November 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have always been very skeptical of all "self help" books, believing they were mainly fluff and a waste of time. On a whim I thought I would buy this book since it was written by a psychologist and clinical researcher, and claimed to have evidence that optimists actually do succeed more and accomplish more.

As stated earlier, the author is a psychologist and clinical researcher who has spent the majority of his life studying learned helplessness and optimism. After many clinical trials, he has been hired in many "real world" situations (including Met Life Insurance and sports teams) to improve results and test optimism and success. The results are astounding. The book describes the results using these real-life projects. As evidenced by these studies, optimism helps persons succeed in business, sports, politics, health, school, and literally all walks of life.

The book demonstrated over and over again how I was handicapping myself by being negative and a pessimist. I am a very logical person and it took a book like this, written factually instead of emotionally, to open my eyes to pessimism. Since reading this book, I have dedicated myself to being an optimist, and I must say I have already noticed major differences in my life. I am succeeding at things I never would have even attempted before, and I have become very resilient in non-favorable situations. I have surprised myself over and over again.

Not too many "life changing" books come along, but this book was definitely one for me. If you are a pessimist, this book can transform your life. If you are average or only slightly positive, this book can improve your life greatly. Do yourself a favor and read this book!
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Format: Paperback
The thing that consistently surprised me about this book was the way that the author was able to provide extensive scientific verification for his claims. Most "self-help" books have anecdotal evidence at best to support their hypotheses. This book solidly supports its conclusions by means of numerous formal studies. Moreover, some of the material is very counter-intuitive. Attitudes one would have assumed were optimistic turn out to be pessimistic, and vice-versa.
Seligman shows repeatedly where actual, testable predictions have been made based on his notions of optimism/pessimism, and the predictions have turned out to be well-founded. This requires careful, systematic definitions of terms, which he provides.
Equally interesting was Seligman's analysis of the consequenses of optimism and pessimism, and his demonstration that optimism can be learned, with beneficial results that extend well beyond "feeling good."
I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
I am a psychologist myself, and ever since i first began studying psychology, I have been fascinated by the work of Dr. Seligman. Once I started working as a therapist, I purchased and this book to facilitate my work with clients. Dr. Seligman is a talented, amusing, and engaging writer who presents an extremely pursuasive review of his research into the effects of learned optimism on mood, performance, health, etc. Because his research includes areas as diverse as including health (showing greater breast cancer survival rates for those who are more optimistic), sales success (proving that optimistic salesman are more successful), and sports/politics (providing evidence that both sports teams and political candidates are more likely to win when optimism is increased), his methods are beleivable to even the most die-hard psychological skeptic.

Dr. Seligman explains your attribution style--that is, how you explain your successes/failures--can have a major impact on mood as well as all of the other dimensions mentioned above. He provides the reader with a concrete, easily understandible model to asses their own thinking style, emphasizing that being able to monitor your thoughts is the first step towards changing them. Finally, he presents a simple plan for changing though patterns which involves easy to implement steps. This book will definitely help you to better understand how your thought patterns affect your mood and how to go about making changes in order to live a happier, healthier life; highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
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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