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Learned Optimism

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Learned Optimism

How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Vintage Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Make optimism work for you. Believing that a positive future is possible actually makes it easier to achieve.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Despite equal talent and drive, it turns out that optimists will succeed where pessimists fear to tread. The good news is that you can learn optimism and lean on it to respond to adversity and inculcate greater resilience. Through descriptions of dozens of studies performed since the ’70s, author Martin Seligman conveys the history and landscape that define "positive psychology," the science he helped to found. He offers cognitive techniques designed to tweak your natural disposition and give you the advantage of optimism. getAbstract recommends this book as a seminal work of positive psychology.


Half Empty, Half Full

Three modern forces have converged to cause an epidemic of depression, particularly in rich, free, prosperous America: 1) the greater emphasis on the individual; 2) the erosion of shared social experiences; and 3) the priority on developing high self-esteem. This societal priority emerged even though self-esteem is a product of success, not a cause. Research suggests that unwarranted high self-regard can lead to violent and criminal behavior. Instead of pushing for self-esteem, parents and educators should be teaching optimism.

The way that the little voice in your head explains your circumstances to you is your "explanatory style." It could be keeping you in a pessimistic funk and generating a belief in your own helplessness. Developing a more optimistic explanatory style can lead you out of that rut. Pessimists see setbacks as perpetual, pervasive and personal. But optimists bounce back from setbacks because they don’t take them as personally. Optimists expect problems to be just temporary. Pessimism derives from a deep-seated sense of helplessness. The pessimistic belief that "nothing I do matters" can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


About the Author

Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the American Psychological Association. He is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology and the author of Authentic Happiness and The Optimistic Child.

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    K. G. 3 years ago
    great read
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    S. B. 1 decade ago
    Great read - and I bought the book. A rather productive book to share with your staff and work through as a book review.....