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Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism

Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism
[eBook (epub/mobi/PDF) + Audio (mp3) + Workbook (PDF)]

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Alan Weiss in The Self-Esteem Workshop () said that Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman is the best book for fixing negative self-talk.

Inluded in product:

  • epub, mobi, and PDF (PDF is scanned)
  • mp3 audiobook (64 kbps)
  • PDF workbook

    The workbook and book audio was originally uploaded here:
    but my included audio file has a higher bitrate 64 kbps vs .


    Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life Paperback
    by Martin E. P. Seligman
    Copyright © 1990, 1998, 2006 by Martin E. P. Seligman…
    Paperback: 319 pages
    Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 3, 2006)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1400078393
    ISBN-13: 978-1400078394

    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 for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue. These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and make you happier.. With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school, at work and in children, Learned Optimism is both profound and practical–and valuable for every phase of life.


    The following summary is from pages 264 to 269 of
    Tom Butler-Bowdon – 50 Self Help Classics

    Learned Optimism


    “The traditional view of achievement, like the traditional view of
    depression, needs overhauling. Our workplaces and our schools operate
    on the conventional assumption that success results from a combination
    of talent and desire. When failure occurs, it is because either
    talent or desire is missing. But failure can also occur when talent and
    desire are present in abundance but optimism is missing.”


    “The commonness of being knocked flat by troubles, however, does
    not mean it is acceptable or that life has to be this way. If you use a different
    explanatory style, you’ll be better equipped to cope with troubled
    times and keep them from propelling you towards depression.”


    “What we want is not blind optimism but flexible optimism—optimism
    with its eyes open. We must be able to use pessimism’s keen sense of
    reality when we need it, but without having to dwell in its dark

    In a nutshell
    Cultivation of an optimistic mindset significantly increases your
    chances of health, wealth, and happiness.

    In a similar vein
    David D. Burns, Feeling Good (p62)
    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow (p102)
    Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (p154)

    CHAPTER 46
    Martin Seligman

    Martin Seligman is a cognitive psychologist who spent many
    years clinically testing the idea of “learned helplessness.” His
    experiments giving mild electric shocks to dogs proved that
    dogs would give up trying to escape if they believed that, whatever they
    did, the shocks would keep coming. Another researcher tested the principle
    on people, using noise instead of shocks, and found that learned
    helplessness can be engineered in human minds just as easily. Yet the
    experiments contained an anomaly: As with the dog experiments, one
    in every three human subjects would not “give up,” they kept trying to
    press buttons on a panel in an attempt to shut off the noise. What
    made these subjects different from the others?
    Seligman applied the question to real life: What makes someone pick
    themselves up after rejection by a lover, or another keep going when
    their life’s work comes to nothing? He found that the ability of some
    people to bounce back from apparent defeat is not, as we sentimentally
    like to say, a “triumph of the human will.” Rather than having an
    inborn trait of greatness, such people have developed a way of explaining
    events that does not see defeat as permanent or affecting their basic
    values. Nor is this trait something that “we either have or we don’t”—
    optimism involves a set of skills that can be learned.

    Positive explanatory style
    Pessimistic people tend to think that misfortune is their fault. The cause
    of their specific misfortune or general misery is, they believe, permanent—
    stupidity, lack of talent, ugliness—therefore they do not bother
    to change it. Few of us are wholly pessimistic, but most of us will have
    given pessimism free reign in reaction to particular past events. In psychology
    textbooks, such reactions are considered “normal.” But Seligman
    says that it does not have to be this way, that a different way of
    explaining setbacks to yourself (“explanatory style”) will protect you
    from letting crises cast you into depression. If you have even an average
    level of pessimism, Seligman says, it will drag down your success in
    every arena of life: work, relationships, health.
    The author undertook groundbreaking work for life insurance company
    MetLife. Life insurance is considered one of the most difficult of
    all sales jobs, a real spirit crusher. The company was spending millions
    of dollars a year training its agents, only to see most of them move on.
    Instead of the usual criteria by which MetLife hired (career background
    and so on), Seligman suggested that applicants be hired if they
    tested well for optimism and explanatory style. The result: Agents
    hired on this basis did 20 percent better than the regular recruits in
    the first year, and 57 percent better in the second. They clearly had
    better ways to deal with the nine out of ten rejections that would
    make the others give up.

    Optimism and success
    Conventional thinking is that success creates optimism, but the evidence
    laid out by Seligman shows the reverse to be true. On a repeat
    basis optimism tends to deliver success, as the experience of the life
    insurance agents demonstrated. At the exact same point that a pessimist
    will wilt, an optimist perseveres and breaks through an invisible
    Not getting through this barrier is often misinterpreted as laziness or
    lack of talent. Seligman found that people who give up easily never dispute
    their own interpretation of failure or disparagement. Those who
    regularly “vault the wall” listen to their internal dialog and argue
    against their own limiting thoughts, quickly finding positive reasons for

    The value of pessimism
    Yet Learned Optimism admits that there is one area in which pessimists
    excel: their ability to see a situation more accurately. Some professions
    (financial control and accounting or safety engineering, for
    example) and all firms could do with a few bring-us-down-to-earth pessimists.
    In Business @ the Speed of Thought (1999) Bill Gates discusses
    this very trait, lauding the Microsoft employees who can tell him what
    is going wrong and do so quickly.
    Nevertheless, let’s not forget that Gates is also a dreamer par excellence,
    who at a very young age imagined a world in which every home
    and office would be using his Windows software. Seligman is clear on
    the point that success in work and life results when we can both perceive
    present reality accurately and visualize a compelling future. Many
    people are good at one and not the other. Someone who wishes to learn
    optimism must keep the former skill, while becoming a better dreamer.
    The combination is unbeatable.

    Most depression results from thinking badly
    It is slightly ironic that Learned Optimism draws much of its data from
    studies of depression. Before cognitive therapy, depression was always
    thought of being either “anger turned in upon itself” (Freud) or a
    chemical malfunction in the brain. However, pioneering cognitive
    researchers Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck (see Feeling Good) set out to
    prove that negative thoughts are not a symptom of depression, they
    cause it. Most of us know this at a common-sense level, but
    psychotherapy allows us to believe that we are dealing with something
    beyond our control.
    Seligman is a leading authority on sex differences in depression. He
    says that women are twice as likely to suffer from it because, although
    men and women experience mild depression at the same rate, how
    women think about problems tends to amplify them. Rumination on a
    problem, always connecting it back to some “unchangeable” aspect of
    ourselves, is a recipe for the blues. Millions of dollars have been spent
    by America’s National Institute of Mental Health to test this idea that
    depression (i.e., the standard variety, not bipolar or manic) results from
    habits of thought. Seligman tells us the results in two words: “It does.”
    Moreover, developing the mental muscles of optimism significantly
    reduces the likelihood that we will become depressed.

    Habitual optimism
    This brings us to a bigger question: Why is there so much depression
    around? Seligman argues that our recent preoccupation with individualism
    creates its own form of mental shackles. If we are invited to
    believe in our own endless possibilities, any form of failure becomes
    devastating. Combine this with the crumbling of previously solid
    psychological supports—the nation, God, the extended family—and we
    have an epidemic of depression.
    However, while drugs like Prozac can be effective in eliminating it,
    there is a gap between successfully treated depression and habitual
    optimism. With the positive explanatory style that Seligman recommends
    problems are seen as temporary, specific, and external, rather
    than inevitable expressions of our failure as a person. Cognitive therapy
    changes the basic way a person sees the world and that altered perception
    tends to be permanent.

    Final comments
    Learned Optimism is a product of the sea change that occurred in psychology
    in the mid-1960s. Until then, a person’s behavior was considered
    to be either “pushed” by internal urges (Freudianism) or “pulled”
    by the rewards or punishments that society provided (behaviorism).
    Cognitive therapy, in contrast, showed that people could actually
    change the way they think, in spite of unconscious leanings or societal
    conditioning. As Seligman notes toward the end of the book, the
    upheavals of the modern era, such as mass migration, made rapid personal
    change necessary; now it is desirable. Yet we are a culture of selfimprovers
    because we know self-improvement is possible—not just
    experience but psychological science proves it.
    Learned Optimism is an important work within the self-help field
    because it provides a scientific foundation for many claims. It became a
    bestseller because it attracted readers who normally would consider
    personal development ideas as, to use the author’s phrase, “metaphysical
    boosterism.” The book is therefore not simply about optimism
    (though it may well turn you into an optimist) but about the validity of
    personal change itself and the dynamic nature of the human condition.
    Seligman’s latest work, Authentic Happiness, incorporates many of the
    findings and ideas of Learned Optimism but takes the idea of “positive
    psychology” further. It is highly recommended.

    Martin Seligman
    Seligman was raised in Albany, New York. As an undergraduate he
    majored in modern philosophy at Princeton, then psychology. Licensed
    as a psychologist in Pennsylvania in 1973, for 14 years he directed the
    clinical training program of the University of Pennsylvania psychology
    Seligman’s bibliography includes 14 books and 140 articles. Apart
    from Learned Optimism, his other most popular works are What You
    Can Change… and What You Can’t (1994) and The Optimistic Child
    (with Reivich, Jaycox, & Gillham, 1995). More scholarly works include
    Helplessness (1975) and Abnormal Psychology (1982).
    He is a former President of the American Psychological Association,
    from which he has received two awards for Distinguished Scientific
    Contribution. He is currently Kogod Professor of Psychology at the
    University of Pennsylvania and is at the forefront of the “positive
    psychology” movement.

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