Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
One Line Summary
Martin Seligman is one of the leading contributors in a field known as Positive Psychology. This an extremely important field to study for someone looking to learn self-development. The reason is that the primary goal of Positive Psychology is not to simply cure mental illnesses like depression, but rather to explore what is it that leads to a fulfilling life.
In Learned Optimism, Seligman argues that states of joy and happiness are abilities than can be learned. You may have grown up an optimist, or you may have not. But either way, these traits can be acquired and developed like a skill.
Why it’s Awesome
If you’re someone who is interested in having a more positive outlook on life, this book is for you. Seligman goes very practically into how to cultivate this sense of optimism. It’s short and easily understood, so you’ll get through it in a couple of hours.
Another thing I like about this book is that Seligman is not promoting blind-positive thinking. He even admits that some people could use some more realism and that cultivating optimism is not for them. Sorry to the “never think a negative thought” crowd.
Beyond that, you’ll just get a great foundational understanding of how your psychology works and why a fulfilling life is far more about your internal world than your external world. This is a truth that is mostly lost in the modern society, which is extremely materialistic and always attempting to wrestle life into the perfect scenario so they can be happy. They fail because this can’t be done. It’s just not how your psychology is built.
I’ll explain why. Consider the fact that in any given scenario, there are essentially countless mental interpretations. Some are going to be negative, some neutral, some positive. The vast majority of times, there will be no one “right” answer. Yet most people tend to assume the negative and BELIEVE IT to be objectively true. Why not shift your perspective to something more positive? It’s a happier way to live life.
I’m not suggesting being ignorant of real harm. But the truth is, the world is mostly filled with self-fulling prophecies. When you assume the positive, positive tends to come back to you. When you assume the negative, negative tends to comes back to you. Call it Law of Attraction of whatever you want, it works. Your external world is always a reflection of your inner world. It can’t not be.
I’d highly encourage anyone who doubts this to spend the next week being highly alert of their thoughts and what life hands back at them. You may be surprised.
Why Does It Suck
There’s nothing wrong per say with this book but it is a beginner’s book for people into self-development. You can get to much higher levels of fulfillment in your life through more than just trying to become more optimistic. Seligman is only touching the tip of the iceberg here to happiness. But if you’re new or just feel like you could use some more positivity in your life, this can be a great place to start.
The Wrap Up
I highly recommend this book for people who are new to self-development just to get an introductory to some of these ideas. This is a classic that will put you on the right track to improving your life no matter who you are.