Get the key ideas from

Learned Optimism

How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

By Martin Seligman
18-minute read
Audio available
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman

Learned Optimism explains why so many people grow up to be pessimistic and what the negative implications of this habit are. Furthermore, it shows how our habitual optimism or pessimism influences us for better or for worse in all areas of life. Finally, it shows how pessimists can learn how to become optimists, thus greatly improving their health and happiness, and presents several techniques for learning this new way of thinking.

  • Anyone who wants to be happier
  • Anyone who has ever wondered how other people make success look so easy
  • Anyone with kids who hopes that they'll grow up to be optimists

Martin Seligman is a professor of psychology and chairman of the American Psychological Association. He is one of the leading figures in positive psychology, which focuses on developing the positive aspects of the human psyche (in contrast to “traditional psychology,” which deals mainly with mental illness). His other bestselling books include The Optimistic Child, Authentic Happiness and Flourish.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Learned Optimism

How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

By Martin Seligman
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman
Synopsis

Learned Optimism explains why so many people grow up to be pessimistic and what the negative implications of this habit are. Furthermore, it shows how our habitual optimism or pessimism influences us for better or for worse in all areas of life. Finally, it shows how pessimists can learn how to become optimists, thus greatly improving their health and happiness, and presents several techniques for learning this new way of thinking.

Key idea 1 of 11

Pessimists have explanatory styles that are universal, permanent and internal; vice versa for optimists.

Whenever we experience a negative event in our lives, we always explain it to ourselves in one of two ways: optimistically or pessimistically.

But what exactly characterizes our explanatory style?

First, pessimists consider problems to be permanent, while optimists consider them only temporary.

For example, if you lose an important client, you might think, “I always  lose the most important clients.” By using the word “always,” you make the explanation permanent: you've always lost important clients, and always will – so what's the point in trying?

In contrast, if you use an optimistic explanatory style, then you consider negative events to be fleeting. For instance, you might think, “I lost this one important client, but I'll do well with other ones.”

Second, where optimists think of problems as being specific to a certain situation, pessimists tend to generalize.

For example, if a pessimistic student believes that the bad grade they received is unjustified, they might go on to think of grades as unfair in  general. Consequently, they might find it a lot harder to study for their next exam.

However, if they instead thought about the problem they encountered in a specific  manner, then they’d focus only on the event itself. For instance, they might think: “Ok, this one professor is unfair, but perhaps the others will better appreciate my work.”

Third, while optimists tend to consider negative events as being externally caused, and positive events as internally caused, pessimists usually think of these the other way around. For example, if your spouse leaves you, you could think: “He left because I'm not good enough, or because I didn't laugh at his jokes.”

On the other hand, if you consider the source of negative events as external, you might think instead: “He simply wasn't ready for a commitment, so actually the relationship was a waste of my time.”

Luckily, the ways in which optimists and pessimists make sense of bad events are not set in stone: all three behavioral patterns can be changed.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.