I bought this book only after having leafed through it, because from the title I had the feeling that I was dealing with the usual American ‘how to…’ manual.
I began to reconsider my position when I found the title in reliable bibliographies and realised that I was dealing with a book that can help people radically change their attitude towards life’s events and improve its quality.
The author leads us on a journey where, through several studies and exciting stories, the reader gradually becomes aware that optimism can contribute greatly to our success and influence the quality and length of our lives; in short, our future largely depends on how we deal with failures and work to contain them.
Here is a short video in which Martin Seligman talks about the concept of positive Psychology – you will find other interesting videos by querying the search engines.
The good news that Martin Seligman tells us is that optimism can be learned; what may appear to be a pessimistic nature, embedded in our traits, can actually be changed even radically through the techniques that the author introduces to us: with examples of application in everyday life, in the relationship with children and at work.
Interesting examples of the use of the C.A.V.E. technique. (Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanation) based on the analysis of explanatory style, which indicates how people explain an event to themselves and how they experience it: e.g. ‘I can’t do anything right‘ or ‘Everything I touch turns to gold‘.
Seligman presents some fascinating applications of the technique.
For instance, in 1988 it was possible in the USA to predict both the results of the primaries and the presidential race ‘simply’ by analysing the text of the candidates’ speeches; the winner was George Bush, the candidate judged to be the most optimistic.
You can imagine the use that can be made of such indications in the preparation of political leaders’ speeches, can’t you?
Another interesting case is the application of the C.A.V.E. technique in sport; here, the way athletes evaluate their own performance can provide coaches with useful indications to help improve their results and/or manage a team.
What I found exciting, however, is the concept of learned helplessness, a state of mind in which a directive management style risks bringing the whole organisation to its knees: a point that entrepreneurs and managers in search of ego nourishment should reflect upon.
At the end of the book a very important question: what optimism are we looking for?
An optimism resulting from the so-called ‘Pollyanna syndrome’, which consists in perceiving, remembering and communicating only the positive aspects of the events, ignoring the negative ones, or a balanced optimism, which realistically increases awareness and confidence, reducing the risk of failure?
Certainly the latter; to its construction, critical thinking can make a fundamental contribution.
Finally, a word of warning: there are some tests in the book which you may be tempted to try. I suggest you do not get worried, especially if the results are not the expected ones: I, perhaps due to printing errors, often got inconsistent results.
A must-read book, because it can simply change the way you look at events and live your life.
Part One – Research
Part Two – The kingdoms of life
Part Three – Change: from pessimism to optimism