Are you a pessimist? Is it better to be an optimist than a pessimist? Can you learn to become an optimist even if you are not one yet? These are some of the questions answered by this book, Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman, known as the father of Positive Psychology.
I find the book very interesting, but not “life changing” like some Amazon reviewer wrote. It contains a test that will tell you whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. In the end you will be able to understand your own explanatory style, i.e. how you tend to explain good and bad events. I found the exercise illuminating, and thought provoking. When you blame yourself for a project’s failure, are you being pessimistic, or responsible? Having done the test myself and had my husband do it, both of us Chinese, I’ve also come to a prediction that most highly educated Chinese people, especially people like us who majored in engineering, will probably test to be pessimist, like we both did. It’s a baseless speculation on my part, and won’t be proved unless all my Chinese friends go and take the test (by the way it’s available under Questionaires->Optimism at www.authentichappiness.org, free registration required). Well, it’s not entirely baseless, it has to do with how we were raised and taught, but I won’t elaborate further because if I do it will ruin the test for anyone who is interested in taking it.
The disputation techniques introduced in the later part of the book are interesting. I can see it being helpful to some extent but am not sure how effective it really can be in practice. Maybe I’m just hopelessly pessimistic and hard-headed. :-(