buttercupita's review

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4.0

This book somehow fell into my hands during a time of job transition (don't quite remember where the recommendation came from...), and I have found it enormously helpful. My last job included a manager who was a big time positive thinker who actually did very little -- if only summoning progress with good vibes was effective! I appreciated this survey of alternative approaches, mostly grounded in understanding that you may not always feel motivated or be guaranteed success, but you keep going (and growing!) anyway. While I checked this out of the library, I likely will buy a copy so I can pull it off the shelf when I need it.

1848pianist's review against another edition

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challenging hopeful informative reflective medium-paced

3.5

surelyitgetsbetter's review

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hopeful inspiring reflective fast-paced

4.0

liromar's review

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challenging funny informative inspiring reflective

4.75

fbroom's review

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5.0


A fresh perspective on positive thinking and happiness. A Great Listen.


Notes
Today, people are used to hearing phrases like “think positive” and “visualize success”. Positive thinking is widely spread and yet people don’t seem to be happy. Author Oliver Burkeman argues that positive thinking may in fact lead to stress and unhappiness and doing the opposite by turning toward our fears, flaws and insecurities help us survive them.

"The ideal state of mind is tranquility not the excitable cheer that positive thinkers usually seem to mean when they use the word "happiness". And tranquility was to be achieved not by chasing after enjoyable experiences, but by cultivating a kind of calm indifference towards one's circumstances.”

“It's our relentless effort to feel happy, or to achieve certain goals, that is precisely what makes us miserable and sabotages our plans. And that it is our constant quest to eliminate or to ignore the negative – insecurity, uncertainty, failure, sadness – that causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy in the first place.”


The premeditation of evils
Fighting negative feelings is counterproductive. Address those feelings and think about the worst case scenario and you will be surprised that it is not as bad as you thought it would be. The author refers to this technique as "The premeditation of evils” in which you imagine deliberately the worst possible outcome and although the answer might be bad. It is never 100% bad (Psychotherapist Albert Ellis). There is always a worse possible thing that can happen.

Facing your fears
Another technique is facing your embarrassment instead of trying to avoid them (Psychotherapist Albert Ellis). The author himself went on the subway and called out the names of the stations at every stop. Although he felt awful, it wasn’t as awful as he thought it would be. it was only uncomfortable.

Forget the future
Uncertainty is very uncomfortable and we tend to over come uncertainty by setting goals all the time that will help us get rid of the uncertainty in the present. As an example Burkerman cited the work of the psychologist Saras Sarasvathy on what make entrepreneurs successful. None of the entrepreneurs she had interviewed mentioned making business plans or doing market research. In fact the most valuable skill was the flexibility in adopting unconventional approaches to learning, not just which path to take but even changing the goal itself. They worked with whatever tools they had access to, started taking action immediately and never waited for perfect opportunity. "Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living are waiting”

Embracing failure
"The truth that many people never understand, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer” — Thomas Merton. Failure is everywhere. It's just that most of the time we'd rather avoid confronting that fact. 90% of products fail on the market and yet we only hear about the successful ones. Bookstores are filled with autobiographical volumes of successful entrepreneurs. Oxford management theorist Jerker Denrell suggests that the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs are are just as likely to be the characteristics of extremely unsuccessful people, too. Instead of avoiding failure one should embrace it. Failure brings you down to earth.

alicebme's review

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5.0

This book did more for my thinking than any saccharine-laden self-help book ever has. I am particularly fond of the chapter on goals. Tremendous experience reading this.

2017: I guess this is the nonfiction book I reread. I didn’t know I had one of those. The moment is already over. Ha.

lulo49's review against another edition

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5.0

As an optimistic realist I inherently understand that most positive thinking/affirmations do not stick. In fact they can become obstacles to accomplishing their intended purpose since the goal may be inherently unralistic and people can suffer guilt or shame when they don't accomplish or achieve what they've set as their goal, intention, or positive affimation.

The author draws on various approaches to life as he discusses a "negative path," one in which one imagines the worst situation, looks at the current situation (likely not the worst although it could be) and then, rather than putting on a happy face and saying "It's all good" or setting an affirmation to make it all good, takes action to address what is in one's control in the current situation.

In particular, he discusses the Stoics. The Stoics believe that the only thing we can actually control are our judgments, what we believe about our circumstances, and that our judgments are what cause us distress. If we can let go of judgment and rationally accept the truth of our situation we can take appropriate action rather than simply setting an intention or an affirmation to make things different. Action vs. words.

He also discusses the "Buddhist Guide to Not Thinking Positively." The Buddhist concept of non-attachment is not about withdrawing from life; it's "approaching the whole of life -- inner thoughts and emotions, outer events and circumstances -- without clinging or aversion." This necessitates accepting the fullness of the situation, the good and the bad, not clinging (attachment), but letting go and moving forward. After all, it was the Buddha's breaking away from his privileged family to confront life's realities, to see the Four Sights -- an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a wandering ascetic monk -- that spurred his enlightment under the bodhi tree.

I found the book highly readable with good research and examples. I came away understanding that my realistic approach to situations and life may be how in an unsettled world I remain simultaneously grounded, happy, and hopeful.

sawesome's review

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hopeful informative inspiring medium-paced

5.0

jeffbrimhall's review

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Kindle. Good book with some practical ideas. Worth reading.

sunrays118's review against another edition

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3.0

Eh. a couple interesting ideas, a bit long winded, and to be honest I'm taking nothing away.