• September 2011

Five Books on Optimism

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent Magazine

Nobel-Prize winning French writer Anatole France once said, “I prefer the folly of enthusiasm to the wisdom of indifference.”

In the spirit of that optimistic ideal, we decided not just to focus on one book this month, but to pick several tomes in hopes that one (or more) would spark and inspire your positivity.

Let us know which you like best, and why it changed your perspective on life, love, and / or your business, and we’ll send you a copy—for free! Email submissions to: hope@inkandescentpr.com.

And do consider the words of Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who wrote: “A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy.” Here’s to that!

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist
By Michael J. Fox

Image (right) from his TV special, Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.

I admit it. I have had a crush on Michael J. Fox since I was in high school. In the movies, “The Secret of My Success,” and “Bright Lights, Big City,” he charmed me with his quick wit. I have been following his career ever since, so when he announced that he had Parkinson’s disease in 1998, my heart went out to him and his family.

I was intrigued, too, to see how someone so visible would handle the blow. It was no surprise that he’d do it with grace—and humor.

“Considering that this audiobook opens with the author detailing the laborious steps necessary just to get out of bed, it’s miraculous that Fox’s voice sounds just as charming, stalwart, and nearly as steady as it did during his long film and television career,” wrote Publisher’s Weekly in its review of the 2009 book.

“There are no frills of any kind with this recording, but none are needed; Fox’s tale is engrossing on its own. He pulls no punches describing the hardships—both physical and emotional—that accompanied his diagnosis with Parkinson’s, but listeners are quickly reminded that for every challenge the disease brought, Fox trained himself to find the silver lining.”

Why we like this book: With brutal honestly, Fox writes: “The last ten years, which is really the stuff of this book, began with such a loss: my retirement from [the TV show] “Spin City.” I found myself struggling with a strange new dynamic: the shifting of public and private personas. I had been Mike the actor, then Mike the actor with PD. Now was I just Mike with PD? Parkinson’s had consumed my career and, in a sense, had become my career. But where did all of this leave Me? I had to build a new life when I was already pretty happy with the old one.”

Need we say more? Buy the book here.

Hard Optimism: How to Succeed in a World Where Positive Wins
By Price Pritchett

Considered one of the world’s most renowned thought leaders on corporate culture and organizational change, in this book Price Pritchett presents a program for developing the positive mental practices that will not only improve your performance on the job, but enhance the quality of your life.

Drawing on research from the influential field of positive psychology, Pritchett shows you how to adopt hard optimism—a forward-thinking mindset that incorporates resilience, energy, innovation, and hope into the way you approach every task.

Why we like this book: “Hard Optimism” gives readers 12 practices for reducing negative thinking and adopting the attitude of a winner—the keys to seizing opportunity, overcoming obstacles, and wielding a positive influence on the people around you.

You’ll begin to:

1. Recognize and dispute pessimistic thoughts.
2. Gain an edge by adopting an optimistic style to interpret events, both good and bad.
3. Use positive reappraisal to handle problems and disappointments.
4. Know how and when to use negative thinking to your advantage.
5. Play to your signature strengths.
6. Practice gratitude and forgiveness to fight off negativity.

By taking a hard look at reality rather than sugarcoating it, by managing your thought processes to improve hard results, you’ll master hard optimism and meet the challenges in every area of your career and life.

Plus, the cover is great. What can ya do? Buy the book here.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
By Martin E. P. Seligman

Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, University of Pennsylvania professor “Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD”: works on positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, and on optimism and pessimism. He is well known in academic and clinical circles and is a bestselling author.

In fact, his bibliography includes 20 books and 200 articles on motivation and personality. Among his better-known works are “Learned Optimism” (Knopf, 1991), “What You Can Change and What You Can’t” (Knopf, 1993), “The Optimistic Child” (Houghton Mifflin, 1995), “Helplessness” (Freeman, 1975, 1993) and “Abnormal Psychology” (Norton, 1982, 1988, 1995, with David Rosenhan).

Why we like this book: Seligman draws on more than 20 years of clinical research to demonstrate how optimism enhances the quality of life, and how anyone can learn to practice it. “These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and make you happier,” he insists.

The book offers simple techniques on how to break an “I-give-up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue. With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school, at work, and in children, “Learned Optimism” is both profound and practical—and valuable for every phase of life. Buy it here.

Creating Optimism
By Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry

Based on the authors’ more than 20 years of research and practice, this unique, seven-step program challenges the conventional wisdom that healing occurs from the inside out. It shows that real change comes from building healthier relationships with other people, our own bodies, nature, and spirituality.

The program can be used either without medications or in conjunction with them, which is why Divorce Magazine called it, “A groundbreaking book that shatters the myths about depression and anxiety, clearing the way for real healing.”

Why we like this book: Because antidepressants and conventional therapy don’t work for many sufferers, this books sheds light on mental illness and offers insight into what can be done to overcome it. It’s also incredibly helpful to the spouses of sufferers, who often have no idea how to help their loved ones through tough times. Buy the book here.

Learn to Be an Optimist
By Lucy MacDonald

Research has revealed that an optimistic approach to life leads to concrete mental, emotional, and physical results, including a longer lifespan, reduced stress, and a better chance of recovering from serious illness.

In “Learn to Be an Optimist,” author Lucy MacDonald teaches readers to develop the confidence, resilience, and peace of mind that unlock this positive change.

Why we like this book: Packed with appealing illustrations and practical exercises, “Learn to Be an Optimist” examines the nature of optimism and its emotional and physical impact, and then helps readers bring optimism into every aspect of life, from relationships and parenting to school and the workplace.

Her tips, although not novel, do work! These include:

1. Start a journal to record your strengths, weaknesses, and fears, and keep the journal going indefinitely. It’s the heart of your commitment.
2. Don’t expect perfection. Even optimistic people hit hurdles now and then.
3. Maintain a sense of control over your life by staying optimistic, since it will get you through the tough times—in fine shape.
4. Approach a situation as a challenge rather than a problem.

How can you argue with that logic? Buy the book here.

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