Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Antidote, by Oliver Burkeman

Our culture has been inundated with books, seminars, and self help programs centered around the power of positive thinking.  And while positive thinking surely can help in many situations, if it were really the end all be all, shouldn't the world have a lot less problems than it does?  If the secret to it all really was to positively envision ourselves as wealthy, shouldn't we all be rich by now?  So, given that the power of positive thinking is not all encompassing, perhaps there are other paths to happiness, enlightenment, and success.  And perhaps one of these paths is in the exact last place you would expect it to be, in pursing the things positive thought tells us to avoid.

While I generally consider myself a positive thinker, in all actuality, I am a realist.  Having worked in a corporate culture where I was assured if I wanted the company's version of success bad enough I would get it, I personally hold little stock in the positive thought movement.  No amount of thinking I am going to be a great salesperson is ever going to make me a great salesperson.  I knew this, and accepted it, all the while continuing to do my best.  No amount of arbitrary goal setting (sell enough to buy this car, and as motivation hang a picture of it at your desk!!!) was going to miraculously turn me into a top producer.  Because I was honest about my inadequacy, not only was I failing at my job, in their mind I was failing at being a positive, motivated, goal oriented person (which is total crap).  So, I am glad that someone is finally speaking out about the fact that positive thinking does not always work.

I like that this book points out a lot of the flaws in the whole self help culture.  I found the book to be very well written, each chapter covering a different aspect of the pursuit of happiness.  A lot of psychological and philosophical ideas are discussed throughout the text, making me wish I had a better background in philosophy.  I did find it interesting to learn that apparently my approach to life is in line with Stoicism and the teachings of Albert Ellis.  While I was previously aware of Ellis' teachings, I was not aware of the Stoic school of philosophical thought, so knowing I was following it without even trying to was a bit fascinating.

I personally do not care for most self-help books, so this book was perfect for me.  It is kind of the anti-self help book.  And for people who typically love self help books, I think this book could have profound impact, much more that the plethora of books on their shelves already.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publicist in exchange for an honest review.


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