My brief survey turned up another intriguing finding: the attitude that was cited most often as important for learning was a positive outlook. The respondents said it was critical “to like learning” or “to like what you are learning.”

Kamato Hongo of Japan, who was 116 when she died in October 2003, once said that the secret of her long life was “not moping around.” That same attitude is evident in the Thursday afternoon English students, who enjoy humor, a good party, and life in general. They like learning and like what they are learning.

Psychologist and clinical researcher Martin Seligman, the author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Knopf, 1991), says that optimism can be developed and that ...

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