The Optimism-Pessimism Quiz

“The minute you start thinking connections are more important to advancement than brains, positive energy, and hard work, you are signing up for a bad attitude.”
Jack and Suzy Welch

Woody Allen once said, “God is dead. Marx is dead, and I’m not feeling so great either.” So how do you feel on a day-to-day basis? Take this little test to discover where you fit on the Optimist/Pessimist scale.


Read the following statements and indicate your answer by checking “True” or “False.”

1. You need a regular routine in your life, or you feel insecure.

______ True ______ False

2. You think your past was better than your future will be.

______ True ______ False

3. On a quiet night when everyone’s asleep, you find your mind wandering to the possibilities of a burglar breaking into your house, a huge storm coming, or some other disaster.

______ True ______ False

4. When buying presents, you feel the pressure to get the exact right gift.

______ True ______ False

5. If you’re the new person in a group, it takes time for the others to warm up to you.

______ True ______ False

6. To keep your place in the workplace hierarchy, you sometimes have to step on a few people.

______ True ______ False

7. A workplace without problems would be a dull place to work.

______ True ______ False

8. You’ve just had an unappealing appetizer in an expensive restaurant. You now expect the main course to be rather mediocre as well.

______ True ______ False

9. You are driven by money.

______ True ______ False

10. You don’t believe you have what it takes to overcome any obstacle that gets in your way.

______ True ______ False


Give yourself one point for each “True” answer and three points for each “False” answer. Add up the total score to discover where you stand on the scale of Optimism versus Pessimism.

***If you scored 10 to 20,

you fall on the pessimistic side of the scale.

As human beings we need pessimism to a certain extent, because it can occasionally keep us out of danger. But extreme pessimism will not serve you well.

In fact the lower your score, the more you tend to see things in a negative light. You spend too much time and energy thinking about upsetting memories from your past, your failures in the present, or disappointments you may experience in the future. You may think that life has nothing to offer and feel too much anxiety, worry, shame, depression, or sadness.

***If you scored 21 to 30,

you fall on the optimistic side of the scale.

Whether it’s an instinct for self-preservation or simply a positive approach to life, the higher your score, the more confidence you have in yourself and your ability to adapt. Maybe you’re naive, or maybe you just have a short memory for the things that go wrong in life, but you’re known for your ability to look on the bright side.

As an optimist, you hate mediocrity, you refuse to get involved in petty disputes, and you believe there’s no such thing as “can’t.” You know how to get the most out of life without letting obstacles get in your way.

So how do you like your score? Are you too pessimistic? Is your degree of optimism serving you well? Or would you be better off if you had more of an optimistic attitude? I find that most people would be well served if they had a bit more optimism going for them … especially in these tough times.

Of course, some people confuse high degrees of optimism with unrealistic hot air. Such was the case with one job applicant who was being interviewed for a sales position at a retail clothing store. The applicant got off to a bad start when he demanded a high salary before he and the manager even discussed the applicant’s experience and skills. Things didn’t get better when the manager noticed that the applicant had no retail experience and, in fact, very little sales experience of any kind.

The manager said, “I’m surprised that you have the nerve to ask for such a large salary when you’ve never worked retail or done much selling!”

“I’ve always found,” replied the applicant, “that the work is much harder when you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Yes, that’s true. But the applicant was not really optimistic. He was unrealistic. You’ve got to have a balance … with a powerful, motivating, energizing optimism on the one hand … and an ability to size up a situation on the other.

So how do you do that?

=> 1. Act optimistically.

Dr. Dale Anderson studied actors and actresses and discovered an amazing thing. When the actors and actresses played the role of a happy character, their internal chemistry changed dramatically. They not only felt better but their bodies exhibited all the signs of a healthier person.

Conclusion? Extensive biochemical changes take place when a person ACTS happy. And so his prescription is simple: ACT. It doesn’t matter what is happening in your life or how you feel. Just ACT … and you will … without a doubt .,. feel better.

Of course, President Thomas Jefferson knew about that. He knew the power of putting on a happy face.

One day President Jefferson and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback. They came to a river that had overflowed its banks because of a recent downpour. The river had washed away the bridge so each rider was forced to cross it on horseback, fighting for his life against the currents.

This caused a traveler who was not part of the group to step aside and watch. After several riders had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked if President Jefferson would carry him across. The President agreed without hesitation. So the man climbed on, and the two of them made it safely to the other side.

As the stranger slid off the horse onto dry ground, one of Jefferson’s companions asked, “Why did you select the President?”

The man was shocked and admitted he had no idea that it was the President who’d helped him. “All I know,” he said, “is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘no,’ and on some was written the answer ‘yes.’ His was a ‘yes’ face.” An optimist wears a “yes” face. Remember that!

And then…

=> 2. Shake off the negative influences of others.

If you’re not careful, they can bring you down big time. And you know what I’m talking about … if you have a coworker or partner who’s always critiquing your optimism. They may tell you that you’re “naive” when you fail to see the world as a miserable, terrible place.

When your coworker or partner is being incessantly negative. remind yourself that they’re probably wrong. And remind them they’ve probably had a lot fewer disasters than they predicted.

Don’t let the other person steal your joy. Take Robert’s approach. Robert always smiled — even when the customers complained at the small cafe where he worked. Breakfast crowds, lunch crowds, Robert met all of them with his kind manner and positive attitude.

When he was asked about his secret, what made him stay so calm and upbeat under the most stressful of circumstances, Robert replied, “I don’t let anyone steal MY joy.” He said. “The world didn’t give it to me, and the world can’t take it away. That’s MY joy.”

Action:  Look back at your Optimism – Pessimism Quiz. Select one of the ten statements where you answered “True.” Spend the next 21 days refuting that statement. Whenever it comes to mind, tell yourself, “That’s just not true.”