Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker?

Learn About – and Change – How You Think

Do you look for the good or the bad?

© iStockphoto/saiko3p

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes. – Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader
Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. – Zig Ziglar, personal development guru

These are two powerful quotes. Combined, they tell us that if we think positively, we're likely to enjoy positive results. Negative thinking, on the other hand, can lead to outcomes we don't want.

Positive and negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies: What we expect can often come true.

If you start off thinking you will mess up a task, the chances are that you will: You may not try hard enough to succeed, you won't attract support from other people, and you may not perceive any results as good enough.

Positive thinking, on the other hand, is often associated with positive actions and outcomes. You're drawn to, and you focus on, the positive aspects of a situation. You have hope and faith in yourself and others, and you work and invest hard to prove that your optimism is warranted. You'll enthuse others, and they may well "pitch in" to help you. This makes constructive outcomes all the more likely.

When it comes down to it, positive, optimistic people are happier and healthier, and enjoy more success than those who think negatively. The key difference between them is how they think about and interpret the events in their life.

So, how do you think about your successes and failures? Do you have a predictable thinking pattern? Find out below.

Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker?

Take this short quiz to determine what kind of thinker you are. Click the 'Calculate my total' button at the foot of the quiz to get your scores.

Instructions:

For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

   14 Statements to Answer

Not
at All
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 When my boss or a customer asks to speak with me, I instinctively assume that he or she wants to discuss a problem or give me negative feedback.
2 When I experience real difficulty at work/home, I also feel negative about other parts of my life.
3 When I experience a setback, I tend to believe the obstacle will endure for the long-term, e.g. "The funding didn't come through, so I guess that means they hate the project. All that work for nothing."
4 When a team I am on is functioning poorly, I believe that the cause is short-term and has a straightforward solution. For example, "We're not working well at the moment, but if we can fix this problem, then we'll do much better!"
5 When I'm not chosen for an assignment I really want, I tend to believe that I just don't have the specific skills they are looking for right now, as opposed to thinking I am generally unskilled.
6 When something happens that I don't like or appreciate, I can tend to conclude that the cause is widespread in nature and will continue to plague me. For example, "My assistant didn't 'cc' me on that email she sent to my boss. Administrative assistants are all out to prove how much smarter they are than their supervisors."
7 When I perform very well on an assignment, I believe that it's because I'm generally talented and smart, as opposed to thinking I am good in that one very specific area.
8 When I receive a reward or recognition, I can tend to figure that luck or fate played more of a role than my actual work or skill. For example, "They asked me to be the key note speaker at the conference next year. I guess the other guys were all busy."
9 When I come up with a really good idea, I am surprised by my creativity. I figure it is my lucky day, and caution myself not to get used to the feeling.
10 When something bad happens at work, I see the contributions that everyone made to the mistake, as opposed to thinking that I am incompetent and to blame.
11 After winning an award/recognition/contract, I believe it's because I am better than the competition. For example, "We won that large contract against two strong competitors. We're simply better than they are."
12 As the leader, when my team completes a project, I tend to attribute the success to the hard work and dedication of the team members, as opposed to my skilled leadership.
13 When I make a decision that proves to be successful, it's because I have expertise on the subject and analyzed that particular problem really well, as opposed to being generally a strong decision maker.
14 When I achieve a long-term and personally challenging goal, I congratulate myself, and think about all the skills that I used in order to be successful.
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
14-31 Yikes! It must feel like there is a rain cloud that hangs overhead all day. You have gotten yourself into the habit of seeing things as your fault and you’ve learned to give up your control in many situations. Taking this quiz is the first step toward turning your pessimism around. Read the rest of this article carefully, and use the exercises daily. Start now! (Read below to start.)
32-50 You try to be optimistic and positive however some situations get the better of you. Identify your triggers for negative thinking and use rational thinking exercises to become naturally more optimistic. (Read below to start.)
51-70 Great job! You have a generally positive and optimistic outlook on life. You don’t take things personally and you are able to see that setbacks won’t ruin the rest of your life. (Read below for more.)

Turn Negatives into Positives

The first step in changing negative thinking is to become aware of it. For many of us, negative thinking is a bad habit – and we may not even know we're doing it!

Consider this example: The guy on the subway who just made a face is surely directing his behavior at you. When the receptionist doesn't greet you in the morning, you must have done something to anger her. Again! You go straight to the coffee machine, because it's Monday morning and you just know you'll be solving problems until lunchtime. When you finally get to your desk, your assistant is waiting for you. "Oh no," you think. "What has he done now? The first problem of the day. Yippee!"

If you're feeling bad after reading this, imagine how it would feel to surround yourself with that much negativity. Then ask yourself if this is the way you tend to think in your own life?

Dr Martin Seligman, who has been described as America's most influential psychologist, has done extensive research on thought patterns. In particular, he looks at the impact of an optimistic versus pessimistic outlook on life and success.

Seligman says we explain events using three basic dimensions of Permanence, Pervasiveness and Personalization, with optimistic people on one end of the scale and pessimistic people on the other. We look at these below.

Permanence

(Questions 3, 4, 9, 11)

Believing that something we are experiencing is either permanent or temporary. A low score implies that you think bad times will carry on forever. A high score shows confidence that you'll be able to get things back on course quickly.

Pessimist: I lost my job and I'll never find one as good again. No point even looking!

Optimist: I lost my job. Thank goodness there are other opportunities I can explore!

Pervasiveness

(Questions 2, 5, 6, 7 and 13)

Believing that situational factors cause an effect or that the effect is evidence of more universal factors at work. A low score shows that you tend to think that if you've experienced a problem in one place, you'll experience that problem wherever you go.

Pessimist: I lost my job. Companies are all the same; all they care about is money. I don't know why I bother putting in any effort at all.

Optimist: I lost my job. It's too bad our company has to reinvent itself to stay competitive. Thankfully I learned some great transferable skills!

Personalization

(Questions 1, 8, 10, 12 and 14)

Believing that something about you influenced the outcome or that something external to you caused it. A low score indicates that you tend to blame yourself for bad things, rather than attributing the cause to more general factors.

Pessimist: I lost my job. If I had been a decent employee they would have found a new job for me.

Optimist: I lost my job. I gave it my all, however they just can't use my skill set right now.

Re-shape Your Thinking

Your answers to the questions in this quiz can show whether you have a positive or negative pattern of thinking. They're also great starting points to become more aware of your thoughts - and the effect they have on your life.

When you're more aware of the way you think, you can take action to use positive situations to your advantage, and re-shape the negative ones. The goal is to think positively, regardless of the situation, and make a conscious effort to see opportunities instead of obstacles.

So, in our example, if you immediately think the receptionist is mad at you because she didn't say hello, how rational is that? Could she have been busy or distracted when you walked by? Did you say hello to her? Maybe she wasn't feeling well, or she was in a negative mood herself. These are all more rational reasons for her behavior than simply assuming that you did something wrong.

To help you start thinking positively, see our comprehensive article on Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking, and Positive Thinking  . This is a "must read" for everyone, even very positive thinkers, because it shows why positive thinking is so important, and it discusses how to turn negative thought patterns into positive ones.

Persistent negative thinking can cause mental health problems, including depression. While these positive thinking techniques have been shown to have a positive effect, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they are experiencing persistent unhappiness.

Key Points

Becoming more positive is always a good thing. Using this quiz, you can identify where and how much you tend to think negatively. The more aware you are of your thoughts, the better you'll be able to change them to emphasize the positive.

Positive thinking usually attracts positive people, events, and outcomes. If you want to create an environment where you're successful and satisfied, you'll need the power of positive thinking on your side.

You may not be aware of all of your negative thoughts and the effect they have on your life, however, by taking some time to understand your own thought patterns, you can challenge those irrational, negative thoughts – and replace them with more positive, optimistic and empowering messages.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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Comments (40)
  • Midgie wrote This month
    Hi Artist5790,
    Glad to hear that the quiz helped. We can easily slip into negative thinking, and depending on the situation, that negative thinking seems like a permanent thing!

    Hopefully your new awareness will help you to be more conscious of your thinking, and help you to catch yourself when you have a negative focus and direct your attention to a more positive one!

    It takes practice and vigilance! Let us know how you get on.

    Midgie
  • Artist5790 wrote This month
    Taking this quiz helped me realize that it's a short journey from having a negative to having a positive attitude. The Permanence thing was really helpful.
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Vdattatr,
    Glad to hear that reading the articles here are helping you even more live your life, in what I hope, is a happier, successful and fulfilling way.

    If the articles support your beliefs and approach to life, that's great! Everyone has their own beliefs yet I believe that whatever your beliefs are, if they help you to live a more positive life, then that's what is important!

    Have there been any particular articles that have struck a chord with you and resonated with your beliefs?

    Midgie
  • Vdattatr wrote Over a month ago
    I'm more of spiritual person and reading these articles adds up even more complete edge to knowledge.

    Thanks for pulling out awesome information.
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi redeamed,
    You raise a good point about distoring the truth ... which we can so easily do if we do not stop ourselves and question ourselves. In actual fact, people often distort, delete and generalize the situation, the facts, to fit their own model of the world.

    It is by stopping long enough to question ourselves and question where there is any real evidence or basis for what we are thinking that we can help shift things around to something more positive and resourceful.

    Do you have any strategies to let things go, once you have realized that there is no truth in your thinking? What were they and how did they work?

    Midgie
  • redeamed wrote Over a month ago
    Yolande, your response here is spot on! I've learned over the years to ask myself, "Is how I think about this the absolute truth that can be proven by facts? Or is is my opinion of how it is?" That usually helps me sort out my perceptions quite quickly.
    I remember using a version of this technique myself. I would ask myself "Is this the truth or a lie" OR "what is the truth". Once I have determined that the truth has been distorted into some type of negative thinking pattern, I am much more likely to pass it off as such and not allow it to interfere any longer.
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Francisco,
    Your post makes me think about the times that I am less than a positive thinker, and I like to think of myself as overall rather positive.

    I realize that when I am stuck in the negative way of thinking it is usually because I have tired, feeling run-down or simply have to much on my plate of things to do. So, what seems to happen is that when something goes 'wrong' or not the way I want it to, I can get upset and stay upset.

    Yet, when I am feeling well-rested and grounded, I am able to deal with these things, put things into perspective and even 'laugh them off'.

    Do you find there are times when you remain in a not-so-positive way of thinking and any reasons why?

    Midgie
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Francisco

    You're so right: sometimes when we compare our 'huge problem' to what other people need to cope with, it really isn't that big at all. And of course, it is often through circumstances that we learn new skills and insights - as you rightly said.

    I've learned over the years to ask myself, "Is how I think about this the absolute truth that can be proven by facts? Or is is my opinion of how it is?" That usually helps me sort out my perceptions quite quickly.

    More thoughts and ideas are always welcome here!

    Kind regards
    Yolandé
  • fxgg092 wrote Over a month ago
    I am usually a positive thinker but realistic. When there is a problem I see it as growing opportunity to learn and grow, and to practice my skills, I go to home and relax and maybe laugh about a "huge" problem that at the time was a big deal, it then becomes in relation to other´s a very small detail.

    It depends on the focus and energy we give to a problem; I tend to be optimistic but sometimes the environment and other factors play a key role on the perception we have on them.
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Francisco,
    You mentioned about listening to the news versus listening to a funny guy on the radio and how it impacted your day.

    I now limit the amount of news I listen to / read for those very same reasons. Most of the news is negative and it brings me down. So, rather than sit watching to the news for an hour, I'll listen to something more uplifting, positive and inspirational which lifts me up and helps me get through the rest of my day.

    Could you do something like that intentionally and consciously? Being mindful of the things you listen to and ensure they always lift you up.

    What do you think?
    Midgie
Show all comments

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