Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker?

Posted: July 2, 2008 in Personality Development
Tags: , , , ,

Learn About – and Change – How You Think

“A man is but the product of his thoughts.
What he thinks, he becomes.”
Mahatma Gandhi.

“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 that 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 that you’ll 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 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.

Use our online quiz by clicking here, or print this out and take the quiz on paper.

Instructions: (To take the quiz on paper)

For each question, circle the number in the column that most applies.

Please note: This tool uses an informal approach to assessing positive and negative thinking, designed to help you quickly ‘zero in’ on approaches that may help you. While it may be intuitively useful, it has not been validated through controlled scientific tests. Please, therefore, treat results as indicative, and interpret results with common sense.

© Mind Tools Ltd, 2008.

I tend to think like this…
Not at all
Some times
1. When my boss asks to speak with me, I instinctively assume he/she wants to discuss a problem or give me negative feedback. 5 4 3 2 1
2. When I experience a real difficulty at work/home, other aspects of my life tend to be painted with the same negative brush. 5 4 3 2 1
3. When I experience a setback, I tend to believe that 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…” 5 4 3 2 1
4. When a team I am on is functioning poorly, I believe the cause is short-term and has a straightforward solution, e.g. “Boy we’re not working well, if we can fix […], we’ll do much better!” 1 2 3 4 5
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. 1 2 3 4 5
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, e.g. “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.” 5 4 3 2 1
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. 1 2 3 4 5
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, e.g. “They asked me to be the key note speaker at the conference next year. I guess the other guys were all busy.” 5 4 3 2 1
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. 5 4 3 2 1
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. 1 2 3 4 5
11. After winning an award/recognition/ contract, I believe it’s because the competition is not as good as I am, e.g. “We won that large contract against two strong competitors. We’re simply better than they are.” 1 2 3 4 5
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. 5 4 3 2 1
13. When I make a decision that proves to be successful, it’s because I have expertise on that particular subject and have analyzed that particular problem really well, as opposed to being generally a strong decision maker. 5 4 3 2 1
14. When I achieve a long term and personally challenging goal, I congratulate myself, and think about all the skills I used to be successful. 1 2 3 4 5

Score Interpretation

Now add up the scores you’ve circled.

My score overall is:

out of 70

Score Comment
14-31 Yikes! It must feel as if there’s 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!
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 the rational thinking exercises mentioned later in this article to become naturally more optimistic.
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. If you do have any negative thoughts, find out how to deal with them later in this article.

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)

For questions in this category, fill in your scored answers in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Question 3
Question 4
Question 9
Question 11
Total Out of 20

Your score shows how far you believe that something you 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, 13)

Question 2
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7
Question 13
Total Out of 25

Your score shows how far you believe that situational factors cause an effect, as opposed to the view 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, 14)

Question 1
Question 8
Question 10
Question 12
Question 14
Total Out of 25

Your score shows how far you believe that something about you influenced the outcome, as opposed to the view 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.

  1. […] Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker? 4. When a team I am on is functioning poorly, I believe the cause is short-term and has a straightforward solution, eg “Boy we’re not working well, if we can fix […], we’ll do much better! … […]

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