How to Tell in 2 Minutes You’re More Optimistic (and Will Live Longer) Than You Think

First, a question. (We’ll talk about why the answer matters in a moment.)

“How optimistic are you?”

One way to determine how optimistic you are is to compare yourself to other people, but this is problematic. Take the Famous (Notorious) Survey That Found more than 80 percent of the respondents Claims to be an above average driver, even though this is mathematically impossible, as all respondents were injured in car accidents at some point in their lives.

It’s easy to laugh at discoveries like these, until you realize that we think we’re above average at almost everything. a Meta-analysis of studies Surveys about creativity, intelligence, dependability, athleticism, conscientiousness, friendless… and most of us rate ourselves above average.

Hence the “how optimistic are you?” There is a better way to answer. may have to take modified life orientation test,

All you have to do is rate yourself on ten statements using this scale:

  1. In uncertain times, I usually hope for the best.
  2. It’s easy for me to relax.
  3. If anything could go wrong for me, it would be.
  4. I am always optimistic about my future.
  5. I enjoy my friends a lot.
  6. Being busy is important to me.
  7. I rarely expect things to go my way.
  8. I don’t get upset very easily.
  9. I rarely count on good things happening to me.
  10. Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.

It’s a bit difficult to score yourself:

  • First, throw out your answers to questions 2, 5, 6, and 8. Those are filler questions. (Researchers are such tricksters.)
  • Reverse your marks for questions 3, 7, and 9. If you strongly agree and gave yourself a “4” for “If something can go wrong with me, it will happen,” then turn the 4 into a 0.
  • Add your scores now. (For repetition, just add the answers to questions 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, and 10.)

Keep in mind that test manufacturers do not consider a cut-off point for “optimistic” or “pessimistic.” They use the scale as a “continuous dimension of variability”. (As with most things, we all exist on some sort of spectrum.)

Still, your score will drop one of three broad categories,

  • 0 to 13: low optimism (high pessimism)
  • 14 to 18: moderate optimism
  • 19 to 24: high optimism (low pessimism)

In case you’re wondering, I scored 22, probably because my age puts me on the right side of the happiness curve.

Why does optimism matter?

For one thing, your general level of optimism affects your goals. Whether you invest time and resources in pursuing a goal, such as starting a business, depends on your confidence in achieving that goal.

You don’t need research to tell you — though such research exists You are unlikely to start or stick with a goal if you doubt that you will ever succeed.

The global tendency to have positive expectations about the future is at the core of the concept of optimism.

This means that natural optimism can affect how hard we work to achieve goals in various areas of life.

Your level of optimism also affects the level of stress and anxiety you feel. by lead author According to a study of nearly 160,000 women over four decades, “optimistic people may also be better able to control their emotions during stressful situations.”

which is also understandable; It’s easy to be less concerned when your default setting is that things usually go well.

And then there is this: Optimistic people live longer. according to same longitudinal studyHigher optimism was associated with longevity and more likely to achieve exceptional longevity,

Less Stress. Increases chances of achieving goals. Greater longevity.

Clearly optimism matters.

how to be more optimistic

Which all sounds great. But if you scored 10 on the Revised Life Orientation Test, you might be thinking, “Okay. But where is this optimism switch that I should be flipping?”

You are right to think so, at least partially. research shows About 25 percent of our optimism set-point is genetic,

But it means that 75 percent of your optimism level can be shaped and learned. In a studyParticipants who spent five minutes a day for two weeks envisioning their “best possible self” (in terms of professional, relationship and personal goals) experienced a significant increase in optimism.

If visualization isn’t your thing—it certainly isn’t mine—try another approach: Spend more time with optimistic people. They are more encouraging. more helpful. A little bit of their enthusiasm will rain on you.

If spending time in groups isn’t your thing—it’s not mine—then take a step back and think about your mindset. Generally speaking, people fall into two categories:

  • People with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence, abilities, and skills are innate and relatively stable. That we are what we were born with. Someone with a fixed mindset might say, “I didn’t handle that conflict well. I’m clearly not a leader.”
  • People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence, ability, and skills can be developed through effort. That we are what we work to be. Someone with a growth mindset might say, “I didn’t handle that conflict well, but next time I’ll be more prepared.”

Those who adopt a growth mindset believe that success is based on effort and experimentation, not on innate talent. This makes them more optimistic.

Future, Yours The future is what you make of it.

Think of it this way — start adopting a growth mindset — and you’ll have reason to be optimistic.

Because of who you are, and who you work to become, it is absolutely capable of achieving your biggest goals.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.