This learned optimism test on permanence was created by Martine E.P. Seligman, and was designed to determine if you are more of an optimist or pessimist, based on your permanent beliefs and temporary beliefs.

Understanding the difference between permanent and temporary beliefs is the first step to learning optimism. You must be able to differentiate between the two to understand what you can control. And stop fooling yourself, you have control over your actions.

 “People who give up easily believe the causes of the bad events that happen to them are permanent: The bad events will persist, will always be there to affect their lives. People who resist helplessness believe the causes of bad events are temporary.” – Page 44: Learned Optimism by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.

Learned optimism tests are some of the tools used in drug treatment centers to highlight an addicts tendency to think in a manner that is permanently ‘bad’.

Learned optimism is just that, learned. As much as our dormant cynic might try to resist the notion of learned perspectives, it’s important to realize that we learned to be cynical and pessimistic as well.

Take this test and keep track of your sore as you go.

  1. You forget your spouse’s birthday.
    1. I’m not good at remembering birthdays.
    2. I was preoccupied with other things.
  2. You owe the library ten dollars for an overdue book.
    1. When I am really involved in what I am reading, I often forget when it’s due.
    2. I was so involved in writing the report that I forgot to return the book.
  3. You lose your temper with a friend.
    1. He/she is always nagging me.
    2. He/she was in a hostile mood.
  4. You are penalized for not returning your income-tax forms on time.
    1. I always put off doing my taxes.
    2. I was lazy about getting my taxes done this year.
  5. You’ve been feeling run-down lately.
    1. A never get a chance to relax.
    2. I was exceptionally busy this week.
  6. A friend says something that hurts your feelings.
    1. He/she always blurts things out without thinking of others.
    2. My friend was in a bad mod and took it out on me.
  7. You fall down a great deal while skiing.
    1. Skiing is difficult.
    2. The trails were icy.
  8. You gain weight over the holidays and you can’t lose it.
    1. Diets don’t work in the long run.
    2. The diet I tried didn’t work.

If you maintain permeant beliefs, that is the belief that difficult situations are your always your fault and that you cannot change that, you are a pessimist. Not a realist, even if you want to call yourself that as so many pessimists do.


Count how many times you answered (a).

1 – 0: You have an optimistic view and you understand that temporary beliefs and occurrences are not permanent.

2 – 3: You are moderately optimistic.

4: Average.

5 – 6: You are rather pessimistic.

7 – 8: You need to change your views as soon as possible.


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