The Glass Test

One morning the dentist says you need a new crown—$1,000 please. That afternoon you land a job that pays $1,000. These are the facts.

How you choose to see the facts will determine how you feel.

If you see the crown as an opportunistic thief stealing money needed elsewhere you’ll feel frustrated, angry perhaps. If you see the job as a timely provision for the unexpected expense, you’ll feel relieved, happy even.

What you initially feel depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist.

An optimistic attitude is largely inherited, and it is part of a general disposition for well-being, which may also include a preference for seeing the bright side of everything. … A disposition for well-being is as heritable as height or intelligence. —Daniel Kahneman

Your disposition is set by nature and reinforced or moderated by nurture. Knowing your default setting helps you understand why you see things the way you do.


The Glass Test reveals who you are:

An optimist says the glass is half full.

A pessimist says the glass is half empty.

A fatalist says, “It is what it is.”

An engineer says the container is twice the size it needs to be.

A Republican says, “Who’s been drinking out of my glass?”

A physicist says the glass is completely full, half with water
and half with air.

I’m a physicist.

What are you?



7 thoughts on “The Glass Test

  1. How is the physicist different from the fatalist? I just found out my unborn baby has Down’s Syndrome. The glass is half full of beauty and the rest is pain. It is what it is? Or does the physicist have something more to say?

  2. So much of whether or not we find peace or contentment, let alone joy or happiness, depends on whether or not we feel the level of water CAN CHANGE. You may say the pessimist will always feel that even if it can (and that is always doubtful) it will probably go down; while the optimist will confidently assert that of course it can change and with a little work, or luck, or outside intervention it could go up! Both could learn from the physicist who would likely say both are (or could be) true, but it depends…. I would love to hear more from you on the “depends” 😉

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