You Get What You Expect

Years ago I read several self-help books and took one of those self-improvement courses advertised on late-night television infomercials. Each had their own approach to the topic of getting what you want in life, but my biggest ‘take-away’ from all of them comes down to these five words: you get what you expect.

That declaration is basically a form of goal-setting. If you set a specific goal, determine steps to take to reach that goal, then take the steps, you’ll probably reach it. Attitude also plays a significant role.

Getting what you expect works in both positive and negative ways.

Some negative examples: If you expect that you’ll get lost every time you drive into the heart of your city, you will definitely take a left when you meant to go right. If you expect that you’ll break up with anyone you get into a relationship with within six months, sure enough you’ll be celebrating the seventh anniversary of your first date drinking a beer while watching Saturday Night Live alone. If you expect to get passed up for a promotion because the boss always promotes the new person before promoting you, you won’t get the promotion; and being new has nothing to do with it. Your inner curmudgeon whispers those two magic words: “it figures.” It was your attitude that cost you the promotion.

Some positive examples: If you expect to solve nearly every new problem that comes your way, you will probably find a solution to most of them. If you expect to be in charge of that new project or department, you’ll get the promotion. If you expect to get the girl, you will.

No, you don’t always reach the exact goal you set just because you set it. But you often do reach an acceptable version of the goal. Or you redefine the goal based on new information gathered on the path to the goal.

Study some people around you to find more examples of getting what you expect. You have a co-worker who seems to be known for drama; something always seems to be going wrong in their lives. They have a reputation for being high maintenance and stories you hear from them (or stories you tell about them behind their back) are littered with problems and difficulties. Every day brings a new problem for that person and for anyone who lets himself be sucked into the vortex. That co-worker expects things to go wrong and things go wrong. It figures.

You have another co-worker who people always give praise for good work. People always say good things about him or her. That person gets another promotion or is asked to lead another team or gets another award. That person expected good things to come to them and it happens. They get what they expect.

This is not about entitlement, it is about expectation. Confidence and success are natural byproducts of positive expectations. Insufficient education, experience or intelligence are sometimes limiting factors but just as often they are mere obstacles to be overcome.

Expecting good things in your life often leads to figuring out the effective steps to take to live your dreams. At the very least, it is the best first step.