You Get What You Expect

In life we often get what we expect. If we expect something good, it has a way of showing up. If we expect something bad, it too has a way of showing up.

Two People at the Checkout Counter

Photo courtesy of ©

It reminds me of a story I heard about a wise clerk who worked at a convenience store in a small town out west.

One day, a stranger walked in, picked up some bread and milk, and made his way to the cash register.

“New to town?” the clerk asked.

“Yep. Just moved here with my family,” the stranger replied.

“Well, then let me be the first to welcome you,” the clerk offered, extending his hand.

“Thanks,” the stranger said as he shook it. “Say, what are the people like in this town?”

“Well … what were they like in the town you just left?” the clerk queried.

“Oh, they were fantastic,” the stranger replied. “Friendly, upbeat, and generous. We hated to leave.”

“I know what you mean,” the clerk nodded. “I think that’s pretty much what you’ll find here, too.”

A few days later, another stranger walked into the convenience store. Like the first, he picked up a few staples and headed to the cash register.

The same clerk asked, “New to town?”

“Yes,” the stranger mumbled. “Just arrived.”

Following the same track, the clerk smiled and extended his hand. “Let me be the first to welcome you!”

The stranger took his hand reluctantly, frowned, and quickly looked down. “So what are the people like in this town?”

“Well … what were they like in the town you lived in last?” the clerk queried.

“Not great,” he stammered. “They were cold, aloof, and selfish. We were glad to get out of there.” He looked up at the clerk.

“I know what you mean,” the clerk affirmed. “I’m afraid that’s probably what you’ll find here, too.”

If it’s true that we get what we expect, it’s worth noticing our expectations—and shifting them toward a more positive outcome.

Question: What are you expecting today? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Wayne Stiles

    I like this story, Michael. It reminds me how important it is to think about things that are good, right, trustworthy, and honorable; that way, we’re more apt to recognize them and appreciate them when they appear. But if we mull over all the negatives, then we’ll be specially attuned to draw those to us like magnets.

    This is a great way to begin the week! Thanks.

  • Larry Carter

    I expect to have a great day, filled with interesting challenges.

    • Dan Black

      That’s a great mindset Larry!

      • Mike Holmes

        I second that!

  • FromHisPresence

    So true. It makes me so sad to see people who have been beaten down a few times, so they expect that the rest of their lives will look just like their bad experiences. On the other hand, it’s the best thing in the world to see somebody choose to believe for better things, and keep working while they keep their chin up – and watch those better things manifest. Nothing like it. :)

  • Eileen

    Such a great reminder! I’m learning the beauty of “living expectantly without expectations” There’s a difference. I want to live with hope but I don’t want to confine that hope to a particular size or shaped box.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like that distinction! Thanks, Eileen.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Wisdom, Eileen.

    • Mike Kim

      Well said, Eileen! Thanks so much for sharing that.

  • Dave Bratcher

    I am reminded of the fact that we read ourselves into other people’s lives. Often we are the problem with our displeasure in the current environment. Not pleased with your current situation, change the only person you can…YOU!

    • Michael Hyatt

      So true. We are the one person we have total control over.

    • Mike Holmes

      Good point Dave.

  • Francoise Lajeunesse

    I realise that it is comment to be positive or negative each day .. We decide what every day will be like. If we could change the world it would probably start with our morning attitude being good. We have to accept every day as a new challenge and be happy and bring good out everything that will occur.

  • Jon D Harrison

    Amazing how this works – how important it is for us to protect our thoughts.

    To answer the question: I expect today is going to be amazing (I have evidence that it already is). I also expect my post on the “Most Powerful Time Management Technique” will be as life changing to others as it has been for me.

    • Dan Black

      Great post, Jon! Thanks for sharing it.

  • T.Murphy

    Whereas I believe that what you expect is true, I recently had an experience that was quite the opposite. I took a job with a new firm and my assigned mentor and boss would not talk to me or answer my questions. My questions would get deflected to my colleague whom I had already asked and he wouldn’t answer me. My past experiences and expectations is that I would be able to make small talk and connect with my new immediate co-workers but it just did not happen in this place. They acted as if they resented me being there.

  • David Sollars

    Michael, being from a small mid-west town, I could see this actually playing out. For me the clerk was the perfect witness, a mirror to the person that walked up to the counter. These are the qualities of a good coach, who like the clerk reflects without judgment and allows the audience, us, to learn. Today I will look to other areas of my life where I may not be bringing my best to the store counter. Thanks again.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, David. I am going to do the same.

  • Melissa McCutcheon

    What a lovely reminder. I expect this day to be as wonderful and peace-filled as I make it. If I allow the Light of Christ to illumine me then I will be able to see the face of God in others even if they are having a very bad day.

  • John Mastrosimone

    Belief + Expectation = Manifestation!

    • Michele Cushatt

      Nice math. ;)

  • john langel

    Yes I have heard and read its message before but a great gentle reminder…thanks! The story encourages me to remember the principal of life ‘IN everything give thanks… not for everything.’ Don’t let what you see with your eyes or hear with your ears blind you of the reality of what is really going on in your life and those around you to limit your expectations. Think big, Dream big, Pray big.

  • Aleks George

    Whatever you believe – you’re right!

    • Wesley Wiley

      That reminds me of a Henry Ford quote:
      “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

  • Pablo Ellsworth

    Great story….attitude changes everything!

  • lisa evola

    Thank you for this. I really needed the positive spin today. It is true that you get more bears with honey….and if you see good, you will experience good. It is what we choose to see in people that becomes most evident to us. Like seeing growing flowers in the storms of life. Thanks!

  • BruceCross

    I am expecting new turns in my story, doors opening up that will pave the way for my writing future. BTW, enjoyed hearing you speak at LifeChurch yesterday. Will send a follow up note!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bruce!

      I like your expectations.

  • Sean

    Michael, this post is another step in what has been a cataclysmic weekend. I had gotten beaten down and negative but had my proverbial a… butt… handed to me this weekend by someone who loved me enough to give me some of the tough love I so desperately needed and deserved. This post is a more gentle reminder to keep heading in a positive direction.

    Like Steve Martin said in the “The Jerk”… “things are going to start happening to me now!”

    … good things :)


    • Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Sean. So glad to hear it.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Hahaha. A quote from “The Jerk” is perfect. Humor always helps. :)

  • Tim Dahl

    As a pastor if a small church, I’m used to being told that we don’t have enough $$$ to do things by our finance committee. So much so, I’ve given up asking. I just expect that they’ll say “no.” Any advice on changing the trajectory of my expectation and view of the committee?

    To be sure, we are hurting financially. But, I do need some $$$ for marketing/outreach purposes.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Tim, I would read this series of three posts I wrote called, “How to Get Your Boss to Say ‘Yes’.”

      • Tim Dahl


  • Phillip Cohen

    I’m expecting God to amaze me with a life above and beyond anything I deserve.

  • Justin Carper

    I am expecting today to be a day full of opportunity. I am expecting to love my wife more than when I woke up this morning and to create memories with my kids when I get home. I expect to leave my employer in better shape when I get off work today than when I arrive this morning. I expect that today will be awesome. I expect that there will be obstacles. I expect to overcome them.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Well said! It’s going to be a great day, no doubt about it.

  • Michele Cushatt

    Great way to start a Monday. Last week, I heard Dr. Henry Cloud speak at the Global Leadership Summit. In his presentation, he said something to the effect of, “Your life is a movie, not a single scene. Don’t base the value and beauty of your life on one bad scene.” It’s about choosing how to see, every single morning. I expect today to be a gift, and plan to receive it, enjoy it and experience it as such.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love that quote from Henry, Michele. Thanks.

    • Wesley Wiley

      That’s such a great perspective Michele. I was talking with a friend a couple of years ago and made the statement that I always expected my life to be like a movie where everything turns out great in the end. His response: “It will. You’re just not at the end of the movie yet.”

  • Justin Buck

    SPECTACULAR illustration! We project our own expectations onto others sub-consciously. We have to be careful what we expect of people!

  • Tracey Moore

    I agree. It’s important to expect good things. I think if we keep our hopes up, we’ll be happier. However, sometimes we need to expect reality. For example, when we are disappointed by people, sometimes they have done the same thing before, yet we get upset because we expected them to give us a different response. Our expectations were not realistic given their track record. Below is an excerpt from a poem I wrote reflecting that thought:

    Our expectations along the way
    Can either make or break our day.
    We expect things we believe we should get,
    But when our lofty expectations are not met,
    We are disillusioned, and sad and blue
    Because what we expected ended up falling through.
    We expected people to meet our needs,
    But they left us high and dry indeed.
    We expected to be treated with respect,
    But instead, our feelings they did neglect.
    We expected our mate to know what we wanted,
    But in selfishness, they were completely undaunted.
    We expected what we wanted to manifest
    But it didn’t happen, as we confessed.
    The last time your expectations went unfulfilled,
    Was the root of the problem that you failed to get real?
    If you think about what had happened before,
    Your unrealistic expectations opened the door
    For the Satan to come and steal your peace,
    Because unrealistic expectations you refused to release.
    Let’s face it, reality may never change,
    If what’s been fixed and constant still remains,
    What is necessary is for you to bend,
    Expectations must change, the madness must end….
    Things will go better for you and for me,
    If we will just expect reality.
    Copyright 2012 by Tracey L. Moore
    Author of Oasis for My Soul: Poems and Inspirational Writings for Spiritual and Personal Growth

    • Mike Holmes

      Wow Tracy…thanks for sharing :)

  • Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching

    I could not agree more with this post. It’s also a great reminder our emotions are contagious. How we appear for others can often rub off. Come to work grumpy, and it’s likely your entire team will be down in a matter of hours. Come to work happy and you’ll likely energize your team.

  • Jeremy McCommons

    Great story! It really drives home the point that your perspective is what controls your reality. Sometimes we must evaluate and alter our perspective to gain a healthier and happier life.

  • asmithblog

    This really is so true.

  • Roger Harned

    I expect Jesus Christ to lift up my witness to Him though my upcoming book on the Good Book. I’ve just started on a pre-launch of my new website: as I have worked my way through “Platform.” I pray for increasing skills to add email, tweets and social connections to my site. I expect a lot, but nothing is too difficult for the Lord.

  • LadyJevonnahEllison

    I’m expecting a fantastic day! I CHOOSE joy! I choose peace! It all starts with starting the day off right in prayer. Prayer is the foundation to my great day.

  • Charlie Lyons

    Great illustration of this truth, Michael. Well done.

  • James Lovaas

    Thanks for the reminder. I generally look forward to starting another week. It’s not that I like Mondays as much as I like the soft reset that a new week brings. With that said, I should have that same expectation every day.

  • Karen

    Great story, and a great lesson. But is it always true that we get what we expect? Not sure. What about when you expect nothing but the best and are disappointed nevertheless, in spite of your best efforts?

    • Michael Hyatt

      That sometimes happens to be sure. This definitely isn’t a magic formula. But what if your expectation shaped the result 80% of the time? Or 70%? Wouldn’t it make sense to use it?

  • Cierra Seay

    Very good story. I’m currently preparing for an interview for a promotion with my company and with my preparation and experience I fully expect to get the position.

  • Wesley Wiley

    I’ve been the negative guy in the story before. We were involved with an incredible church in Texas before moving to Orlando. I was convinced we’d never find anything that compared and for too long, because of my expectations, that was our experience. There’s tremendous power in expectations!!!

  • Darren Russo

    Great Reminder of how expectations influence our attitude – I’m raising support full-time for Campus Crusade Staff and have struggled with low expectations over the last two months. It definitely has influencing my approach to how I ask and initiate with people. This was a good word!

  • Kimley D

    So true! I choose to expect the best out of each day! Sometimes we have to look for the good to find it, but it’s worth the energy!

  • seanvzintally

    I am expecting for God to help me every day, all throughout the day. I know that I can definitely expect that and it will happen :)

  • Joey Espinosa

    You and Jon Acuff are on the same wavelength today (and I don’t think it’s the first time):

  • Cultivating Kim

    Always a great reminder – thanks Michael. Whenever I am working with someone who is feeling a bit uncertain on a goal that they are putting out there I give them the quote by Henry Ford:
    “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
    Hopefully this helps put it perspective for them that they are the ones who decide if it can be done. If they expect they can accomplish said goal they most likely will!

    • Mark Struczewski

      It’s all in the attitude. You are right, Kim.

  • Mike Kim

    Great story, Michael. Also wanted to say that I loved that you let the story breathe and speak for itself. Not sure if you wrestled with elaborating more vs. keeping it short, but I really enjoyed the pithy post.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I did wrestle with elaborating on it. In the end, I thought it spoke for itself. Thanks!

    • Jon D Harrison

      Great insight, Mike!

  • kimanzi constable

    So true Michael, our thinking can make or break us. Today I expect to be wildly productive!

  • Tryn Rose

    Well-said, Michael. And I like the clerk’s position; he only gets one minute or less with each customer, and spent it simply and insightfully. I will keep expecting the best. When I do, it’s there!

  • Lisa

    You pick. Is you glass half full or half empty?

    • Mark Struczewski

      For me…half full. And you are correct, it’s our choice.

  • Daniel Hooberry

    Each day as I leave the house I have one objective to advance my life while putting a smile on someones face. If they laugh at me I don’t care. If they do or do not want to speak to me I don’t care. Did I help them forget their troubles for a while this I care about. God did not put me here to make you miserable but to help you with your joy.

    • Mark Struczewski

      That’s awesome, Daniel.

  • Robert Jacobs

    I know this comment is worn out but, “you choose your attitude.”

    • Mark Struczewski

      Yes, it is worn out…but we still need to be reminded. Sadly, many choose a negative attitude.

  • Jon D Harrison

    Confession: I retold this story in my presentation for General Orientation today on the subject of “Attitude.”

    And yes, I cited my source : )

    • Michael Hyatt

      Love it! (Thanks for citing the source.)

      • Jon D Harrison

        Does Google Analytics track “General Orientation?” : )

        • Michael Hyatt

          Ha! Don’t think so.

  • Barbara Marshall

    This was very helpful. To make a difference in my community.

    • Mark Struczewski

      Can you imagine if everyone had a positive attitude? We could change the world!

  • Michelle Wright

    Today I expected to take care of some important personal appointments in the midst of getting my work done, all with a positive attitude. I pretty much did just that. I’m happy with myself. I plan to repeat tomorrow!

    • Mark Struczewski

      Love, it Michelle…rinse and repeat! :-)

  • Kurt Swann

    Michael, Great story and the message reminds me of “The Right Kind Of People,” a poem by Edwin Markham. Although I like your story because it’s a little more modern with a convenience store and cash register :) Kurt

  • Sue

    Something good will happen to me today! Yea!

    • Mark Struczewski

      Sue…something good will happen to you everyday! I have started keeping a gratitude journal using Evernote. Each night before I retire, I list out four things I am grateful for (and I try not to repeat the same things). If you aren’t doing this, I encourage you to try it.

  • Vipin Ramdas

    Nice post. Simple but true to the core. The mind is so powerful that it has the power to manifest what we think about us and others. As the great Earl Nightingale said, you become what you think.

  • Dan Black

    Great story and principle, Michael! We get what we expect. Something we all would benefit from remembering.

  • Caleb

    That story makes me think twice about my town! Maybe it’s not so bad after all! Thanks for the encouragement Michael.

    • Dan Black

      HA, Nice!

  • Mike Holmes

    As a Christian this really lines with thinking and speaking in line with God’s Word. God is EXTREMELY positive and so are His thoughts towards His children. So if we get and keep our minds wrapped around His thoughts we truly become lights in this world. Rather, than saying “I’m depressed. I’m defeated.” and so on…if we said things like “I’m more than a conqueror through Him that loved me…” “His favor surrounds me like a shield…” “His blessings overtake me…” pretty soon it does start to happen.

    I know because I been on both sides…and I like this side better :)

    Greta post Mike!

    • Mark Struczewski

      Mike: I am shocked by how many people have a predominantly negative mindset/vocabulary instead of a positive one. When people complain about something, I try to ask them to think about what is good about their lives. If people take just a moment, they can easily rattle off several things. Being negative is easy…being positive? Not so much!

  • Jenny Hester

    Michael – I believe this to the core. I love sharing this practice with others. If we all lived this way think of the possibilities.

  • Mark Struczewski

    Thanks for this post, Michael. After I read it, I shared it on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I have had conversations with people over the concept of “perception.” They would say “that’s not what I meant” and I would reply, “well, what you MEANT and the way I PERCEIVED what you said, in this situation, are different.” Sadly, many people don’t get it. I, as the audience, have no idea what your intention was. I have my own filter. So, I try to ask questions to clarify. Great post, thanks!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing, Mark.

  • Julie Sunne

    Attitude makes all the difference.

  • josh –

    good post! although sometimes things can turn out better – or worse – depending on the platform we launch our thoughts from

  • Natalia

    What correct and useful article. Here it is well emphasized that, CHTO YA I GIVE to PEOPLE AROUND, I RECEIVE A HUNDRED TIMES MORE. Thanks for such useful history.

  • Tamarray Cain

    I’m expecting to help 2 people build their residual income empire! :)

  • Michael

    I like this story too, but I always wondered if the clerk was just trying to filter the people out that would come and live in the town. Trying to encourage the positive people to stay and the negative people to move on.

    Pretty much like a business owner needs to in order to keep a great culture.

  • Jeremy Birch

    Such a great message packed in a short story. Had to “Buffer” this one!

    • Jim Martin

      This is a great message and story! Not only is this a great reminder for me but one that I will be sharing with others.

  • Bud Brown

    The Pygmalion Effect!

    • Bud Brown

      P.S. I wrote on this very phenomenon and how interim pastors can leverage it to accelerate a low-functioning church board into higher levels of performance.

  • Joe Wickman

    I’ve learned over the years to ask the same question of people who arrive at church. It’s not always true, but their synopsis of their last church is often what they find at their new church. It’s at least a good starting point for a conversation.

  • Girish S

    I suppose this is what the book ‘Secret’ mentioned in detail. Having a positive thought and attitude is a secret for having a good life.

  • Jose E. Barreto

    Great story! That has been found in scientific studies. It is called quantum entanglement, is the phenomemon, for example, when an electron is spinning in a certain direction, other electrons (even though they are not connected physically) will change the way they spin and spin in the same way as the other is spinning. This shows us that we are all connected and that we have the power to change other people and connect with them in the way we want to, and how the title says: “you get what we expect”.

  • Phyllis K Twombly

    I always expect to be treated well. When someone’s nasty I stay positive. More than once a negative person in my life has changed into someone who treats me with courtesy and respect. It takes time–years, even–but people can change for the better.

  • Brandon Vaughn

    Great article on some of the negativity people embrace in life. I actually just did a podcast on “Stinkin Thinkin” where I talked about some thoughts that trap us in life. It reminds me of that bumper sticker, “Practice Random Acts of Kindness” … which I’m thankful I don’t see much anymore. Our world sees “good things” as being more random at times … almost like winning the lottery. Your article is a good reminder that this is not the case. And that we must keep our focus on the good things, the better things, for maximum productivity and life.

  • Bulakya Moureen

    Am expecting to have a great weekend with a whole new changed atittude towards life.

  • Elder Shawn Briscoe

    I’m expecting nothing less than greatness.

  • Maria Whitmire

    This is a great story! I always look for something positive and upbeat and that’s typically what I find. I think that our attitudes influence those around us as well so if we’re down, they are down. Life is great and we should enjoy every day we have here. I am very blessed and hope that I can pass some of that blessing on to those around me!

  • lucy Smith

    the clerk smiled and extended his hand.Casquette Unkut