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.

Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

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

  • 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!