You Get What You Expect

Posted: March 24, 2012 in Success
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“You might not always get what you want, but you always get what you expect.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Many books that I’ve read recently teaches this principle, providing many examples. If you want to be successful in life, or anything for that matter, but don’t expect to be, it follows that you probably won’t be. There is logical reasoning behind this. Think of top athletes in sports. They got that way because of all the hard work they put in to developing their body and their skills. If they did not first believe they would be successful, there would have been no reason for them to go through the pain of the process.

Murray Rothbard, A famous economist explains in his book ‘Man, Economy and State‘,

In order to institute action, it is not sufficient that the individual man have unachieved ends that he would like to fulfill. He must also expect that certain modes of behavior will enable him to attain his ends. A man may have a desire for sunshine, but if he realizes that he can do nothing to achieve it, he does not act on this desire.

You will not do what it takes to get what you want, if you don’t first expect to get it. The idea is to do what it takes to make yourself expect whatever it is that you want, to program your subconscious mind. Once your subconscious mind is on board, you will start doing what it takes to get the results your looking for.

Orrin Woodward, in his book ‘Resolved‘, shares what I think is one of the greatest examples of the power of the subconscious mind.

Author Jack Canfield shares another tragic example of the civil war between the ant and the elephant mind in the story of Nick Sitzman, a young railroad yardman, who was accidentally locked in a refrigerator box car after the rest of the crew had gone home:

“He banged and shouted until his fists were bloody and his voice was hoarse, but no one heard him. With his knowledge of ‘the numbers and the facts’, he predicted the temperature to be zero degrees. Nick’s thought was If I can’t get out, I’ll freeze to death in here. Wanting to let his wife and family know exactly what had happened to him, Nick found a knife and began to etch words on the wooden floor. He wrote, ‘It’s so cold, my body is getting numb. If I could just go to sleep. These may be my last words.’ The next morning, the crew slid open the heavy doors of the boxcar and found Nick dead. An autopsy revealed that every physical sign of his body indicated he had frozen to death. And yet the refrigeration unit of the car was inoperative, and the temperature inside indicated 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Nick had killed himself by the power of his own thoughts.”

Alan Loy McGinnis, in his book ‘Bringing Out the Best in People‘, gives a great example from an article he read by Psychologist C.Knight Aldrich on how to turn your child into a thief.

Here’s the way to do it. Let us say that your son – as most children do at some time or another – engages in some petty theft. Perhaps he steals a package of candy. If you say to him, ‘now we know what you are-you’re a thief! We’ll be watching you from now on,’ it is quite likely that he will steal more and can quickly graduate from stealing candy to stealing cars.

On the other hand, you can react with both firmness and gentleness saying, ‘Tom, that wasn’t like you at all. We’ll have to go back to the store and clear this up, but we’re not going to make a huge thing of it. What you did was wrong, and we’re sure you won’t do it again.’ After such treatment most kids’ stealing careers are over. The principle is very old: by assuming a negative attitude and reflecting back to people all the data about their weakness, you put them in touch with their faults and their behavior becomes worse. By assuming a positive attitude and concentrating on their strong aspects, you put them in contact with their good attributes and their behavior becomes better.

Another great example Alan gives, is about a study done by a Harvard psychologist and a school principal.

They asked the question: Do some children perform poorly in school because their teachers expect them to? If so, they surmised, raising the teacher’s expectations should raise the children’s performances as well. So a group of kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils was given a learning ability test and the next fall the new teachers were casually given the names of five or six children in the new class who were designated as “spurters”; the tests supposedly revealed that they had exceptional learning ability.

What the teachers did not know was that the test results had been rigged and the names of these “spurters” had been chosen entirely at random. At the end of the school year, all the children were retested, with some astonishing results. The pupils whom the teachers thought had the most potential had actually scored far ahead, and had gained as many as 15 to 27 I.Q. points. The teachers described these children as happier, more curious, more affectionate than average, and having a better chance of success in later life. The only change for the year was the attitudes of the teachers. Because they had been lead to expect more of certain students, those children came to expect more of themselves.

I have my own personal experience that supports the idea that you get what you expect. Ever since I learned about this idea, and hearing about how all top athletes visualize success, either imagining themselves scoring goals, or making the saves, I applied it myself to bowling. I have been constantly expecting myself to do well, I envision myself getting the strikes before I go up and bowl. My average has since climbed to 188, where up until a couple of years ago, ever since I was a young, it was in the low to mid 160s. My average will have gone down this season after what happened Friday night when my expectations changed.

At the end of my 2nd of 3 games, the lanes took some chips out of my ball, right along where by ball spins on the alley affecting the way it will curve. Although there was a difference, the ball was not in bad enough shape to affect my game enough for me to play the way I did. For the first time in close to 20 years, I bowled less than 100 in a game. The whole time throughout the 3rd game, I was expecting to bowl bad, and I exceeded my expectations! I have enough experience to know that a score like that for me cannot be blamed on the condition of the ball, not with how minor the chip and scratches were. I bowled a 99 because I kept thinking I couldn’t bowl well with the ball in it’s current condition.

You get what you expect. What are you expecting for yourself?

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