I was Shocked!

Our mind can complete the expectations we have!

Recently I installed three new poles and decorative lights on the driveway approach to our house.  Although I enjoy being a handy man, electrical work always makes me nervous.  I rented a trencher, dug a narrow ditch and carefully laid the line in the trench.  I then proceeded to install the outlets and run the line up each pole before completing the power attachment at our house.  Twice in this process I recoiled with the stinging shock of electric power surging through my arms – but wait – there was no power yet attached.  I hadn’t connected the line to the power source.  Just the “anticipation” of power convinced me I had already “felt” a serious shock.

I find I’m not alone in this mysterious happening.  Commonly known as the Pygmalion Effect, scientists say this phenomenon occurs when “a false definition of the situation evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.”  In other words, once an expectation is set, we tend to act in ways that are consistent with that expectation, even when it’s not true.


Whoa – what about expecting a bad performance review, getting fired, being rejected by a friend, believing that all good jobs are going overseas, expecting bad “luck,” or “knowing” your business is going down the tubes.  Could the false anticipation make that event become a reality? 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 
 William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2

Could you reverse the phenomenon?  Do you think you could “expect” good things and have more good things happen?  Read the current statistics on jobs and business in America – you can find unprecedented growth of new ideas and small business or the worst employment situation in 30 years. 

Yes, I did complete the final hook-up and am now enjoying seeing the actual power surge through the lines to shine in the darkness.  I get a little extra enjoyment knowing that I overcame my fear in completing the task.  Those lights are a daily reminder that sometimes when I feel a “shock” it’s not reality but just a false expectation – that I can overcome.

“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”    Job 3: 25-26 (NIV)

13 Responses to “I was Shocked!”

  1. Mike from Loganville Says:

    Ah, the ongoing struggle to find a balance between the Pygmalion Effect and the Pollyanna Principle! At first I thought this was just going to be a “power of positive thinking” post, but the Shakespeare quote and the explanation of the Pygmalion Effect helped present the ideas here clearly and convincingly. Thanks to the 48 Days books and podcasts, Zig Ziglar’s lectures, and Dave Ramsey’s radio show and Financial Peace classes, I have greatly reduced negativity in my life and in my decision making. Things are moving in a positive direction – because that’s the direction in which I have set my sights!

  2. Okke Surjana Says:

    Yes! I believe it is more than just a thought, it is a mindset.
    When I was IT manager, in one of my coaching sessions with a direct-report, I asked if she knew how tall I am. I told her that most people do not think I am short. Then I went on to tell her my height (5′ 5″) She was genuinely shocked! I did not think you were that short!
    Ha! Then I told her the power of self perception. I said, “I don’t think I am short either! I am not making it up, I do not think I am. I am just the right height for me.”

    The same goes with how smart people think we are.
    One time when I was working in technical support, a client called and reported a problem trying to do something with his files. I asked a question what it was. He began to tell me what it was supposed to do. By then I realized I was not familiar about that technology yet. It was relatively new. Then I ask the man what the manual said. He read it to me. Then I asked a specific question based on the list that he just read from the manual. I asked: Did you linked it to THAT directory? Then it dawned on him that he linked it to the wrong directory.

    All the while my mindset was “I am the technical support and I WILL help this man solve his problem.” Rather than, “I don’t know about this! He better find someone else who understands.”

  3. Kevin Love Says:

    I’m in career transition at this time and I suspect that the future will hold even more career transition moments as companies evolve, economies change, and people grow (or not).

    I choose to grow during this phase of my life!!! I am learning more about recent technology using social media vehicles to bring me closer to my dream career. I don’t focus on fear, I focus on growth.

    The result? I’m finding that people are crossing my path in very unusual ways creating unique connections between me and my future. I know that if I choose the path of fear, I would be incapacitated. Instead, I am energized and invigorated as to what the future holds.

    This is an immensely rich and rewarding period of my life right now and I KNOW that the future is bright. I’m taking courses, reading books, blogging, tweeting and enriching my life.

    Dan, I really enjoy reading your books, articles, blogs, and so on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    My best regards,

    Kevin Love, MBA
    Training and Development Professional
    Dallas / Fort Worth Area
    Google Voice: 817-778-8540
    Email: kevindlove@hotmail.com
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinlove

  4. susanne Says:

    Kind of sounds like “The Secret”. I sure wish we could hear more and talk more about this subject-it’s fasinating!! I REALLY believe you can set yourself up for success or failure, and I would love to hear more imput from everyone about their feelings.

  5. Yvone Palmer Says:

    This is one of those things I will always remember! Thank you.

  6. Vickey Says:

    I had a negative day today after prayer, positive thinking and being in a position I know the Lord provided for me. I was saying. “What happened Lord, I had such joy about this new position how did it turn out so bad that my boss and I both were ready to quit. what a bad wittness I was today. This article answers many of my questions. I must NOT Allow negative things that happen during my day to put me in “Auto Negative” and let my mouth spew out a negative comment that ruins my relationships and my wittness for the Lord and everyone who is watching me. I must meditate on these words and turn my thoughts into actions positive ones!

  7. Andy Traub Says:

    Fear is healthy Dan. I’m glad you made it through alive. I’m looking forward to checking out the lights next time I’m in the neighborhood.

    As cheesy as it sounds I do believe it’s true that if you believe something could happen that the chance of it happening (whether it’s negative or positive) skyrocket.

    I’m going to believe good things are going to happen…:)

  8. shrinkingthecamel Says:

    Our minds are curious things. So much of our attitude flows from our perception of the situations, and yes, our expectations. I have tried to become very self-aware of the negative chatter going on in my head and over the years have gotten much better at managing it.

    I agree that the opposite is true also — setting positive expectations often lead to self-fulfillment.

    Isn’t it interesting how God made us so pliable.

  9. Heather Dugan ("Footsteps") Says:

    I think we often create our own context. We see/find what we’re looking for and that becomes the environment we live in. Positive expectations are a part of it, as is gratitude -the recognition of the blessings around and within us.

  10. Shirley Says:

    Thank you, I need to hear more of that. I think it involves more than thinking, more like a stronghold. Something I would like to ‘speak to and cast into the sea’. Brought up in the Midwest, the sons were ‘expected’ to go into the family business or better. Daughters, well, we were expected to hopefully marry someone successful and live happily taken care of the rest of our lives. (In my case, I also took organ lessons with the admonition that ‘you never know ‘what’ could happen ‘ I would be able to give organ lessons to support myself?
    Positive thinking is not enough to shake this. The amazing thing are the successes I have had and not counting them as such.
    Keep on keeping on reaching out to those of us who have the talents but need the perseverance and encouragement, that success is a good thing and a reality for us.

  11. Mike Says:

    Hi Dan,

    I am new to your site and listened to one of your podcasts for the first time. So what I heard you say was my first impression of the help you provide. The question I wanted hear you answer was the one submitted by the person who said their cynicism was getting the best of them. I must say that I was a little disappointed in your response to him. Please do not take me as a negative person for what I am about to say. I am only presenting my first impression! What I took away from your response to him was that you do not work with the people that would be very challenging for you to work with because you have moved on beyond that level and only help those that are already well to do and can afford you as a coach and that you know you will be successful in helping. Which in turn will foster growth of your program because you can report on your successes. I listen to Dave Ramsey also and in my humble opinion both of you sound a bit jaded. I appreicate what both of you are doing to help people but that person that wrote to you for help was desperately seeking help and you just seemed to miss that cry for help. Thanks for what you are doing and I am looking forward to your tools helping me with my search.
    Respectfully Submitted

  12. A Petty Blog » The Pygmalion Effect Says:

    […] Miller wrote this story in his August 18, 2009 newsletter: I was Shocked! « Dan Miller’s Blog Our mind can complete the expectations we […]

  13. Kerry L Rogers Says:

    Hello All,
    I can’t believe all the things that I am learning from Dan Miller’s sites.
    This is one of the best things that I have did in years. I can’t wait to get
    started on some of the ideas that God has given me through reading and
    learning what I have on his sites. If you have not yet read his books then
    they are a must read.

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