Change Your Expectations; Realize Your Wants: “Why You Don’t Get What You Want, It’s Not What You Expect!

These are the notes that I took while watching Jennice Vilhauer’s 2015 TED Talk to forward to a friend of mine who is in prison and doesn’t realize she has the power to get herself out of jail on bail.

“Why You Don’t Get What You Want, It’s Not What You Expect!”

Jennice Vilhauer

Why You Don’t Get What You Want, It’s Not What You Expect!


Notes from Jennice Vilhauer TED Talk 2015

How many of us would like to win the lottery?

(Many hands go up.)

How many of us bought a lottery ticket today?

(Few hands go up.)


An EXPECTATION is a BELIEF about whether you will get what you WANT.

You CREATE your future with your expectations.

Expectations + Action = Creation of your life experience.

Common expectation:

I want to change my life, but I don’t really believe I can.

People give up on their lives because they aren’t willing to try.

When you don’t ACT on what you want, you take yourself out of the game.

If the game is winning the lottery, buying a ticket does not guarantee that you will win, but not buying a ticket will guarantees losing.

Our brains work on the principle of ANTICIPATION:

We constantly predict things before they occur.

When you anticipate an outcome, you automatically prepare yourself for what you think is going to happen.

When you PREPARE for something that hasn’t even happened yet, you PARTICIPATE in the outcome.


We have a tendency to use the past to predict the future:

If you failed once, you think you will fail again.

You have to BELIEVE your future can be better than the past in order for your future TO BE BETTER than the past.

Think about this scenario: A woman goes online to find the man of her dreams; all of her first dozen dates are guys who are losers; finally, she gives up showing up for a date looking her very best and then she meets a guy after she has worked out at the gym without showering and while wearing her gym clothes to the restaurant. The guy is everything she wants, but she loses out because she can’t look this well-dressed, perfectly behaved, interesting gentleman in the eye. She excuses herself and bolts from the restaurant. Her expectations, based on past dates, have ruined her future with the ideal man she wanted because she based her expectations on her past experience instead of future possibilities.

If you are aware of what your expectations are in a situation, then you have the ability to use your conscious mind to override the automatic thinking of failure expectations: you can PLAN for how to CREATE a different outcome.

Our expectations about what we want to get out of life have a very profound effect on our emotional well-being:

Our brain is dedicated to seeking REWARDS.

REWARDS are what you want out of life that make life worth living.

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” JR Tolkien

When you EXPECT to get a reward, you get a feeling of happiness, of joy.

When you DON’T EXPECT to receive a reward, you feel sadness, maybe even depression.

The LARGER THE GAP between what you EXPECT and what you WANT, the greater distress you feel.

What do you do when what you expect doesn’t match up with what you want?

  • You can give up wanting what you want.
  • You can change your expectations to match up with what you want so you can take consistent action.

Imagine an upcoming future event and ask yourself:

1) How is what I am expecting making me feel?

If you are expecting a positive outcome, you will be happy.


If you are expecting a negative outcome,

you feel anxiety, fear, and dread.

2) What would I like to have happen instead?

This question identifies what you really do want to happen in a situation.

What you WANT is often NOT what you are EXPECTING.

Remember: You WANT to win the lottery, but you DON’T EXPECT to win.

  • What do I need to do to make what I want happen?

When you have a negative expectation of a situation, it is because you are focused on all the things that could go wrong, why it’s not going to work out for you. You are not generating thoughts and ideas about how to make it go right.

When you SEE A PLAN laid out in front of you, of what you want, your assessment of the expectation starts to change: YOU BEGIN TO SEE THE POSSIBILITIES. This is where SHIFT happens.

Every SUCCESSFUL action you take towards that plan starts to CHANGE your EXPECTATIONS.

I know what your are thinking as you read this:


If you are desperate and can’t see change happening in your life, ask yourself this question:

“Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?”

Some of us DON’T DARE to dream about life as being different because we CAN’T EXPECT it to be different.

Shift your expectations so you can find the light at the end of your long, dark tunnel.

When you are MOTIVATED by what you WANT, CHANGE is POSSIBLE.

“Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford


It’s your EXPECTATIONS of the FUTURE that LIMIT you the most. Not the past. Not your abilities.


You can CHOOSE to TAKE ACTION based on what you WANT, and when you do that, you give yourself an opportunity to STEP OUT OF THE PAST and CREATE THE LIFE you truly want.