3 (of the many) Laws of Life

1. We Get what We Expect

What kind of day will you have today? How about this week? Will it be filled with excitement or tedium, problems or adventure, happiness or misery? I’m not a psychic, but I can predict your future by the answers you give to these questions. That’s because we create what happens to us with our expectations. In other words, our expectations are self-fulfilling prophesies.

What exactly is an expectation? It is a type of belief. We have two types of beliefs, core and moment-to-moment. Our moment-to-moment, or daily, beliefs flow from our core beliefs. For example, Tom believes the world is a hostile place, no one can be trusted, and suffering is inevitable. In other words, Tom is a pessimist. His belief that the world is unfriendly is an example of a core (foundational) belief.

Today, Tom has a job interview. But because of his pessimism he doesn’t think he will get the job. This is an example of his moment-to-moment belief, or what he believes will happen today. He expects to fail the interview. Most likely, he will because the interviewer will detect Tom’s negativity and consider him to be a liability for the company. Even if Tom were to get the job, he will later live up to his expectation of failing because his suspicion of others will make it impossible for him to become a team player.

So, our expectations, or moment-to-moment beliefs, forecast our future. But isn’t it possible that we can fail despite a positive attitude? Yes, of course, because there will always be things beyond our control. But such failures will occur in the short term only, for positive expectations always lead to success in the long term.

Let’s look at an example. Mary is skillful, knowledgeable, and cheerful. She goes for a job interview and fails. How come? Well, we live in an imperfect world (not a hostile one, yet imperfect), and the job interviewer is prejudiced. The interviewer doesn’t like Mary’s gender, color, and religion, so Mary doesn’t get the job. Mary may not experience immediate success, but she isn’t alarmed by her temporary setback because of her core beliefs that she can do anything, that she deserves success, and that she has a valuable contribution to make. As a result, Mary remains unruffled and keeps going to interviews, which eventually leads to success.

Think of our expectations as a switch. Not an on-off switch, but a positive-negative switch. You see, the switch is always on, but it is set to either positive or negative expectations. When the switch is set to positive expectations, we experience, enthusiasm, excitement, passion, meaning, purpose, serenity, friendship, empowerment, confidence, happiness, and good health. Yet, when it is set to negative expectations, we experience fear, worry, anxiety, depression, unhappiness, failure, powerlessness, anger, resentment, loneliness, stress, and poor health.

Because we will always live up or down to our expectations, it is critical for our success and happiness that we keep the switch set to Positive. But you may have had to sail through stormy seas or been battered about by crushing circumstances and now find yourself with the switch stuck in the Negative position. If so, it is time to start cultivating positive expectations, and here are some steps you can take to do so.

1. Engage in positive talk. That is, say something positive to everyone you meet. There are three reasons to do so. First, it forces you to look for the good, and when you look for it, you will find it. And as you regularly find it, you will become positive. Second, everything you say to others, you’re also saying to yourself. So, whenever you speak to others, you are programming yourself to become more or less successful; therefore, watch what you say! Third, when you deal with everyone in a positive way, they will treat you likewise, and their behavior will then reinforce yours, making you even more positive.

2. Awaken to your true nature. Understand that you are a seed meant to grow and flourish. The same energy that radiates throughout the universe flows through your veins. You are meant to be magnificent. But it is not about you or your ego. Rather it is about your nature. Your nature is to adorn life. You are here not merely to experience life, but to add to it.

Paradoxically, when you think about how great you wish to become, you create a block, preventing your greatness from appearing. Why is that? Because we only wish for what we think we do not have. So, if you want to be great, you are denying what you already have, and, therefore, cannot use it. It is only when you unclench your teeth, loosen your grip, let go of your desires and allow your nature to shine through that you will discover your powers.

It’s okay to dream. In fact, I encourage you to do so. But once you create a dream, don’t thwart it by trying too hard. Once you make a plan and take whatever steps you feel are proper, let go of the reins and allow life to take you there.

3. So far, I haven’t completely revealed the Expectation Switch to you. I’ve only told you about two positions on the switch: Positive and Negative. But there is a third position, the most powerful of all, and it goes beyond Positive Expectations. The third position is called Infinite Possibility. We can use this position only after awakening to our true nature, which is one of unlimited potential, creativity, and power.

If we act from our sense of self or ego, we will see ourselves as puny. No wonder we will be filled with self-doubt and incapable of greatness. But after awakening to our true nature and sensing our power, we will finally dare to dream. At this time we will become a visionary, one who goes beyond positive expectations to search out new possibilities. The Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro is speaking about the third position when he says, “Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations.”

Dottie Walters asked, “Anyone can cut an apple open and count the number of seeds. But, who can look at a single seed and count the trees and apples?” The answer to Dottie’s question is those who are working from the third position, the position of Infinite Possibility, can. They can see and count the number of trees and apples in each seed because they are visionaries; they can see beyond what is to what can be. Join them.

4. Feed yourself positive thoughts. If we eat a healthy diet we become healthy. Similarly, if we feed on positive thoughts, we grow positive. One powerful way to nurture yourself with positive thoughts is by watching inspirational videos. Since you are already sitting in front of a computer, why don’t you try one now? Just click here; pick a video, enjoy, grow positive, and discover what’s possible.

5. Don’t accept a life of mediocrity. Did you find Step 3 (Awaken to your true nature) difficult? Most people do. They find it hard to believe that we are so powerful. That’s why Step 4 is so important. You can easily become immersed in a video that has a mesmerizing melody and moving message. As you watch one video after another, some will resonate with you, pulling at your heart strings and awaken you to your true nature. You will suddenly realize that the acts of greatness that others are performing show what you, too, can do, be, or have.

So, don’t believe you were meant to lead a mediocre life. Paul’s story will help explain what I mean. Paul, like many of us, found it difficult to awaken to his true nature. He was totally lacking in confidence, so he sought the help of a life coach. Shortly before meeting his coach, Paul bought a new car. Later in the same day he regretted his purchase and realized that he was talked into buying the car by an aggressive salesman. Even though the auto dealer gave a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, Paul was too timid to return the car and ask for his money back.

When his life coach heard about what happened, he explained to Paul that unless we are in control of our lives, we cannot consider ourselves to be successful. He then went on to ask Paul, “Who do you want to be in charge of your happiness, that auto salesman or yourself?” He persuaded Paul to return the car and ask for his money back. He joined Paul to provide moral support, but didn’t say a word. Before leaving for the auto dealer, however, the life coached explained to Paul that the car dealership was contractually legally bound to return his money if he asked for it. This buoyed Paul’s confidence, so he asked for his money back.

When the aggressive salesman couldn’t intimidate Paul into changing his mind, he excused himself and brought over the Sales Manager, who was equally unsuccessful. Finally, the Owner was called, but Paul stuck to his guns and refused to accept any offer other than the complete return of his money. The disgruntled Owner finally relented and agreed. They made Paul wait a week for his check, but he got what he wanted, thanks to the advice and encouragement of his life coach. After a couple of more sessions, Paul stopped seeing the coach.

A year later, they met by accident in the supermarket. After warmly greeting him, the coach said, “Well, Paul, after that episode at the car dealership you must be well in control of your life. I’m sure you don’t let others take advantage of you any longer.” Paul looked sheepish, and lowering his head said in a barely audible voice, “Well, I’m uncomfortable speaking up. It’s not my nature to speak up. That wasn’t really me at the car dealer. I’m not aggressive and I think it is important to be authentic. I don’t want to pretend be someone I am not.”

The life coach shot back, “It was not you at the car dealer? Who was it that received his money back a week later? Wasn’t that you? It is not your nature to allow others to take advantage of you, it is your weakness. And weaknesses can be overcome with practice. It is not your nature, but your fears that allow others to walk all over you, and you can learn how to be courageous. It is not your nature, but your lack of experience, and you can gain experience, as you did at the car dealer. Once you gain a successful experience, you have to keep repeating it until it becomes a new habit. You see, it is not your nature to be weak, but your nature to act out of habit. So, if your habit is working against you, change it. Once you develop the habit of standing up for yourself, that will become your nature. And your new nature will then be aligned with your true nature, which is one of unlimited potential and power.”

6. If you always do your best, you’ll always expect the best. It is only by raising our expectations and doing our best that we can tap into our true nature.

7. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, take baby steps. As each step brings you closer to your goal, enthusiasm, confidence, and high expectations develop. One success creates appreciation, many successes create positive expectations.

8. Expect the unexpected. Not only expect it, but welcome it because it is only by facing an unexpected turn of events that we can hone our skills and cultivate flexibility. In a rapidly evolving world, flexibility is a key to success.

9. Don’t allow your present problems to get you frozen in time. Look forward to future solutions. Or, as Wayne Gretzky said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Focus on where you’re headed, not where you are.

10. Take advantage of the power of commitment. Don’t merely think about your goals, commit to them! To tap into this power, reach down, deep within yourself, within your true nature.

Managing Our Expectations

1. Not everyone sets high standards for themselves, so don’t lower your expectations to those of others. Also, you are not here to live up to the expectations of others. Neither are they here to live up to your expectations. Rather, we are all responsible for running our lives in the best way we can.

2. We should never lower our expectations, unless there is no other choice. When problems arise, such as a downturn in the economy, it is better to rely on flexibility than it is to rely on lower expectations. That is, when problems appear, rather than expecting less, expect to find solutions and alternative ways of reaching your goals. Because our expectations are almost always self-fulfilling prophecies, it is better to overreach than expect less. When in doubt, it is best to err on overreaching and correct later, if needed, than to set an overly modest goal.

3. Part of expecting the unexpected is expecting the worse. Not because you are pessimistic, but because you want to be prepared just in case things go awry.

4. Dare to dream big because we can’t succeed beyond our wildest expectations unless we start with a wild expectation.

5. Be patient. Don’t give up so quickly. As May Sarton wrote, “What is destructive is impatience, haste, expecting too much too fast.”

6. Expect to and be willing to work for your success.

7. Remain optimistic. Remember, an optimist expects his dreams to come true, but a pessimist expects his nightmares to come true.

George Bernard Shaw told the following story, “A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, ‘The one I feed the most’”

Which dog do you feed the most, your negative or positive expectations? Where do you choose to set your Expectation Switch, to Positive, Negative, or Infinite Possibility?

I’ll end this section by calling on three gentlemen to share their wisdom:

“If you expect nothing, you’re apt to be surprised. You’ll get it.” (─Malcolm S. Forbes)

“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.” (─Orison Swett Marden)

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” (─Zig Ziglar)


1. When setting expectations for ourselves, we should make sure they’re realistic. Going to medical school or becoming a Jesuit priest (which takes 13 years) may be reasonable expectations, but if I’m already 102 years old, they’re not realistic goals. Also, persistence has to be tempered with common-sense. Every time I ask Mary for a date she says, “No, Chucky, you’re too yucky!” Don’t you think that after a certain number of rejections my expectation becomes unrealistic? When we set a goal and fail to reach it, we can try again by following another path. It doesn’t make sense to repeat the same mistake over and over again. And since the future is uncertain, who knows, my expectation may be impossible to achieve. Therefore, it may make sense to have a backup plan ready, just in case. Persistence, relentless determination, unwavering focus, and flexibility. We need them all. It’s a matter of balance and knowing when to use the proper tool.

2. Expectations are the bars we reach for, the goals we chase after. They can challenge, strengthen, and lift us. By setting high expectations, parents, teachers, and supervisors can play an important part in helping those they look after rise to new levels of achievement. After all, rarely do followers exceed the expectations of their leaders. But care must be taken to inspire and encourage, while avoiding pressure. As in other cases, balance is necessary. That is, while setting expectations for them, you must also teach those you look after to ignore the expectations of others and set their own! In other words, the greatest gift you can offer them is to awaken their own expectations. Share with them the words of Tiger Woods: “One of the things that my parents have taught me is never listen to other people’s expectations. You should live your own life and live up to your own expectations, and those are the only things I really care about it.” Stevie Wonder shares the same idea: “You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations.”

3. Some make the mistake of expecting a future calamity. For if it comes, they suffer twice. Once, worrying about it before it arrives, and second, they suffer after its arrival. And what if it doesn’t come? All of their worrying needlessly robbed them of their peace of mind. Besides, don’t we have enough to be concerned about for today? Why pile on top of that tomorrow’s possible problems? No wonder some people cannot cope!

4. During the time you’ve been reading this article, the world has changed. Change is the stuff the world is made of. What can you expect in the future? Change! If you’re suffering now, cheer up, for life will change for the better. If you’re sitting on top of the world, get ready for a change of fortune. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to cope and learn from the experience. How can I enjoy today’s good if I expect better tomorrow? Some people make the mistake of living in the future, looking forward to all their expectations. As they do so, they overlook the treasures of today. We only live in the present. The past is dead, the future is but a dream. So enjoy what you have today, and put off tomorrow until tomorrow.

5. Will everything I work toward come about? Who knows? I can have positive expectations, but I cannot have full knowledge of what the future will bring. Why would I want to know the future? It’s supposed to be a surprise. Life is a party and the future is a present we receive. We open the present with anticipation, not knowing what to expect. As Denis Waitley says, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”

2. We Pay for what We Get

When I say We Pay for what We Get, I’m referring to the Law of Compensation. I first need to explain the meaning of Compensation. I’m not using it to mean ‘salary’ or ‘benefit package,’ but to mean ‘what constitutes, or is regarded as, an equivalent; what makes good the lack or variation of something else; what Compensates for loss or privation; that is, amends or recompense.

This is how the English Metaphysical poet Francis Quarles describes compensation: “As there is no worldly gain without some loss, so there is no worldly loss without some gain. If thou hast lost thy wealth, thou hast lost some trouble with it. If thou art degraded from thy honor, thou art likewise freed from the stroke of envy. If sickness hast blurred thy beauty, it hath delivered thee from pride. Set the allowance against the loss and thou shalt find no loss great.”

In modern terms, we could say one man is rich but bored and another is poor, yet happy. One woman achieves great success but dies young; another is less successful but lives longer. Or, a rich man can afford steak and lobster but finds it hard to digest while a poor man has a hearty appetite and good health. Or, someone else may have a large salary, but little time to spend with their family.

Ralph Waldo Emerson explains compensation in clear terms: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” Again, in his journal dated January 8, 1826, he writes, “The whole of what we know is a system of compensations. Every defect in one manner is made up in another. Every suffering is rewarded; every sacrifice is made up; every debt is paid.”

This means there is no exemption, no exception, or no escape from this law of life. We cannot have successes without failures or hardships without gains. For every gain, there is a loss. We lose the wood to gain fire and heat. We lose the heat to cook the food. We lose the food to nourish our body, and so it goes. This law of nature is about balance, harmony, and equilibrium. It is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy in science. (Energy may neither be created nor destroyed and the sum of all energy remains constant.)

Another aspect of the Law of Compensation is we will reap what we sow. Isn’t it true that if I plant tomatoes, I’ll reap tomatoes, and if I plant weeds, I’ll reap weeds? So, it should come as no surprise that if I plant seeds of love, I will be loved, and if I plant acts of kindness, others will treat me kindly. But if all I sow is anger, all I reap will be hostility. When we practice the Golden Rule by treating our neighbors as we wish to be treated, we live in harmony with this principle and will reap its benefits. Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Another term to describe reaping what we sow is ‘karma.’ In Sanskrit, karma means action or deed. In the spiritual sense, it means both our actions and the consequences that flow from them. Those who believe in karma believe that their fate is governed by the choices they make. The happiness they experience or the suffering they undergo is a result of how they use their free will. So, it’s just another way to describe how we reap what we sow.

Yet another term used to describe the same thing is The Law of Action and Reaction. That is, for every force, there is a counter force. The greater we stretch a rubber band, the greater its snapback. The more I scowl at you, the angrier you will become; the more you smile at me, the more pleased I will become. We could also express this idea by calling it the Law of Cause and Effect, or just by saying that virtue is its own reward and wrongdoing causes suffering.

The Law of Compensation, or sowing what we reap, is not about God punishing the wicked and rewarding the holy, but simply Life’s law of natural consequences. If we fall into a fire, we are burned not because we’re evil, but because of the heat of the flames. So, it is wise to become familiar with the laws of life and nature to avoid unnecessary pain and unhappiness.

Once we understand for every gain there is a loss, we can free ourselves from envy and live contentedly. Blessed are the contented, for they are never poor. Woe unto the discontented, for they are never rich. Blessed is she who has little and wants less, for she is richer than he who has much and wants more. Blessed, too, is he who realizes that a little is a great deal when it is enough. And, as Socrates (469 ~ 399 BC) taught, “He is the richest who is content with the least.”

There is a time for contentment and a time for discontentment. When we use discontent to raise ourselves to a higher level, we are living in line with the Law of Compensation. For at such a time, we realize that there is no gain without loss, or no gain without pain. We understand that our success depends not on what we take up, but what we give up. So, we willingly sacrifice time and comfort to reach our goal. And if we experience a temporary setback, we’re not discouraged because we understand that hidden in our problems are blessings waiting to be discovered. In the same way, when we are pounded by adversity, we find solace in the Law of Compensation, looking forward to the benefits that await us.

Also, we don’t make the mistake of comparing our lives with those of others. For although their gains are clearly visible, their loses are hidden from view. Neither do we allow our imagination to exaggerate the extent of our losses or others’ gains. We also keep our balance by remembering that all is relative. After all, bad is never good, until worse happens.

3. We Reap what We Sow

You have heard people say, “What goes around comes around.” But have you given that saying much thought? It is actually a modern way to express ancient wisdom. The Old Testament stated it this way “. . . they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” (Job 4:8). At least 50 years before the birth of Christ, the Roman statesman, philosopher, and orator, Marcus T. Cicero, said, “As you have sown so shall you reap.” And in the New Testament we find, “…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

The idea that we reap what we sow is more than a cute saying or worthwhile principle. It is an immutable law of nature with as much force as the law of gravity. We ignore this law at our own risk. In ancient times, most people had a clear understanding of the law because of their agrarian experience. By observation they learned the following facts.

1. If you sow wheat, you will reap wheat. If you sow corn, you will reap corn. If you raise cattle, you will reap cattle. If you breed pigs, you will reap pigs. This is the law of like begets like. Pigs do not beget chickens, nor does corn bring forth potatoes.

2. If you sow today, you cannot reap tomorrow. It takes time for your labor to bear fruit.

3. If you sow hundreds of seeds, you will harvest thousands. Your yield will be far greater than you have sown. However, . . .

4. The harvest depends on the soil, or as Christ said, “Behold, a sower went forth to sow. And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them. But others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:3–13-8)

It should be clear from the first fact (like begets like) that if you sow kindness, you will reap kindness, but if you sow anger, you will reap anger, not understanding. Similarly, sowing hatred will reap hatred, not compassion. This powerful law can help you receive whatever you wish. Do you want to be loved? Obviously, you must first love others. When you do so, they will return love to you. Do you want to make more money? If so, you must first make more money for someone else. It’s only common sense, isn’t it? After all, if you make your employer rich, you will be well rewarded. If not, you can always change jobs and move to a company that will recognize and reward you.

By applying the law of “As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap,” we can gain control of our lives. That is exciting news. But why are so many of us blind to this important law? The reason may be fact #2 (the time delay between sowing and reaping). Because of the gap in time, we fail to see how our actions and their results are connected. When you make a conscious decision to plant a garden in your backyard, the connection between the care you give to the plants and the results you receive is obvious. However, we make countless unconscious decisions every day. For example, when a driver cuts you off on the highway, you immediately become angry. You didn’t plan to get angry. It just happened (because of lack of reflection and lack of self-discipline). Nevertheless, whether you are aware of it or not, you are sowing anger. And the connection of this moment to the anger of others that you will reap in the future is not immediately obvious. For this reason, we need to be aware of our actions and sow only what we wish to reap.

Fact #3 is magical. It states that we will reap more than we sow. Imagine tossing a pebble into the center of a small pond. After the splash, you will see ripples radiating to the edges of the pond. Our actions are like that. When you perform an act of kindness, you do more than make one person happy because invariably, the person you helped will be inspired to help another, who in turn will help still another, and so on. In this way, your act of kindness is multiplied. Similarly, the kindness you reap will be multiplied.

As pointed out in fact #4, the size of our harvest also depends on the soil. Let’s say I’m treating 83-year-old Aunt Millie kindly. But I’m doing so because she is about to die and I want to be included in her will. Although I’m acting kindly, the soil (my intention) is bad. So, instead of reaping kindness, I will become the victim of someone’s greed (just like Aunt Millie). Another example: I may love some people and dislike others. I am, therefore, sowing mixed seeds. Therefore, what I reap will be equally mixed, blessings and suffering.

Did you ever stop in front of a shop window to look at your reflection and check your appearance? Well, the world is a mirror, reflecting every act we sow. If you like what you see, congratulations, for you are making valuable contributions to the world. If you don’t like what you see, it simply means there are some changes you have to make. Let’s say I’m finding it impossible to gain the cooperation of the team members at work. I cajoled, begged, threatened, even threw a tantrum, all to no avail.

However, after reflecting on the law of sowing and reaping, I realized that I have been sowing negativity and reaping a bountiful harvest of the same. So, it’s time to change. That is, change myself. Since I am seeking the cooperation of others, I decide to focus on how I can cooperate with them, rather than vice versa. What is it that they wish to receive from me? How would they like me to contribute to the team? How can I help? After arriving at some answers, I start helping out without asking for, much less demanding, their support. Lo and behold! Slowly, the team project effortlessly falls into place. Today, we not only work together, but we enjoy doing so! So, now you realize that despite the shirts and ties or fancy dresses that we mat wear, we are actually farmers, sowing and reaping daily. If we remain aware of what we sow, we won’t be reaping thorns instead of tomatoes, contempt instead of compassion, or pain instead of peace. My final remark is taken from The Koran (Quran), “Have you considered what you sow?” [The Event 56.63]



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