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House: As the philosopher Jagger once said, "You can't always get what you want."


Cuddy: Oh, yeah, I looked up your philosopher, Jagger; you're right, you don't always get what you want, but I found that, if you try sometimes, you get what you need.
House, "Pilot"

Our main character has a goal to accomplish. It can be personal, romantic, career-related... no matter what it is, it's unattainable, or the act of going after it is causing major problems for the protagonist. And when you think about it, it's not exactly the kind of thing that someone absolutely needs, anyway.

So the protagonist comes to a decision. If this is what it takes to accomplish that goal... just forget about it! It's better to be happy, anyway! Truly a decision to be commended, as the protagonist has shown restraint and maturity, and realized that sometimes there are more important things than...

...what's this? Laser-Guided Karma agrees? And has seen fit to bestow such gifts upon the protagonist anyway? That's just wonderful! You can eat your cake and have it too! Talk about earning your happy ending!

This Broken Aesop has seen more than its fair share of use. To be fair, it's actually usually not as bad as the above makes it out to be; as long as the lesson learned by the protagonist isn't abandoned, it can still make for a satisfying ending. In some ways, it can make for an even more satisfying ending than simply the protagonist learning a lesson, because it's a way to reward him for being intelligent and mature - how many stories bother to do that?

If it's used the wrong way, though, it can send a bad message: Hard Work Hardly Works, so don't bother pursuing what you want - you'll get it once you realize that you don't need it.

It's also closely related to Cursed with Awesome; a character suffering under a burden that both tortures and empowers him realizes that he can simply choose to stop being bothered by it, leaving him with nothing but pure Awesome. Example: a man is cursed to live forever, and after watching his Love Interest and Nakama die, asks Who Wants to Live Forever? But as time passes, he finds new love, new friends, and meets numerous good people who remain good even in A World Half Full. Suddenly, Living Forever Is Awesome!

Sometimes stated as "you get what you wish for, and what you didn't wish for, too."

A specific form of this is Everything but the Girl. If the protagonist rejects the boon, regrets it, and tries but fails to gain it back, it's Off the Table. When the character chooses not to pursue the original prize because it would require doing something morally wrong, and the prize is then granted specifically because of that decision, it's a Secret Test of Character. Contrast All That Glitters, where the actual prize is worthless but the protagonist nevertheless comes away with some intangible award for all his effort.

Needless to say, this is SPOILER HEAVY.

Not to be confused with the webcomic of the same name.

Examples of Sweet and Sour Grapes include:

Anime & Manga

  • Urusei Yatsura: Ataru is annoyed by the alien Lum who wishes to marry him, as she continually impedes his efforts to flirt with girls. However, when she decides to leave, he realizes how much he misses Lum and starts wishing for her to come back. Fortunately, she does come back, as she simply needed to renew her passport.
  • To Be a Master shows frequently have this. This often plays out with a competitor who believes that winning is more important than anything else, while our considerably more casual protagonist tries to show him the error of his mentality. Usually by beating him in competition, thus results in the protagonist becoming the grand champion after all. It says something about the broken nature of this when protagonists who don't go on to win the overall competition (for example, Ash Ketchum) are written off by fans as Failure Heroes.
    • Ash in particular kinda deserves this fame at least, since he hasn't lost one competition, but four.
    • Both Ban and Elaine go through this trope in Seven Deadly Sins. Ban searches for the Fountain of Youth to obtain immortality, but when Elaine explains that drinking all the water from the Fountain of Youth would wipe out all life from the forest that they’re in, he selflessly refuses to drink from it. So when everything in the forest goes to Hell (there was a demon, so it’s a bit literal), Elaine sacrifices herself to give Ban the Fountain the Youth to continue living, knowing that he wanted it when he first came into the forest. However, Ban decides that being with Elaine is actually better than being immortal. So he sacrifices his immortality to bring her back.


  • The Nut-Brown Maid, her lover tells her that he's been outlawed and outlines his perilous life ahead; she persists in saying that she will go with him, "For, in my mind, of all mankind/I love but you alone."; finally, he reveals that he made it up and is, in fact, an earl's son.

Comic Books

Fairy Tales

  • Beauty & the Beast is perhaps the most well-known example of this ending. As the latter of the titular characters learns to love others, the former begins to see his true heart and appreciate him for what he is, ignoring his monstrous exterior. It's not what's on the outside, but what's on the inside that counts. Fortunately, coming to that conclusion is just what it takes to break the curse, reverting the beast to... a handsome prince! Now she can love the inside and the outside! (Unless she already loved the outside...) Then again, lifting the curse is more likely meant to be his reward for learning compassion.
    • Similarly in The Small-Tooth Dog.
    • Note that is actually an uncommon form of Shapeshifting Lover. Most such stories, the heroine learns very quickly that he can be a man at least part of the time; indeed, her impatience to make it all the time often makes her violate the prohibition.
    • In the Disney version, the writers recognized that the prince becoming handsome at the end kind of broke the Aesop, and at one point considered giving Belle a throwaway line at the end suggesting the prince grow a beard. As it was, she was suspicious of the transformed Beast until she recognized him by his eyes.
    • 'Couse, there's always the coarse, practical viewpoint. If he were still a beast, they... you know. Is it possible that's the real reward for BOTH lovers?
    • Of course, another view is that becoming human was the Beast's reward for changing from "ugly inside", not Belle's reward for sticking by him while he was a Jerkass.
  • The Loathly Ladyis closely related to Beauty and the Beast.
  • The False Prince and the True, the prince redeems his promise to marry an old woman for saving his life. She naturally proves to be a lovely young princess.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling" is all about this - as a duckling, the hero is ugly. As a swan, he is beautiful. All he has to do is stop trying to be a duckling.
  • This is at least Older Than Radio, as this Child ballad shows.

Fan Works

  • Total Drama Letterama: Sasha chooses to save Eddie from being hit by the skull of a dinosaur skeleton, though she has evidence to believe that he plans on going out with Kim. As it turned out, Eddie decides that he would rather be with Sasha than with Kim...which is good, because Kim was secretly using him the entire time.

Film - Animated

  • The Princess and the Frog: Dr. Facilier offers Tiana the restaurant she's always dreamed of, in exchange for his voodoo talisman. She almost gives in, but realizes that those she loves are even more important than her dreams, so she smashes the talisman. After Charlotte's kiss fails, she and Naveen decide to marry anyway. However, since she has just married a prince, Tiana becomes a princess, and their kiss breaks the spell. Then, with a little "aggressive persuasion" from Louis, Tiana is able to buy her restaurant, and she and Naveen deck out the place in splendid fashion.
  • Shark Tale: The main character, Oscar, wanted nothing more than to be rich and famous, and would often initiate get-rich-quick schemes to make that happen. When Frankie (the oldest son of Don Lino) gets killed by a random anchor, Oscar takes credit for it and becomes famous like he wanted, but winds up losing Angie in the process. He ultimately realizes the harm that his lie caused, and that he didn't need wealth or fame because he had real friends (Lenny and Angie). At the end of the film, he's made co-manager of the Whale Wash.
  • Shrek subverts the Beauty & the Beast example. Fiona becoming an ogre and taking up Shrek's "bad" habits when they hook up is widely considered a direct answer to the ending of "Beauty and the Beast."
  • Kung Fu Panda has a mini-inversion; Master Shifu administers a kung fu test during a meal, where he challenges the glutton Po to steal the last steamed bun from him. When Po finally manages to get the bun, he shrugs and tosses it to Shifu. "I'm not hungry.". This in itself is a happy development as well as a sign as that Po has conquered his tendency to gorge when he is upset.
  • In the Wallace and Gromit film Grand Day Out, a robot wishes to stow away on Wallace and Gromit’s ship that it can go to Earth and do some skiing. It fails, but it then realizes that it can use what it salvaged from the rocket to go skiing on the moon.
  • Double-subverted in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. After SpongeBob saves Bikini Bottom, Mr. Krabs decides to give him Squidward's manager job:

 SpongeBob: Wait a second, everybody. There's something I need to say first... I just don't know how to put it.

Squidward: I think I know what it is. After going on your life-changing journey, you now realize you don't want what you thought you wanted. What you really wanted was inside you all along.

SpongeBob: *grabs manager badge from Squidward* Are you crazy!? I was just gonna tell you that your fly is down!


Film - Live Action

  • American Pie The film centers around a group of friends who make a pact to lose their virginities by their prom night. Once their prom night rolls around, they decide that it was a dumb thing to do, since sex shouldn't be a goal in itself, but something you do with a person who's important to you and when you both want it. Then after learning this good lesson, they lose their virginities.
  • Midnight Run qualifies. When bounty-hunter Robert DeNiro decides to forgo the reward for transporting Charles Grodin cross-country, and lets him go, Grodin takes off a money belt with over $200,000 and hands it to DeNiro.
    • Although it's played with in that DeNiro's character, having refused to accept bribes (including those offered by Grodin's character previously) and stubbornly held to his code of honor throughout the movie, initially refuses to accept it; Grodin's character has to persuade him that it's not a bribe, but a 'thank you' gift: "You already let me go." As such, while it still qualifies, it's arguably a less glaring example since it comes across more as a genuine reward for DeNiro's honorable actions throughout the movie rather than Laser-Guided Karma making sure he has his cake and eats it too.
  • The Muppets Wizard of Oz: Dorothy asks the wizard to make her a famous singer, not to help her get home. She then decides that she really does want to go home, and Glinda sends her back to Kansas, where she says she's happy working at her uncle and aunt's diner. Then the Muppets show up and say they've heard her demo tape and want her to appear on the show.
  • National Treasure: Ben Gates decides that the treasure is too big for one man and donates to world museums (never mind that it was the only way to escape a double fistful of federal felonies). But it's OK. The Government allowed the heroes to keep enough money to make them fabulously wealthy anyway.
    • It was never about the money, it was about discovering the treasure and proving that his family wasn't crazy.
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie does the classic love vs. money version of this: the woman has to choose between the rich jerk and the nice but humble guy, and goes with the latter. It turns out that the nice guy is rich anyway.
    • How to Marry a Millionaire actually did it first, although the main character Schatze's choice isn't between a rich jerk and a humble sweetheart (they're both very sweet fellows) but between a millionaire decades older than Schatze, for whom she can only bring herself to feel platonic affection, and an (secretly far richer) everyman who is the same age as her and has completely swept her off her feet. She, too, chooses the latter
  • What A Girl Wants Daphne finally realizes that her presence in England is causing both her and her father more harm than good, and returns home to America. What does Dad do? Drop everything in his life, including a Parliament seat he's been chasing for years, and run to America to be with her and her mother.
    • As opposed to what? Deciding to ignore his daughter for ever (there by having an ignored illegitimate child btw) and be the biggest Jerkass ever? She IS his daughter.
  • Subverted at the end of Click. As Michael is making amends with his family, he finds the remote in his house, with a letter from Morty, saying "I know you'll do the right thing this time". Michael, however, throws the remote into the trash, and after making sure it's gone for good (earlier, he was unable to get rid of the remote regardless of what he did), he goes off to play with his kids.
  • Baggage Claim: Fed up with her mother constantly pressuring her to get married, Montana Moore (the protagonist) spends the entire film reconnecting with her ex-boyfriends in an effort to find a husband. At the end of the film, when her sister's fiancé expresses that he's not ready to get married yet and was only doing it because her mother pressured him to, she realizes that she doesn't need a husband to have a fulfilling life. Then she gets a message from "Mr. Wright".
  • The Shawshank Redemption: A pretty solid example of this is when Red is going for his parole hearing. The first time he is denied when he puts on a good show and talks about how he's been rehabilitated and has served his penance, sounding like a typical inmate and he is summarily rejected. When his turn comes back around years later, and after the death of Brooks the he gives talks down to them as a bunch of young, college-educated suits using made up words to describe washed up old cons and saying he doesn't give a crap, sounding instead like the wizened old man that he was...they set him free.

  Red: "I know what you think [rehabilitated] means, sonny. To me, it's just a made up word, a politician's word, so that young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job. What do you really wanna know? Am I sorry for what I did?... There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then, a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I wanna talk to him. I wanna try to talk some sense to him — tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I gotta live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit."


  Cleveland (as Red): "Rehabilitated? It's just a stupid, made-up word, so boys like you can sit behind a desk, wear a fancy suit, and feel important. You're a jerk, and I had sex with your mother last night. And I swear to God, you let me outta here, first thing I'm gonna do is kill again!"

  • Pretty much any sporting or competition-based movie for kids in which the underdog protagonists learn that winning isn't everything and that it's good enough that they got out there and had fun...and then end up winning anyway. Sometimes there are aversions such as Cars and School of Rock, but they're rather rare.

Folk Lore

  • Straight examples of the Honest Axe story easily fall into this trope.


  • Around the World in Eighty Days It appears that Phileas Fogg has lost his bet to do what the title says and his fortune with it but is compensated by his having learned to appreciate life rather than continue the sterile, emotionless existence he was leading before. Then it turns out he'd forgotten about gaining an extra day by crossing the International Date Line, and still has time to win the bet.
  • Forgotten Realms The novel Faces of Deception by Troy Denning, the protagonist, Atreus, has been staggeringly ugly since childhood as a result of a spell Gone Horribly Wrong. All he wants is to become handsome so that he can have a normal life. Others point out to him that he should first learn to appreciate inner beauty, but since people tend to run screaming at the sight of him he's a fairly cynical about that idea. Finally he finds a "perfect" land where people don't see even him as ugly and where he finally finds love - but he can't stay there permanently. The very fact that it would be such an obvious thing for this trope to happen by the end makes it a subversion when it doesn't. Atreus throws everything away and tries to steal a source of the sacred valley's power to heal his appearance, and the story ends with his neither having stopped wanting better looks nor having achieved them.
  • Jane Eyre leaves Mr. Rochester when she learns of his insane wife he keeps in the attic because being with him would violate her morals and sense of self-worth. Thankfully, Bertha dies in a fire and Rochester is blinded and rendered armless in the same fire so they can marry and live as equals.
  • Left Behind Two of the main protagonists are offered jobs by the Antichrist, jobs that, were they offered by anyone else would seem like dream jobs. The characters are reluctant to take those jobs, rightly seeing them as tests of temptation before them. After some initial reluctance, they take the jobs anyway, as they feel that taking them was "God's will."
  • Little Women Towards the end of the story, newlyweds Laurie and Amy discuss the implications of her marrying the wealthy Laurie for love after previously coming to her senses and resolving not to marry Fred Vaughn for his money.
  • Magic Shop: Jennifer Murdley's Toad, a children's lit novel by Bruce Coville about an insecure and ugly little girl who adopts a talking frog sought out by a shallow, beauty-obsessed temptress, consciously averts the trope. In early versions of the story, Jennifer became beautiful, but Coville realized that such a transformation broke the Aesop and instead went with an ending in which Jennifer just accepts herself for who she is.
  • Neznayka ("Know-Nothing"), a Russian children's story, the titular character learns that if you commit three selfless good deeds in a row, a wizard will appear and offer you a magic wand. He accomplishes a number of good deeds, but to no effect, because by thinking about the wand while performing the actions, he renders the otherwise-selfless actions selfish. Only after he has become disenchanted with the whole idea and completely forgotten about the magic wand does he complete the task and summon the wizard.
  • In Summer Of The Monkeys, the young protagonist finally wins the money he spent the whole book trying to obtain, because he wanted to buy a horse. However, his sister needs an operation, so he does the right thing--and ends up getting the horse, too. The movie version (a very loose adaptation) seems to have deliberately avoided the trope, wanting to create more of a Bittersweet Ending.

Live Action TV

  • CSI Nick Stokes gets recommended for promotion only after he tells Grissom that he refuses to define himself by the goal of career advancement.
  • ICarly: Though Sam doesn’t take her science project seriously, she still does exceptionally well. Mainly because her teacher is a Cloudcuckoolander. The same does not go for Carly and Freddie, even though they put a lot of effort into their projects.
    • Gibby meets a girl named Shannon, but she doesn’t accept him for the person he is. As such, he decides not to be himself. But eventually, he decides he can’t be someone he’s not and decides to be himself. While Shannon doesn’t want to date him afterwards, Gibby then meets a girl who will accept him for who he is.
    • In IMakeSamGirlier, Carly decides to help Sam be girlier by making her be stereotypically feminine, instead of breaking almost every stereotype in the book. She does so because she wants to impress her date. But eventually, she decides not to act girly because there was a mean girl who was bullying Carly. Fortunately, it turns out that her date doesn’t want a girl who acts stereotypically feminine. Ironically, as a side note, Sam acts in this episode pretty much exactly like her twin does.
  • Joe Millionaire, a 2000's reality show, did something similar: all the women competed to win the heart of one man, who has been showing them the time of their lives in his mansion... except it wasn't his mansion, and he was just an ordinary construction worker. Yet, when she chose to remain with him, they were compensated for appearing on the show... with a check for one million dollars. Sadly, this became more broken afterward; the two broke up shortly after the show aired. But at least they still split the money!
    • They weren't really "together" except for faking it on the show, though.
  • The Nanny S2 Ep2, "The Playwright" had this happen to Brighton. He reluctantly agrees to go with his geeky study partner, Brooke, to the school dance, only to deny it and turn her down when she talks to him about it in front of his friends and gets lectured by Fran for it. Later on, after agreeing again to take her to the dance, she shows up and has cleaned up nicely. Fran lampshades it;

  Fran: See? You did the right thing, and God smiled on you.

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation In the episode "Tapestry", Picard suffers a complication with his artificial heart and dies, only to find himself in an "afterlife" with Q. Picard regrets picking a fight in his youth that led to the need for an artificial heart in the first place, so Q allows him to go back to that moment in time and change things so he doesn't die. Unfortunately, as he learns in a new timeline, not having gone through that brush with death caused him to never take risks and ultimately never truly succeed in life. So Picard asks Q to change things back to the way they were before, accepting the eventually fatal consequences of the fight along with the valuable lessons that helped him lead an accomplished life. And then he wakes up in the present, once again captain, and his heart is working again. So much for the negative consequences of rash actions.
    • Picard himself theorizes he was never in any danger and the whole thing was an hallucination created by Q to teach Picard a lesson. Another possibility is that Q, satisfied with the lesson Picard learned, and not wanting to lose one of his most interesting toys, fixed Picard's heart.
  • In an episode of Merlin the newly-crowned King Arthur finds an antagonistic king trespassing on his lands who refuses to sign a peace treaty with him. Arthur duly executes him at the urging of his Evil Uncle. The dead king's widow takes exception to this and marches on Camelot with her extensive army. Arthur talks her into pitting her champion against him, wins the fight and declares peace with the Queen, who is impressed by his conduct. So Arthur gets rid of a potentially dangerous king who was out to seize his kingdom and declares peace with the dead guy's widow.
  • Happens to Wilhelmina in the series finale of Ugly Betty. When her latest scheme backfires, she takes responsibility for her actions towards Tyler and protects him without asking for anything in return, revealing that she does intend to turn over a new, less evil, leaf. Daniel then resigns his post as Editor-In-Chief, leaving Wilhemina as the sole head of "Mode."

Myth and Legend/Religion

  • Then there's the story of the man who accompanies a dog to heaven, only to be told that he can only enter the gates if he leaves the dog behind. He refuses to abandon his companion and turns his back on heaven ... and then is informed that it was a Secret Test of Character and his compassion has earned him and the dog entry to paradise.
  • King Solomon is an interesting take on this trope. God offered him a gift of whatever he wanted, such as riches or lovers or what have you. Solomon, terrified that he's going to screw up while he's on the throne, asks God for wisdom instead. God is so impressed that a human being would be smart enough to ask for wisdom that he gives him all the things he didn't ask for, reasoning that a man whose first concern was to rule well, rather than to surround himself with riches, was the sort of man who deserved riches.
    • Actually it's more like God is just testing him in general. By choosing 'Wisdom' he shows that he already possesses that quality, because with wisdom all the other offered things can be obtained, however none of the other things can impart wisdom itself. Wisdom was the only correct answer to the test.


  • It Makes No Matter To Me, the final poem in The Last Unicorn, has a variant of this: dude explains that "I am no king, and I am no lord...I am but a very poor harper", but his girlfriend repeats several times that she doesn't mind how poor he is because she loves him. He then admits that he isn't even a harper, and made all of it up. She just shrugs and says that in that case, she'll teach him to play the harp and make it all true.
  • In Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Lady Clare", Clare is all ready to marry her cousin, Lord Ronald. She finds out that she was Switched At Birth, and that she's truly her nurse's daughter--the real Lady Clare is dead, and Ronald was next in line to inherit everything. Against her birth mother's advice, she casts off her position and dresses like a beggar, thinking that Ronald has been deprived of his right. It turns out that he still wants to marry her:

 "If you are not the heiress born,

And I," said he, "the lawful heir,

We two will wed to-morrow morn,

And you shall still be Lady Clare."


Video Games

  • Bioshock has an infamous example. Whenever you encounter a Little Sister, you're given two options: "Harvest", which kills the Little Sister but gives you more ADAM, or "Rescue", which cures the Little Sister of her sea slug-induced possession but gives you less... in theory. Dr. Tenenbaum will reward you for saving the Little Sisters with free Plasmids and bonus ADAM; all things considered, resisting temptation and playing the hero is ultimately just as rewarding, if not more so, than choosing the evil route.
    • Harvesting every Little Sister in the game gives you only 280 ADAM more than saving all of them. This is not a large number.
      • When you account for the free plasmids and gene tonics you get from Tenenbaum, some of which can only be acquired in this manner, the value of Harvesting disappears entirely; from a rewards perspective, virtue is the superior option.
    • It's especially worth it when you consider the 100G Achievement that comes with rescuing every little sister.
  • The Dig: Maggie makes Commander Low promise not to resurrect her with a life crystal if (when) activating the alien device kills her as its creator warned it would. It's possible to break this promise, which prompts the horrified Maggie to commit suicide; in the end, however, it doesn't matter, as once you've rescued they aliens, they bring both of your dead teammates back to life, with no ill effects. (Except that Maggie slaps you if you tried to resurrect her.)
  • Lost Odyssey plays Who Wants to Live Forever? very hard for its immortal characters, but by the end of the game, they've mostly decided to embrace their eternal lives rather than angst about it.
  • Planescape: Torment A minor example in is a portal that only opens to an entrant who has no desire to enter it.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona During the Snow Queen Quest, you are given a choice between rushing to the boss to save Toro and Tsutomu from the torture chamber or taking a lengthy side route to claim a Mirror Shard and leaving them to suffer. If you choose to pass up the Mirror Shard, you'll be rewarded after the dungeon with two Mirror Shards.
    • It all depends on how fast you can go. I did the Mirror Shard 'path' and still managed to collect all 12 of them.
  • The Evil Academy Freshman Class Elections of Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice are a brutal series of battles in which several students compete to become the class president. Prior to the competition, the School Board has the PTA abduct Raspberyl for brainwashing, with Kyoko and Asuka trying - and failing - to convince Mao to break off the competition to save her. It's only when Almaz convinces Mao that taking down the School Board would show how much more powerful he is than the rest of the candidates that Mao goes through with saving Beryl. But wouldn't you know it - after word gets out, the rest of the school nominates Mao as Freshman Class President. Sadly, Geoffrey's not all that pleased with the outcome.

Web Comics

The Order of the Stick: After Haley ends up telling Elan that she loves him under pressure (she had decided to keep it a secret from him, as she felt that it might make him feel uncomfortable), she apologizes to him and asks him if they could put it behind them...only for Elan to decide to make out with her.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender Aang interprets Guru Pathik's statement that he must "let go" of his attachment to Katara in order to intentionally enter his powerful Avatar State as meaning he must abandon his feelings for her if he wants access to all that power. Aang chooses love, a move later applauded by Iroh. Inverting the trope initially, once he is forced to try, he is immediately defeated anyways. But it's played straight by the end of the series when Aang has both mastered the Avatar State (well enough to stop himself from landing a killing blow even in self defense) and had his happy ending with Katara.
  • King of the Hill In the back story Hank and Peggy weren't able to have a child due to Hank's narrow urethra and unwillingness to use in-vitro fertilization. In the end, they settle for getting a puppy, Hank's beloved Ladybird...and soon after conceive Bobby. Hank later comments that he thinks the happiness they got from Ladybird helped "loosen him up" enough to finally succeed even though they weren't even trying anymore.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "The Ticket Master," Twilight Sparkle gets two tickets to The Grand Galloping Gala, and naturally all her friends want to go. Unable to decide, she sends the tickets back to Princess Celestia, telling her that if her friends can't all go, she doesn't want to go either. The princess responds by sending enough tickets for her and her friends.
    • Played with later on when they regret attending the Grand Galloping Gala.
  • The Simpsons: "Lisa's First Word" has the Simpsons try to get Maggie to say her first word. Eventually, Homer decides that he would be better off if Maggie didn't talk, since he believes that the sooner children talk, the sooner they talk back to their parents. Not only does Maggie say her first word once Homer tucks her in, she also refers to Homer as "Daddy", something Lisa and Bart didn't do when they were around her age.
  • Strawberry Shortcake: The Berryfest Princess Movie The traditional dessert for the Berryfest feast is a wanderberry, a plant that grows in a different location each time the berry is picked. The first one that the girls picked gets eaten by bunnies on the night before the feast, so Strawberry goes to find a new one. She finds one at the very last minute, but on the way back home, she runs into a sick bird and decides to feed it the entire berry, despite her friends' reminder that they need it for the feast. The bird recovers, and when Strawberry comes home, she finds that the new wanderberry has grown right outside her own house, just in time for the feast.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: Dexter repeatedly has his sister trespass in his lab, which of course annoys him to no end. This is in fact where a lot of the humor of the show comes from. He eventually decides to give her to aliens...but he's worried that the aliens are evil and might harm his sister. So, he decides to come back with her. Fortunately, the aliens are completely innocent...but they have the same problem with her that he does. He's actually happy to have Dee Dee back, though she likely won't change her ways.

Real Life

  • Children. Couples who are desperate to conceive often fail to, because the stress impair the functions. Once they stop obsessing, a welcome pregnancy often come along.
    • On a related note, some couples may not be able to have children, but once they come to terms with this, they realize they still have each other and remain happy because of it.
  • Romance. Many people have observed that it's only when you stop trying to find romance that you actually succeed...probably because when you're trying really hard, you come off as desperate, which is not attractive. When you stop obsessing over it and learn to be happy with yourself as a single person, you come off as confident and self-possessed, which is.
  • Most cases of Magnum Opus Dissonance — given up trying to write that bestseller? Cue writing a bestseller!
  • Lost something in the house? Good way to find it: Stop looking for it! You'll run right into it.
  • Trying hard to remember something? Relax, it will pop into your mind later.
  • This trope happened to athletic boater Lawrence Lemieux in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. During a race where Lemieux was in 2nd place and had a decent shot at a medal, he noticed that the Singapore team had capsized, were injured and were seriously danger of drowning. Obviously deciding that winning a medal was not worth letting people die when he could do something, Lemieux turned back to save them, which cost him the race. However, since the world saw this Heroic Sacrifice, things worked out; the International Yacht Racing Union unanimously voted to officially award Lemieux with 2nd place in the race and he was later awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, the supreme and rarest of all Olympic medals for exemplifying the spirit of the Olympic games at its finest.
  • In a 1973 Formula One race in The Netherlands, British driver Roger Williamson crashed and got trapped upside-down in his burning car. Fellow countryman David Purley pulled over and ran to the scene to try to save Williamson's life (disqualifying himself from the race to do so), but he was unable to put the fire out and burned himself trying to turn Williamson's car over. Williamson died in the accident, but for his bravery Purley was awarded the George Medal by the British government, and the Jo Siffert Trophy by Formula One.
  • Sarah Hughes at the 2002 Winter Olympics, was 4th place in the Women's Figure Skating. Knowing she was out of the running for the medal, she seemed to relax and just enjoy her routine (which was practically flawless). The leading three made mistakes in the last round, leaving Sarah to collect the gold.
  • Horror games rely on this trope to an extent. They build up, preparing the player for the scare. The music swells, the creaky floorboards start, shadows appear on the walls, and the player naturally tenses up, ready for the scare. Then the player opens a door or throws a stone or something and nothing happens. The music stops, the shadows are gone and even the floorboards quieten down. Just as the body relaxes, calm, *then* the scare happens. The thing is, it works. Every time.