Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Power of Delayed Gratification

In the 1960s, a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel conducted a series of psychological experiments on hundreds of students aged between 4 to 6 years old and discovered an important characteristics for success in health, work, and life. It’s called the Marshmallow Experiment and was done this way,

Each child was brought to a private room and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them. The child was offered a deal. The researcher told the student that he was going to leave the room and if that child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. But if the child ate the first one before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow.

The choice was simple. Eat now and get nothing later. Or, delay eating and get two later. The researcher left the room for 15 minutes but was secretly recording each kid and observed three kinds of behaviors.

Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door.

Others tried hard to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later.

Only a few kids managed to wait patiently the entire time.

This popular study is known as The Marshmallow Experiment, but the experiment didn’t end there. As the years went by and the children grew up, the researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child's progress in a number of areas and found surprising results.

The children who were willing to wait for the second marshmallow used to get better SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower obesity, better stress management, better social skills, and so on. In other words, this series of experiments proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.

Now what can you learn from all of this?

Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.

If you want to succeed at something, then you need to have the ability to be disciplined and take action instead of becoming distracted and doing what's easy. Success in nearly every field requires you to ignore or resist doing something that is easier (delaying gratification) in favor of doing something harder (for a better reward later).

But the key takeaway here is that even if you initially have difficulties resisting something, you can gradually train yourself to become better by making a few small improvements. You can train your ability to delay gratification, just like you train your muscles in the gym. And you can do it the same way the child and the researcher did, that is by promising something small and then delivering. Do this over and over again until your brain starts saying - Yes, the reward is worth it to wait.

Finally, we can end this article with a quote by Leo Tolstoy who said - The two most powerful warriors are patience and time

1 comment: