Most everyone these days is looking for success in one way or another. Here’s a life changer for you. It’s a spiritual and natural principle applied in a practical way. One of my favorite writers, James Clear offers this idea in his latest book, Atomic Habits
. Read on.
In the 1960s, a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel began conducting a series of important psychological studies. During his experiments, Mischel and his team tested hundreds of children, most of them around the ages of four and five years old. It revealed what is now believed to be one of the most important characteristics for success in health, work, and life.
The experiment began by bringing each child into a private room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them. At this point, the researcher offered a deal to the child.
The researcher told the child he was going to leave the room and if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, they would not get a second marshmallow. The choice was simple. One treat right now or two treats later. The researcher left the room for 15 minutes.
As you can imagine, the footage of the children waiting alone in the room was rather entertaining. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children managed to wait the entire time.
Published in 1972, this popular study became known as "The Marshmallow Experiment," but it wasn't the treat that made it famous. The interesting part came years later. As the years rolled on and the children grew up, the researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child's progress in several areas.
The children who were willing to delay gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.
The researchers followed each child for more than forty years. Repeatedly, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever capacity they were measuring. In other words, this series of experiments proved the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.
Consider the power of delayed gratification. It’s the one quality most of us will require to succeed. I’m aware of what we are seeing today exhibited in mainline media and advertising. You can have it all and have it now. You are entitled, you are special, and you deserve everything now. That’s like expecting a return without a deposit. When those children waited for the second marshmallow, they were making an investment and received a greater return. The pain of discipline wins over the ease of distraction most every time if your aim is success. Sometimes, the only thing worse than waiting is wishing you had.
There are many examples of delayed gratification in the Bible. These examples are illustrations of the fruit of the Spirit (or lack thereof) of self-control. Self-control is just controlling yourself with God’s help. Most times, the delay is not a denial. It’s the path to consistent, sustainable success.
What areas in your life could you change using the power of delayed gratification rather your old friend ‘impulse power?’ How about doing your homework now rather than later, exercise rather than having extra fries, or saving rather than spending? Get it now or get bigger, better, greater later.
This brings us to an interesting question: Did some of the children naturally have more self-control, and thus destined for success? Or can you learn to develop this important quality trait? More on this next week!
Ed Delph December 31, 2018 CCC Part 1 of 2