Delayed Gratification The Marshmallow Effect

In the early seventies, a group of 4-year-old kids participated in a Stanford experiment where they were put in a room and given the structure of this scenario; a marshmallow was placed on a table for each child. The researcher explained that any child could eat their marshmallow at any time after the researcher left. But for those who waited until the researcher returned in 15 minutes, they would receive a bonus marshmallow.

You can imagine the tension in the room when the researcher left.

  1. Some of the kids immediately jumped up and snarfed down their marshmallow,
  2. others wriggled in their chairs struggling with the decision whether to pounce on the tasty morsel or wait and at various times they did break down and partake,
  3. while a few waited out the 15 minutes to score both marshmallows.

If you’ve been around kids, had some kids, or been one yourself, you probably expected these results, and you might think that this experiment was a waste of resources but here’s the brilliance behind collecting this data: The experiment did not end there. They tracked these very kids over the course of their life for the next 40 years, and here’s what they found:

The kids who waited patiently were extremely successful in life.

They were happy in life and successfully achieved and realized their individual desires.

This 40-year experiment proved that the person who is willing to delay gratification for a better result later is the key to living a highly successful and happy life.

But wait, there’s more.

Delayed Gratification The Marshmallow Effect v2

The University of Rochester conducted another study based on the original marshmallow experiment with some modifications. Prior to the marshmallow experiment, they split the kids into two groups.

  1. In one group, they provided them with a set of circumstances where they were promised something they never received, while
  2. the other group did receive what they were promised. Like, they were given a small box of crayons and were promised a bigger box.

Half the group received the upgrade, the other half did not.

You don’t have to be a social scientist to have a pretty good idea about how this might impact the marshmallow experiment.

As you might have guessed,

  1. the kids who had experience with not getting what they expected jumped up and ate the marshmallow,
  2. while the other group, the kids with experience with waiting to receive something better and getting it, they had no problem patiently waiting for the second marshmallow.

Even the kids in the second group that did give in and chomp down the marshmallow, they waited four times longer to do so than the kids in the other group prior to succumbing to the premature desire.

What they learned, was that

(1) It was worth it, and

(2) I could do it.

This little brain training increased their ability to delay gratification when it came time to exercise their ability to do so.

While the Stanford experiment was random, the Rochester version demonstrated that the concept of delayed gratification for a better result was something that could be learned. The brain could be trained to either trust the idea or not based on experience.

You and the Marshmallow Effect

What this means is that anyone could do this. If someone is unsuccessful in life, they could learn and practice delayed gratification to achieve a desired result. This is a large portion of the work that I do with my clients. Some are able to fully embrace the idea, while others not so much. No judgment, no right or wrong. We’re all different, doing the best we can with what we have.

There is no doubt, my clients who fully embrace the concept of delayed gratification, they do achieve their results faster and greater than would otherwise be possible, but it takes measures of diligence, sacrifice, and patience to do it.

You are bombarded with distractions every day that interrupt your otherwise intentional focus on achieving more in life. For those who give in and entertain the distraction, life is harder for them, and the good things in life that are coming their way start to fade away.

You are successful in life because you are willing to sacrifice immediate gratification, you resist succumbing to distraction, and diligently maintain a consistent vibration as you move forward to your goal, even if it means sitting in a chair patiently and meditating on your bonus marshmallow for 15 minutes.

This is who you are, and it is why you are one of the few who live a better life, your best life, and make the world a better place.