More specifically: your attitude to marshmallows – or any other fun and gratifying thing.
Yes, I’m being serious.
This matters, so I urge you to read this one today.
In the 60’s and 70’s, two Stanford researchers performed a series of studies designed to test the willpower and ability to delay gratification on a
group of children.
Pop culture came to call these ‘The Marshmallow Experiment’, and the study revealed something amazing.
Here’s how it went:
A child was sat in a room, and a marshmallow or other treat was placed in front of them.
The researcher said:
“I have to step out for 15 minutes. If you want to eat the marshmallow, go ahead. But if you don’t, I’ll give you a second one when I’m back”.
Predictably, a number of the children ate the thing immediately.
Others would leave it good and well alone, and get the second treat as a reward.
Nothing special there, right?
Some people are good at delayed gratification, and others want the instant joy.
The next four decades though, there were very interesting.
The researchers followed the children as they grew up, got their education, got a job and a partner and children, and what they found constitutes an almost binary difference between successful people and people who never get to play big.
Those children who had waited for the second treat, all of them, outshone the others who had eaten it right away.
Higher SAT scores, less childhood obesity, less substance abuse in adult years, higher income, better careers…
In other words: people who are able to delay gratification have a massive, unfair advantage to become successful and prosperous.
Which instantly raises a problem:
What if you don’t have all that much self control?
What if you’re not good at delaying gratification?
Does that mean that you’re doomed for life, to never go beyond mediocre or average results?
Absolutely not, my friendly attentive reader.
You too can change, if you want to.
Because the ability to delay gratification can be trained just like a muscle.
Very simple, and quite effortless.
All it requires is that you build a habit out of tiny tiny moments of delayed gratification.
When you do that, your subconscious experiences that yes, it’s worth it, and that yes, you can do it.
That direct feedback loop is the thing that will strengthen your ability to wait.
Guaranteed or your money back.
Here’s how to do it:
1: Start incredibly small. Make the delay so small, it’s impossible to not do it.
For example, maybe your habit is to check your email first thing in the morning or go to Facebook, and 2 hours later you re-emerge with a whole bunch of actual work not done.
So start with waiting one minute, from the moment the urge comes up.
You can hold out for one minute, can’t you?
Of course you can.
2: Play this game with one thing only, and increase daily by 1 % or 1 minute, depending.
3: Use the Seinfeld strategy: print off a calendar page, and make a big black cross through each day that you played the game and won.
Keep it visible in your work area – the visual feedback is important because it tells your subconscious that you can do it and that you’re making progress.
4: Make the habit something that you can start in 2 minutes or less.
So if you want to lose weight, deciding to go for a short run each morning isn’t the way to go.
Dress up in your running kit, get your shoes on, out the house… far too easy to skip on your resolve.
In such a case, make the decision to start with one jumping jack, at home, and add one each day.
There you go: your success-building strategy, backed by 40 years of research.
Another good tip:
Get an accountability partner.
In person, on skype or by email:
Each week (or each day), tell that person what you plan to do.
At the end of the term, report your results.
If you didn’t manage to get it done, that person asks the following questions:
(not: ‘why didn’t you?’, but):
What was the reason that prevented you from doing it?
What change can you make to remove that obstacle?
That simple. Very powerful.
Accountability is one of the best ways to make sure you keep moving the needle on your work and ultimately your success.
This is why accountability is such an important part of The Cabal group coaching program.
It’s not just me, but the other members too, who support you and hold you accountable on the things you want to do.
(Aside from the fact that it’s enormously useful and fun to have a team that’s always routing for you).
So if you want to belong to a small, intimate and powerful group, check the details on The Cabal here: http://martinstellar.com/cabal-group-coaching-action-takers/