mellow, more mellow, marshmallow

We’ve heard the wise saying, “good things come to those who wait”. Based on the Marshmallow Experiment, self control and delayed gratification is an important character building tool for success. This Stanford experiment performed in the late 1970’s, a few researchers brought some children together where they presented to each children a marshmallow.

They would ask the child if they waited 15 minutes, they would get another marshmallow at the end. Similar research has been done since then and the results have been similar if not the same. Those children that waited, had self discipline and a sense of delayed self gratification. The ratio in all of these researches were that 2 out of 3 children would eat the marshmallow right away. One out of three children would wait for the second one. After a decade later, the different group of researchers would go back to the same group of children and perform the same test and see where they were at in life. The group of children who waited were successful in life and still practiced self disciplined and delayed gratification. Whereas the ones who did not wait were not as successful.

Those children that waited, had self discipline and a sense of self gratification.

In the Columbia test, Dr. Joaquin takes note that the kids who were at the age of 4 years already understood delayed gratification. They smelled it, played with up for close to 14 minutes and then ate parts of the candy thus still failed the experiment. From all the research done past and present, if one prolongs an action or a decision, there is a better reward or outcome. One might say that by holding out for long term gain is an investment. Therefore by choosing to have self control or control oneself’s actions is the opposite of impulsive action. Impulsive actions or reactions is very often subjective with clouded judgement and result in more likely negative outcomes. Controlling your emotions requires self awareness and self discipline, a benefit and could save yourself unnecessary pain or creating additional problems for yourself or those you care about.

Each decision we make can affect someone positively or negatively whether you see it today or for a long term outcome. Looking for long lasting results will take some sacrifice, waiting 15 minutes or a few years possibly, but if it’s well worth it, the reward will be great. For those who failed in the Marshmallow experiment, I honestly believe that even they can succeed in life once they realise what it takes. One needs to be convinced and believe, that delayed gratification is well worth it. It doesn’t mean failure won’t exist but believe that a greater reward exists. It comes down to taking control of yourself and self awareness, realising those decisions could yield a better outcome.

Why we procrastinate and what to do about it.

Procrastination leads to negative results and can negatively impact yourself and your environment and your relationships. So why do we procrastinate? According to Tim Urban, blogger and speaker on psychological shortcomings says we tend to gear ourselves to instant gratification. We tend to get on a habitual cycle of putting it off, avoiding a deadline or just ignoring the importance of the issue and feeling no pressure at all by choosing some sort of a more immediate gratification. Where situations require no deadlines, procrastination can lead to avoiding a situation for a long period of time and very likely leading to suboptimal outcomes. Two forces are at work. “The monkey” as Tim describes, prefers to play, have fun and engages in a tug-of-war with the “rational decision maker”.

This ‘rational decision maker’ will remind you there is a much better solution if we put in some ground work, a good long term result can happen. You can be completely guided to a better and different ending. The positive reaction would be to bravely confront the situation, see that to completion and take your life in a entirely different direction and open yourself to unmentionable great opportunities. What would we be missing out on if we didn’t procrastinate? Fear of anything like failure, of success and trying to be perfect can paralyse your life decisions and then affect those around you.
How do we make situations more pleasant to motivate us away from procrastinating or delaying the outcome?

  • Self-awareness is the initial change to any habit. You may tend to procrastinate and are on the verge of taking the shortcut when you know conscientiously there is another better way around that issue.
  • Your perception of the matter could be skewed – and hence lead to resistance. It may be you who is the obstruction to achieving the goal. Was your boss being insensitive when she piled more work than you expected right before the weekend and caused negative feelings? Was your husband barking an order rather than politely asking you when you had a long day and you just didn’t want to do anything anymore? There could be situations where you just were not in the right frame of mind and you felt unhappy and in turn not motivated to do anything about it or even make an excuse.
  • Any bad perpetual habit can be dropped and replaced with a more helpful and healthy habit with practice. People with low self-belief – a subcategory of self-esteem – don’t t believe that they deserve the good things in life and tend to stay in their comfort zone. If you want a good outcome, good choices need to be made, even if that means ‘sacrificing’ the old self for a new self, a new comfort zone.
  • Before you start working on a task, befriend it first. Analyse what needs to be done and break the work down into smaller steps. Best if you can then tell others about your project or ambition. Set reasonable milestones as mini deadlines. Get someone to hold you accountable. Cater for the “monkey” by planning little treats on the way. Always and only treat yourself after you have completed a task or milestone.

Watch the video to learn more about Tim’s procrastination identifiers. We can avoid ‘The Dark Playground, leave the ‘Panic Monster’ behind and try to make the ‘Hard Things’ become just as ‘Easy and Fun’ because your choices today will impact your tomorrow for possible greatness. 

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator