Winners Delay Gratification

By · May 28, 2009 · Filed in Business, Growth, life skills, Self Help

When it comes to getting what you want in life you can have “Smaller Sooner” (SS) or “Larger Later” (LL). Smaller sooner implies that we take less of what we deserve for the convenience of having it now. Larger later simply means that we have reserved the patience required to receive abundant results. If you are a winner by this definition then you could easily pass the marshmallow test.

During the 1960’s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted what became known as the “the marshmallow test” with four-year-olds in the preschool at Stanford University.  The object of the exercise was to assess each preschooler’s ability to delay gratification.  Each child was given one marshmallow.  They were told that they could eat it immediately or, if they waited until the researcher returned in 20 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.

Some kids in the group just couldn’t wait.  They gobbled down the marshmallow immediately.  The rest struggled hard to resist eating it.  They covered their eyes, talked to themselves, sang, played games, and even tried to go to sleep.  The preschoolers who were able to wait were rewarded with two marshmallows when the researcher returned.

Twelve to fourteen years later the same kids were re-evaluated.  The differences were astonishing.  Those who had been able to control their impulses and delay gratification as four-year-olds were more effective socially and personally as teenagers.  They had higher levels of assertiveness, self-confidence, trustworthiness, dependability, and a superior ability to control stress.  Remarkably, their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores were also 210 points higher than the “instant gratification” group!

(All of the above is on page 97 of the fantastic book: “Growing the Distance“, by Jim Clemmer)


“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” ~ Jim Rohn

The bedrock of character is self-discipline; the virtuous life, as philosophers since Aristotle have observed, is based on self-control.  A related keystone of character is being able to motivate and guide oneself, whether in doing homework, finishing a job, or getting up in the morning.  And, as we have seen, the ability to defer gratification and to control and channel one’s urges to act is a basic emotional skill, one that in a former day was called will.

Are you a winner? Do you have what it takes to delay gratification? How would your attitude benefit from a 7-step process to restructure your subconscious?

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