In the late 60s, a study led by psychologist Walter Mischel (professor at Stanford University) was done on children from 3 to 5 years old.
The experiment’s aim was to demonstrate the ability of children to delay instant gratification.
The experiment would consist of taking the children to a room with a male experimenter and not distraction, and put a gratification (marshmallow, pretzel or cookie) on the table in front of them.
The children were told that they could eat the treat, but if they were waiting for 15 minutes, they could get an additional treat of their choice.
The study was followed up in the 90s, and unexpected result appeared.
The researched showed that children who were waiting longer to get the treat appeared to be more successful adults. They were described as more competent, got better SAT scores, and succeeded better in life.
How this can this help us in our lives
Without getting into the details of potentiel limits of the study, the results of that experiments give us an incredibly interesting perspective.
Patience and reaching an ambitious goal
The link between success and the ability to fight for a long time without a breakthrough on our goals is worth remembering.
The success will not only be related to how hard you work, but how long you are ready to persist before you reach your objective without giving up on it.
This finding puts more emphasis on the marathonian patience and dedication, rather than the shinny burst of an energetic sprint.
If you have been working on that side project and you’re not getting the results you’re expecting, it would be tempting to give up. And at the moment we are ready to give up, it is possibly the moment where the effort is most required. Because it means that the breakthrough is not so far off.
Remembering that study is a good way to stay motivated during hard times, when we can ask ourselves: which one of the kids am I? The one waiting or the one going for the instant gratification?
Keeping the finding in mind for our kids
When it comes to our kids, the value of delayed gratification is critical to be taught at an early age.
The positive outcome of that lesson will be compounded many times over with time, since successes will call more successes.
Otherwise, when interpreting the study, some researchers argued that kids coming from split families, with an absent father, would show lower ability to delay gratification. They would prefer to get something with certainly now rather than something potential later on.
That suggests that not only the teaching of delayed gratification is important, but also that providing a safe environment and keeping our word to our kids will be equally important in order for them to be thriving and successful.
The question is now, how do you train yourself or your kids to delay gratification? Have you experienced it before? I would love for you to share your story, drop me a few lines 🙂