Marshmellows

Abraham Lincoln once said that  he that can have patience can have what he wants. Oprah Winfield said something similar: “You can have everything, just not all at once.”

Both are referring to very important building block of success – delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants.

In the 1960s, Walter Mischel at Stanford University did the “marshmallow experiment” that illustrated this concept. A group of four-year-old were given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some children could wait and others could not. The researchers then followed the progress of each child into adolescence and demonstrated that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable (determined via surveys of their parents and teachers), and scored significantly higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test years later. Later Goleman discussed this experiment in his popular work, stating that this is one of the key elements of Emotional Intelligence.

Something most marketers do not want you to know. In a hyper consuming society, instant gratification is essential for the turnover of products. Unfortunately this creates a tragedy of the commons system that is, in my mind, the cause of our environmental crisis we face.

In contras to this, if you really want to be the greatest you could be (optimally functioning as a human being); you need to make an important mind shift. A shift away from the mediocrity that captures our minds in finding gratification immediately, to understanding that a commitment to a future better reality is asked for.This is important to achieve flow.

Let me explain it with the hyperbolic discounting principle. What would you choose? Would you take R500 now or R1000 a year from now? Most people will choose the immediate R500. However, given the choice between R500 in five years or R1000 in six years almost everyone will choose R1000 in six years, even though that is the same choice seen at five years’ distance.

The only difference is the perspective of delay.

The mind shift I am talking about is the ability to see the value of a delay. Maybe even start to look for delays , in order to benefit from it.

To achieve flow, we need to understand that denying ourselves a reward now (going to a movie) to dedicate our energy to develop our unique strength (reading a difficult book on a much needed skill), the reward will come after an appropriate delay. This is true in relationships, raising children, finances and business.

The question is: Are you happy in the mediocre state of instant gratification, or are you willing to commit to the longer path of building a legacy.

With love

H

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