In 1972 an American psychologist named Walter Mischel developed the Stanford marshmallow experiment geared to study delayed gratification. The exercise included young boys and girls who were aged between 5-8 years of age. They were each individually put in a room with hidden cameras and given the instructions of the exercise. A marshmallow was put in front of them and they were given two options. Number 1, they could choose to eat the marshmallow there and then or they could abstain from eating the marshmallow and wait for the professor to return and if the marshmallow is untouched, then they get an extra one and keep them both.
The findings of this exercise were very interesting. There were children who were unable to resist the temptation and ended up consuming the marshmallow even before the professor left. Similarly, there were children who controlled their impulses and waited for the professor to return and ended up getting an extra marshmallow. It was later discovered that those who were successful in embracing delayed gratification ended up being more successful in the different paths that they undertook in life.
The relevance of this test is grand. It clearly displays that delayed gratification is imperative in success. The ability to postpone long term pleasure for short term suffering. The ability to deny yourself now in order to enjoy later. Swimming in the pool of pleasure after sprinting in the dusty and muddy field of work.
In order to systematically cultivate mental strength and behavioral wellness, it is imperative to audit elements, practices and environments that foster instant gratification. Take working out and going to the gym for instance, it is completely impossible and unimaginable that after a day of going to the gym one will accomplish their goals the next day. That is the furthest thing from the truth. In reality, you would have to be consistent, disciplined, organised and sacrifice in order to achieve your desired goal. It is only after 30 days of applying oneself that you would be able to taste the fruits of your labor. This subsequently results in growth of self confidence as well as a great sense of accomplishment. The best part is that that confidence is transferable into other aspects of life and is as a result of practising delayed gratification.
Mental strength is a great asset that we must start to recognize and draw blueprints on how it can be accessed by the larger majority. Therefore, embracing delayed gratification is not an option. It is for those who want to choose success as well as consciously grow their mental strength. Make a deliberate effort to challenge yourself accordingly and embrace delayed gratification accordingly.
By Arnold Thinwa