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Self-Discipline vs. Marshmallows



If you search on youtube for the ‘Marshmallow test’ you’ll find some really funny and fascinating clips of kids resisting the urge to eat a marshmallow placed in front of them. If they hold out for 20 minutes then they can have two! It’s based on a famous psychology experiment by Walter Mischel who in his book ‘The Marshmallow Test’ says:


…“if you see more continuity between yourself now and yourself in the future, you probably put more value on delayed rewards and less value on immediate rewards and are less impatient than people who view their future selves as stranger...”


It’s not just kids that face the marshmallow test or immediate versus delayed gratification. We all do all the time and as Mischel says it’s a fine balance.


It’s an early cold morning winter morning here as I write this and I’m also facing the marshmallow of going back to sleep now or cracking on so in ‘20 minutes’ I can gain the fruits of delayed gratification.


Point here is reading about self-discipline or delayed gratification or marshmallows is by itself not going to be enough.


I knew already when I woke up that if I kept the marshmallow of a warm bed in front of me I was most likely going to stay in it. Yet I also wanted to get up.


What did I do?


I put my feet on the floor, walked out of the room in under a minute, took a shower and headed out the door putting, travelled to a quiet place, set up my laptop and started writing.


I put as much distance between the marshmallow and myself as I could.


And now I’m feeling good and increasingly more energized.


As Mischel put’s it…


“If you believe that persisting on tough tasks is energizing rather than depleting, will it protect you from fatigue? Indeed yes: when people are led to think that effortful tasks will invigorate rather than drain them, they improve performance on a later task.”


That’s pretty cool.


Besides, the last thing you really wanna do is eat marshmallows all day.


Less Marshmallows, More (expressed) Potential.


With ARETE,


Sean


p.s. remember Mischel’s first point about continuity between the current you and future you? Try this out…spend 5 minutes writing a letter to yourself from an imagined future you that you are seeking to become. Could be for example the day you 'graduate' in some way.

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Copyright - Becoming a Student of Potential (2018)