Mindful Mimi's blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Delay gratification in the short term and enjoy greater rewards in the long term

>> 17 September 2007

The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable pre-requisite for success - Brian Tracy

If you put a marshmallow in front of your 4-year old and said that he could eat it immediately or wait until you returned and he'd get another one, what would he do?

My son is not 4 years old yet - but maybe I will do the test with him to find out what his behaviour tells me about his possible future.
Walter Mischel did this test with several hundreds of 4-year olds. They videotaped the kid's reactions. Some of them gobbled up the marshmallow immediately; some looked at it, smelled it, touched it but didn't eat it. Others started walking around, humming songs to distract themselves. One even licked the space on the table surrounding the marshmallow.
Fourteen years later, these kids are grown and the findings are quite dramatic.
  • Kids who did not eat the marshmallow immediately but waited for the tester to return (and were thus gratified with a second marshmallow) seemed to show many more skills that make for success. They had many of the "habits of successful people": confidence, persistence, capacity to cope with frustration. The "waiters" were more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful.
  • On the other hand, the kids who gobbled the treat immediately showed trouble subordinating immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. When it was time to study for the big test, they tended to get distracted into listening to a favourite TV programs.
So what are "marshmallows" in our professional and personal lives? They are the activities which give us immediate gratification but undermine longer-range benefits. The desire to please everyone is a big "marshmallow".

It seems that the ability to delay gratification is a master skill, a triumph of the reasoning brain over the impulsive one. It is a sign, in short, of emotional intelligence (Definition according to Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. (1997): "The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth").
And it doesn't show up on an IQ test.

Take the Emotional IQ test.

If there is a cornerstone to emotional intelligence on which most other emotional skills depend, it is a sense of self-awareness, of being smart about what we feel. Scientists refer to "metamood," the ability to pull back and recognize that "what I'm feeling is anger," or sorrow, or shame.

Metamood is a difficult skill because most of the time our emotions appear in disguise (the mourner is sad but may also be angry at the person for dying - the parent of a child who ran across the street is angry at the child for disobedience but may also experience fear of what could have happened).

Self-awareness is perhaps the most crucial ability because it allows us to exercise some self-control. The idea is not to repress feeling but rather to do what Aristotle considered the hard work of the will. As he puts it in the Nicomachean Ethics : "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy."

Some impulses are easier to overcome than others. Anger, not surprisingly, is one of the hardest, perhaps because of its evolutionary value in priming people to action. The more stressed one is, the lower the threshold for release. Anxiety is another typical one.

Given sufficient self-awareness, people develop coping mechanisms. Sadness and discouragement, for instance, are "low arousal" states. If you go out for a run you are triggering a high arousal state that is incompatible with staying blue. Relaxation works better for high-energy moods like anger or anxiety.

Either way,
Be an optimist : When an optimist fails, he attributes the failure to something he can change, not some innate weakness that he is helpless to overcome.

The most visible emotional skills, the ones we recognize most readily, are the "people skills" like empathy, graciousness, the ability to read a social situation. Researchers believe that about 90% of emotional communication is nonverbal.
If you have a good ability to read emotional cues, you most likely tend to be more successful in your work and relationships.

In the corporate world, according to personnel executives, IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted.

So next time someone wiggles a marshmallow in front of your nose (or a carrot, or a special deal,...), think about it twice, breathe,...

Time Reports - Understanding Psychology
Non-verbal communication


Indeterminacy 18 September 2007 at 11:12  

This was an interesting post for me, as I also studied psychology. Thanks for keeping me up to date.

Anonymous,  21 November 2009 at 02:01  

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

Post a Comment

Blog template by simplyfabulousbloggertemplates.com

Back to TOP