From a young age, we’re told by our parents, family and teachers alike that to be successful in life you need to work hard to get the job done. But as time goes on, many people have realized that simply working hard is not enough to be successful. So what do you need? Well, 40 years of Stanford University research has given us the answer. And it might not be what you think…
The Marshmallow Experiment
During the 1960s, Walter Mischel, a University professor at Stanford University, CA, began conducting experiments which would change the history of psychology, psychological studies and success – and it all started with a marshmallow. For his test, Mischel enlisted the help of over a hundred children aged 4 and 5, and tested them on their characteristics. As each child was brought separately into the room with Mischel and his researchers, they placed a single marshmallow in front of them and gave them two options: as he leaves the room, they can either decide to not eat the marshmallow, and receive another when he came back, or eat the marshmallow as he leaves, but they would not receive a second. As you can probably expect, most of the children gave into temptation and ate the marshmallow as Mischel left – but there were a few who decided to wait, to receive the second marshmallow.
A second test
After the Marshmallow Experiment, Mischel didn’t stop. Instead, he wanted to follow the lives of the children, and record their successes in life over the course of forty years. And the results were astounding. As the children aged, there soon became a clear divide between the two groups – those that waited, and those that didn’t. Mischel found that those who waited for the end gratification were more successful in terms of SAT scores, health, stress levels, social skills, as well as lower levels of addiction and substance abuse. This was the same among all of those who waited, leading Mischel to conclude that to be more successful in life you need to have the ability to delay gratification, i.e., wait longer for a better result. This can be seen in everyday life. For example, if you delay your need to rest and relax after a day of school to get your homework done first, you will succeed better at school. These findings led Mischel to ask a question – do children learn to develop this ability? Or do they naturally exhibit more self-control to delay their gratification? Recent studies have determined that children and adults do indeed learn it themselves and that it is not a predetermined trait.
So how do you improve your ability to delay gratification?
From the experiments and research into delayed gratification, most scientists have come to the same conclusion – you need to train and push yourself. If you want to be successful in life, you need to push yourself to become more disciplined, and take the harder, longer route than taking the easy road. Success takes time, so do not get downhearted when a promotion doesn’t come straight away. Work hard, achieve your best, take your time and the delayed gratification will leave you with a better result. You need to be able to train your own mind to understand that your actions are worth waiting for, that you have the ability to do so, and that the end result will be worth it.