University psychology researcher Michael Mischel demonstrated
how important self-discipline (the ability to delay
immediate gratifiction in exchange for long term goal
achievement) is to lifelong success? In a longitudinal
study which began in the 1960s, he offered hungry 4-year-olds
a marshmallow, but told them that if they could wait
for the experimenter to return after running an errand,
they could have two marshmallows.
Those who could wait the fifteen or twenty minutes for
the experimenter to return would be demonstrating the
ability to delay gratification and control impulse.
one-third of of the children grabbed the single marshmallow
right away while some waited a little longer, and about
one-third were able to wait 15 or 20 minutes for the
researcher to return.
Years later when the children graduated from high school,
the differences between the two groups were dramatic:
the resisters were more positive, self-motivating, persistent
in the face of difficulties, and able to delay gratification
in pursuit of their goals. They had the habits of successful
people which resulted in more successful marriages,
higher incomes, greater career satisfaction, better
health, and more fulfilling lives than most of the population.
Those having grabbed the marshmallow were more troubled,
stubborn and indecisive, mistrustful, less self-confident,
and still could not put off gratification. They had 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 doing activities that brought instant
gratifciation This impulse followed them throughout their
lives and resulted in unsucessful marriages, low job satisfaction
and income, bad health, and frustrating lives.