Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!

Lately, when I have a moment to think, the same thing pops into my mind: marshmallows.

No, this isn’t another article about my obsession with food. Although fittingly, I have to put an almost herculean effort into not eating marshmallows if they’re in my eyeline. But if you want to dive into that rabbit hole, feel free to click here, here, or here.

The marshmallows we’re talking about today are somewhat theoretical.

Let me explain.

In the 1960s, a social psychologist sat a bunch of preschool kids down one by one in front of, you guessed it, a marshmallow, and told them they couldn’t eat it.

Bummer, I know.

But they were also told that if they waited until the experimenter came back, they could have another marshmallow and eat them both!

Some kids were great at this…others ate the marshmallow.

Years later, they followed up with these kids and found that the ones who had resisted the fluffy white siren’s call of those sweet, sweet marshmallows were doing a lot better in life than the kids who stuffed their faces.

As it turns out, being able to suffer in the short-term for long-term gain is a pretty important skill.

And although some recent research has put these findings into question, it doesn’t really matter. Whether or not the kids who waited did objectively better in life doesn’t take away from the beautiful metaphor of marshmallows representing delayed gratification.

It’s still important to be able to do.

So why am I thinking about delayed gratification so much?

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about executing tasks and building habit, but honestly, when I think of things that way, it just makes me feel like I’m on a hamster wheel that I can’t escape from.

Trying to act like a robot and tick a bunch of boxes, even if it’s for things I’m passionate about, makes life just as boring as if I were doing it for someone else. And being miserable is no way to reach goals, although it’s a fantastic reason to give into bad habits.

But the boxes still have to be ticked. And sitting around consuming Netflix flavoured marshmallows isn’t going to get me anywhere.

So I’ve been trying to focus more on the value of each possible task I could be doing at a given moment rather than just the need to execute something.

It’s my version of stopping to smell the roses. I appreciate and savour my effort toward the greater goal and remind myself of the value I’m providing to myself and others. It feels good.And when you can focus on something good, like the pride you feel for waiting as you were asked, the marshmallow seems less tempting.

Those are my thoughts this week. As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Have a great weekend!

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