Action Catalyst Blog

The Marshmallow Test – The Payoff of Delayed Gratification

THE PAYOFF OF DELAYED GRATIFICATION

If you’ve never heard of the marshmallow test, it’s worth knowing about.

From Wikipedia:

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (a marshmallow) provided immediately or two small rewards (i.e., a larger later reward) if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned.

In follow-up studies, years later, the researchers found that those children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.

It’s a simple choice in this experiment, “one marshmallow now or two later?”

That is a variation of the same choice that each of us make every single day when it comes to a multitude of decisions in our lives.

Indulge in the thing right in front of us or make a disciplined choice now and receive more blessings later on?

In Take the Stairs we called this dynamic the Paradox Principle of Sacrifice.

Which simply stated is this: Easy short term choices lead to difficult long term consequences.

Meanwhile, difficult short term choices lead to better long term consequences.

That’s the payoff of self-discipline.

And self-control is the brother of self-discipline.

If self-discipline is doing things you know you should be doing even when you don’t feel like doing them.

Then self-control is not doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing.

But both of them have the same result: long term rewards.

Long term gain.

Long term satisfaction.

Long term happiness.

Doing the right thing in the short term is what creates the better life in the long run.

We often think of these things as “sacrifices” but they aren’t sacrifices.

A sacrifice is giving something up that you never get back.

Good decisions aren’t sacrifices at all.

Good decisions are short term down payments on rich future blessings.

Of course, this idea is nothing new.

Hebrews 12:11 said it this way 2000 years ago:

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time. Yet it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Think about that: “a harvest of righteousness and peace…”

Isn’t that what you want?

A harvest of righteousness and peace.

An abundance of blessings, good fortune, and calm faith.

A life filled with joy and free from stress.

Those things are available for your future.

They are available by the choices you make today.

They are available by doing the things now that you know you should be doing even when you don’t feel like doing them.

And by not doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing.

They are available through a little self-discipline and self-control expanded consistently.

In every area of your life, sow today for your harvest tomorrow.

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