The Marshmallow Experiment

Uncategorized Jan 28, 2019

At Stanford University in 1960 the first marshmallow experiment was conducted and it revealed something incredible — something that could be the difference between you succeeding or failing over the long-term.

Picture this…

A child about 4 or 5 is brought into a room by a friendly researcher. The child sits down at a table, and in front of them is a tasty marshmallow.

The researcher lets the child know that they can eat the marshmallow right away if they want, or…they can wait about 15-minutes and they will be given a second marshmallow.

If they eat the marshmallow in front of them then they won’t get a second. But if they can wait, they will get double the treats!

The researcher leaves the room and this is where things get entertaining.

Watching video of the kids in the room is hilarious and enlightening at the same time.

Some kids can’t control themselves and chomp down the marshmallow the second the researcher leaves.

Other kids show a bit more restraint and try to distract themselves by moving about, jumping around and doing whatever they can to stay away from the treat — eventually, they give in and still eat the marshmallow.

Then there is another group of kids who make it the entire 15-minutes without eating the marshmallow. In watching the video you can clearly see that it is still a challenge for them — they still squirm and are quite restless, but they hold out long enough to get the extra reward.

So, what was the difference with these kids?

It came down to their ability to delay gratification.

These kids understood that short-term pain would lead to long-term gain.

And here’s where it gets interesting…

40 years after the initial experiment, researchers followed up with the participants and it was discovered that those who were able to delay gratification had higher SAT scores, and were significantly more competent and successful in their lives compared to the students who couldn’t delay gratification and ate the marshmallow.

Think about how this plays out in your life...

  • If you delay the gratification of spending money in the moment, you can save it for a later date and spend it on something bigger like a vacation.
  • If you delay gratification on a Sunday and clean up the house first thing in the morning, you then get the rest of the day to relax without the worry of needing to clean up.
  • If you delay gratification by not hitting snooze, you’ll get up earlier and accomplish more during the day.

There are many situations throughout the day when we’re all faced with the choice to delay gratification in the moment for a larger reward in the future. The more we can delay gratification, the more our future-self with thank us.

So can we become better at delaying gratification?

The answer is yes!

3-Steps to improving your ability to Delay Gratification

1.) Cultivate Clarity
Clearly knowing what you want and why you want it will give you strength in moments of weakness. It is much harder to delay gratification if don’t know why you are delaying gratification in the first place. Having clarity allows you to understand how delaying gratification will benefit you in the future.

2.) Reward Yourself
If you are delaying gratification because of a goal you are trying to achieve, make sure to set up milestones to reward yourself. Delaying gratification is hard work so having milestones of success along the way will keep you motivated and consistent.

3.) Positive Distraction
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this tactic. It works wonders and is easy to implement. In moments of weakness, look for something else to occupy your mind.

Keep your eye on the prize and watch out for the marshmallow moments during your day my friend!

- Dustin

For a good laugh, have a look at this video where they recreated the marshmallow experiment. 


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