The Stone Register is excited to announce Take Five, a special collaboration with Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, acclaimed Business Educator, Leadership Coach and Bestselling Author. Throughout the second half of 2021, we will be releasing five exclusive articles directly from the pen and mind of Dr. Goldsmith, starting with the never-before-published When Do You Eat the Marshmallow? below. Set your phone to 'do not disturb,' kick back and take five so you can experience this groundbreaking, new series!
Subscribe today to receive advance notifications whenever a new Take Five Marshall Goldsmith article drops! To learn more about The Stone Register, America's preeminent boutique marketing firm and official Forbes Business Council member, click here.
Almost fifty years ago, Stanford psychologist, Walter Mischel, conducted his famous ‘marshmallow studies’ with pre-school children. In simple terms, children were shown one marshmallow and told they could choose to eat the marshmallow whenever they wanted. One the other hand, they were told that, if they only waited a few minutes, they could have two marshmallows. The children were given a choice between immediate gratification – eat one marshmallow now - versus delayed gratification – wait and eat two marshmallows later.
Years later the achievement levels of these children were studied. What was the initial conclusion?
When they became older, the children who waited for the two marshmallows were shown to have higher SAT scores, more educational achievement, and lower body mass index. These studies eventually led to Mischel’s 1994 book, The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success. Later studies found that the affluence and education of the child’s parents and the child’s belief that the extra marshmallow would actually be delivered were highly correlated with the child’s likelihood of delaying gratification and waiting for the extra marshmallow.
These later findings make common sense, rich kids - with highly educated parents - were more likely to be brought up in an environment where the rewards from delayed gratification were more obvious than poor kids with less educated parents. They were also more likely to believe that the authority figure – the experimenter – would deliver the rewards.
Broadly defined, delayed gratification means resisting smaller, pleasurable awards now for larger, more significant awards later.Much of the literature in psychology deifies the importance of delayed gratification. It is linked with all we associate with ‘achievement’. Almost every self-help book is written to inspire you in your quest to attain socio-economic success and to increase your ability to reach long-term goals. We are relentlessly bombarded with the virtue of sacrificing immediate pleasure to achieve long-term results.
The classic marshmallow study has a clear conclusion, the research subject either eats one marshmallow now or delays immediate gratification and gets two. The implied learning is simple delayed gratification is good.
Now let us imagine that the study did not stop but was extended. After waiting the required number of minutes, the child was given a second marshmallow but then told, “If you wait a little longer, you will get a third marshmallow!”
Imagine the study keeps going, “If you only wait, you can get a fourth marshmallow… a fifth marshmallow … a hundredth marshmallow.”
The ultimate master of delayed gratification would be an old person - who is facing death - in a room filled with thousands of uneaten marshmallows! I have done research to determine who reads my books. What have I learned? My readers tend to be highly educated (two-thirds have graduate degrees and over 90% are college graduates). My readers also tend to be business leaders, entrepreneurs, human resource professional, consultants, or coaches.
Compared to most human beings in the world, you – the person who is reading this sentence – would probably be defined as a ‘successful’ person. You are probably very good at delayed gratification! You probably don’t need me to lecture you on how important it is to sacrifice for the future. You are probably very good at delaying your consumption of marshmallows!
My personal coaching clients have included many of the most successful leaders in the world. They often have impressive educations. Their level of ‘achievement’ is amazing! They are usually masters in the art of delaying gratification. Yet they, and my guess is, you as well, sometimes get so busy making sacrifices to achieve for the future, that they forget to enjoy life now. They forget to appreciate all that they have achieved in the past. They even sometimes forget to be happy.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, was widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders of his time. At age 59, he experienced severe chest pains and eventually had triple bypass surgery due to blockage in his arteries. This experience caused him to reflect upon life. My great friend and co-author, Mark Reiter, was also Jack’s literary agent. Mark asked him what he resolved to change after this life-threatening experience. Jack Welch wryly noted that he was no longer going to drink his cheap wine for dinner. Jack was a fan of great wine and had a very serious wine collection. He was rich. Yet, he was letting the wine in his cellar ‘become even more valuable’ instead of drinking it! He finally asked himself, “What I am waiting for?” He decided to enjoy fantastic wine. In creating a great life for yourself, appreciate the value of delayed gratification. Accept the fact that long-term achievement requires short-term sacrifice. On the other hand, enjoy the journey. As Jack Welch realized, do not wait too long before you drink the great wine. Metaphorically, you will be given the marshmallow test thousands of times in your life. While it can be fine to delay marshmallow consumption – don’t overdo it. Eat some of those tasty marshmallows as you go. You do not want to be that old person with a wine cellar filled with bottles you will never open. You do not want to be surrounded by thousands of marshmallows that were never eaten!
The late, great Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric (GE)
To view Dr. Marshall Goldsmith's official website please click here. To visit his Amazon author's page click here. Tap the yellow button below to learn more about The Stone Register and our top tier business services, including press releases, Times Square ad campaigns, multimedia design, and more.