The “Stanford Marshmallow” experiment conducted in the late 1960s and early 70s was a study on children of a certain age range who were offered marshmallows, cookies and pretzels.
The children were asked to hold on to the treats offered (delay their gratification) and would be doubly rewarded as compared to those who had the treat immediately.
A select group of children went on to have the treat as soon as it was given to them, another group fiddled with it for a while and then went on to have the treat, while the third group waited on patiently for the double reward as promised.
Years after this experiment was conducted the same set of children were tracked and astonishingly the children who displayed a higher resilience to immediately consuming the treat were the ones who excelled in various aspects of life, health and academia as compared to the others.
This went on to be one of the most impactful and profound experiments conducted in the 20th century on the behaviour of human psychology.
It simply puts forth the ideology that the best things received in life are not instant but are established over a period of time.
The children who had the treat the moment it was given to them wanted to have the instant pleasure even knowing they would be doubly rewarded if they held on to it.
Some held on for a while and gave in to the temptation by sacrificing the time they waited for it and didn’t want to go the distance.
While the rest knew exactly what the higher goal was and believed in their own perseverance over the ready visible reward to a greater goal or glory.
The entire race of human beings fit into these 3 categories, where some want instant happiness, some dabble for a while and then give in while the ones who outperform the rest are the ones who stay put.
We are conditioned to instantly gratify ourselves and our loved ones irrespective of the repercussions the gratification might cause.
This is where our habits are also seeded, formed and developed over a period of time.
For food, we prefer something that is cooked instantly or packed rather than wait for the perfect healthy meal. The repercussion – bad health.
At work, when faced with an issue, we come up with ad-hoc solutions to drive away the issue rather conducting a thorough root cause analysis of the problem and suggesting a holistic solution that would last in the long run. The repercussion – bad product design and increasing customer complaints.
At home, we shower affection by buying material gifts to our loved ones than spending enough time, having deep conversations or doing household chores together. The repercussion – Transactional based relationship patterns where only materials matter and the essence of love, compassion and oneness are lost.
Alternatively, we join a fitness centre, spend a few days or months and eventually give up due to lack of intent and enthusiasm which we displayed initially. This is simply because, we went out so hard in the beginning that we are unable to maintain the momentum to sustain our effort of visiting the centre again.
Everything that we start has tremendous energy and motivation that gives us a good reason to start in the first place. However, we do not plan to sustain that energy for a longer run which will start giving us the desired outcome.
This is to be true with our relations too, where we have those romantic feels when we are newly married and expect those emotions to stay throughout.
When we are sad or lonely we tend to divert our minds with substance abuse, we program this as a solution and develop a habit of consuming alcohol or drugs to wash away our problems instantly than taking the effort to solve it at the root.
Over time we consume more of alcohol and drugs as now our system has a stronger resistance to its effect, this then spirals down to cases of chronic alcohol or drug consumption.
Fast money is another source of instant gratification, where earning the quick buck at the price of our morals or sentiments of others is considered kosher.
We feel it is ok to do whatever it takes to gratify ourselves with money as that gratification overcomes the sense of logic or ethic in us.
When this gratification eventually subsides the underlying logic or ethic we bypassed comes to the forefront and eventually takes us on a guilt trip.
We need to maintain the balance of distributing our energy for the task taken on hand and scaling it in our efforts over time rather than sending it on the descending curve.
The enduring gratifications are those when the sweat, blood and tears we have shed over a task is accomplished.
There are times where the achievement will not be exactly as desired, but it would have laid the foundation of what was required.
To develop a healthy lifestyle, we need to develop the habits of eating right and working out, giving away the temptation of consuming junk that is readily available or being at the comfort of our couches at all times.
To develop a sound financial background, we need to harness the discipline of saving and avoid the urge of gratifying ourselves through mindless splurges.
We would rather let a relationship take its own time in exploring the depths, the highs and the lows and eventually become stronger by understanding the goodness and shortcomings of ourselves and our partners.
Alcohol in a measured quantity, money or any other material is not disruptive by themselves, however the believes for which they get used or chased manifests it into vices.
We need to align our thoughts to what kind of gratification do we really need to seek, as those thoughts convert into words then into actions and eventually into our habits.
When we condition our brain cells to these thoughts our habits are formed and more sooner than later the rewarding habits become a way of life, just as the unrewarding habits were also a way of life.
Would you choose to satisfy yourself by eating the marshmallow immediately or delaying your gratification to be doubly rewarded.
Each one of us are presented with choices that eventually describe our character through the habits we develop.