Discipline and Delayed Gratification-Are you able to delay your gratification?
I will open my post today with an old story that I have borrowed from a post about children and delayed gratification. I believe it shows well the starting point for my post about discipline and delaying gratification.
The Marshmallow Study, conducted in the 1960’s by Stanford University psychology researcher Michael Mischel, demonstrated how important self-discipline is to lifelong success. He started his longitudinal study by offering a group of 4-year-olds one marshmallow, but told them that if they could wait for him to return after running an errand, they could have two marshmallows. The “errand” took about fifteen to twenty minutes. The theory was that those children who could wait would demonstrate that they had the ability to delay gratification and control impulse.
How important is your child’s ability to delay immediate gratification? (Very important.) Is self-discipline a predictor of a child’s success later in life? (Yes.) Can a child who does not know how to delay immediate gratification be taught this skill? (Absolutely.)
Ok. Let’s take a moment and think about the child in our lives before I give you the results of the study. Close your eyes, visualize your child in The Marshmallow Study room chair. Is she eating? Is he waiting? We all know exactly what our children will do – or do we?
About fourteen years later, when the children in the experiment graduated from high school, the Marshmallow Study revealed startling differences between the two groups: the children who waited and did not gobble up the single marshmallow, were more positive, self-motivating, persistent in the face of difficulties, and able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. They had developed the habits of successful adults. The habits, the centerpiece of which is delayed gratification, point to more thriving marriages, greater career satisfaction which leads to higher incomes, and better health.
The children who did NOT wait were more troubled, stubborn and indecisive, mistrustful, less self-confident. And, they were still unable to delay immediate gratification. Worse yet, these “one marshmallow” kids scored an average of 210 points less on SAT tests. Why? Distraction and the desire for instant gratification got in the way of good, focused study time. If not corrected, lack of impulse control will continue to trip these kids up throughout life, resulting in unsuccessful marriages, low job satisfaction and as a result low income, bad health and all around frustration with life.
While we are not children, I believe the same principles that hold true in this story still play out in adulthood. I can think back to many instances where my own personal self discipline has been, and is still, tested. There are many instances I can think of where my delay of gratification has been a painful process and one that I am always not successful at accomplishing. My first college experience was a failure because I could not learn to compartmentalize my time at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and chose to resign my commission as a Midshipman rather than put up with the day to day grind and rigor of the life at the Yard. I can also remember later experiences, many of them relating to outdoor experiences while canoeing or backpacking where I was better equipped to tolerate short-term discomfort in order to accomplish greater goals that involved spending time with my sons and others in some of the most memorable Scouting experiences in my life.
We will spend more time talking about this topic, but my question to you today is this: What is the greatest example of personal self-discipline you have shown in your life?