One of my favourite childhood stories was actually an experiment and long-term observational study that was conducted on children. The Stanford Marshmallow Study. This study wanted to find out whether children were able to make smart, rational choices or would they give in to short term temptation and cave-in to their desires (even if it meant them getting ‘less’ eventually.
A number of children were placed in a room individually and each was asked just one question.
Do you want a marshmallow now, or if you wait for 15 minutes (without anyone watching you), get 2 marshmallows instead?
Some children obviously decided on having the marshmallow ‘right now’, right that moment. However, a significantly smaller number of children opted to wait the time out (in anticipation of getting 2 later). They knew they if they sacrificed their current ‘wants’, they would be able to be ‘better off’ eventually. They recognised that short-term sacrifice would pay off and worth the ‘torture’ of waiting out. It definitely wasn’t easy making such a decision of self-deprivation for future intangible gains, especially since they were so young.
Many years down the road, those people who conducted the study followed up with those children who were by then, adults. They found that most of those children who opted to wait out for 2 marshmallows instead, they were doing better financially compared to the former group who couldn’t wait. They were better savers, investors and in more control of their finances. They were able to successfully reason within and convince themselves that the many years of living under their means would eventually be worth it. To not give in to the temptation of splurging on pretty things, or on the latest Iphone.
This brings me to my next point. We all know that we should wait. But are we honestly able to get ourselves to wait it out, especially when we are tempted? During our low moments in life when we’re just so stressed out and alone?
Eventually, I feel that all this boils down to just what we decide to do. The system doesn’t care how much you’ve struggled within yourself. It only cares about WHAT YOU EVENTUALLY DID. Did you give in or not?? I’m not saying that these mental struggles don’t matter. They do. But they don’t get you results. If you really want to succeed, DON’T CAVE IN.
This brings me to my last point. I’m honestly quite curious as to what you guys, my readers think.
Imagine you were one of the children in that study. But instead of hearing the person saying you either get 1 marshmallow now, or 2 in 15 MINUTES, they ask you “Would you rather get 1 marshmallow now, or wait ONE HOUR to flip a coin. If you flip heads, you will get 5 marshmallows. But if you flip tails, you won’t get any.”
Which would you choose? And why?
To find out, I conducted a poll on my instagram account. Here are the results!
Pretty interesting isn’t it? Majority of the people who polled, chose the option to have the marshmallow now instead of choosing to wait.
Now i’m curious.. would the answers still remain the same if I changed the first option from 1 marshmallow to $10 and the second option from 5 marshmallows to $50? 🤔 What about if I offered $50 and $250 instead? Hmm…
Thanks for reading,
Paul Chong 👣
P.s. If you’re interested, theres actually a recent update to this study. They say that its not the ability to have delayed gratification that predicts a kid’s future success in life. Its how they were brought up. What kind of environment they grew up in. Interesting isn’t it? You can read more about it over HERE.