In 1972, American psychologist Walter Mischel and his colleagues at Stanford designed an experimental situation named “the marshmallow test”.
In this experiment. a child was asked to choose between a larger treat, such as two cookies or two marshmallows, and a smaller treat, such as one cookie or one marshmallow.
Of course, The child preferred the larger treats, the child was then told that to obtain that treat, He/She must wait for the researcher to return.
The child was also told that if he/she chose to call the researcher back, the researcher would return and the child would receive the smaller treat.
Simply put, the smaller treat(one cookie) is available now, but to get the larger treat. (tow cookies), You’d have to wait a while.
To get two cookies, the child would have to resist the temptation to get instant gratification. i.e Get that one cookie this minute!
The research further went on to study the choices that the kids made in real-time and drew a parallel with the choices they were making in high schools.
In 2020, Some celebrities did a trend with these(telling their kids to wait after putting their favourite cereals in front of them) that went viral on social media platforms
It turns out that kids who were able to wait for the larger treat in the experiments from age four also turned out to be more socially and academically successful as high-school students earning higher Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
That is, Patience is its own reward.
Does this make sense?
Whether it is saving money so you have enough in the future or blowing it on the latest gadget to look cool
Body surgeries for instant results vs going to the gym over a period of time to get in shape
Investing money in schemes that promise 60 ROI in 6 weeks or something legit that takes time for you to build and master a skill
As humans, we love instant results, but the laws of nature which dictate how we live does not play to that.
In Life! When you want to get something worthwhile, it requires a waiting period, where you practice and get good. It also follows the laws of nature – To reap, you have to sow and sowing requires patience from the minute you sew the seeds till it is time for harvest.
But in a world where we want everything INSTANTLY, this experiment was used to prove(as if we needed it) that anything worthwhile takes some time.
But how can you start practising this skill? What did those four years olds possess that allowed them delay getting one cookie now and wait a while to get two cookies? And how have they used it in life?
Angela Duckworth, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, defines grit as
“passionate commitment to a single mission and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission.”
She coined the term trying to understand what distinguishes the successes of some from the failure of others.
When we want something in life, there are a lot of distractions that would come between where we are and where we want to be
To be a better singer, you’d have to put in hours and hours of practice. That means giving up time every day, taking singing classes, getting coached and doing this over a long period.
This goes with preparing for an interview or an exam. You’d have to give up the immediate rewards of scrolling through social media and Netflix to carve out study time.
You are always giving up something now if you want to get something later. Or getting something now and giving up something better later.
So how have these four-year-olds taught us to develop grit and stay focussed when we have a mission at hand? How can you work without being distracted?
Let’s look at 5 ways from these 4-year-olds
How to develop Grit by Staying focused on the rewards
During the most difficult moments, kids in the experiment sang to pass the time or imagined the marshmallow as a cloud – your ability to distract yourself from the hardship in front of you dictates your ability to surmount it.
Know who you are. Know what you stand for. Know that no obstacle in your way will be too great to prevent you from getting to where you said you were going.
As always, Trust your gut. Follow your heart. Don’t look back
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