Delayed gratification or in other words self-control

On 21 June, 2009 by Carol

I’ve been watching some videos on TED.com today and one of the videos, as you’ll see below, is about delayed gratification. Then i remembered abut some books and some studies i’ve been reading the last few years about this subject and…here i am making a post about it.

Delayed gratification is by definition : ” the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants. This ability is usually considered to be a personality trait which is important for life success. Daniel Goleman has suggested that it is an important component of emotional intelligence. People who lack this trait are said to need instant gratification and may suffer from poor impulse control.

All the books i read about this subject have one example in common: “The marshmallow test“.
This test was conducted in the 60’s by the American psychologist Walter Mischel who tested 4 year old children as following:
They were brought into a room and a marshmallow was placed on the table in front of them. They were then told that if they waited 15 minutes without eating the marshmallow, they will be given another one.
Some kids ate it, some not.
As those kids were growing up, the scientist were observing them and relate the marshmallow test results to their success and failure.
Those who didn’t eat the marshmallow were more successful than the ones that did eat it.
In the video bellow, Joachim De Posada talks about and demonstrates this test with a group of children.

Don’t eat the marshmallow yet | Video on TED.com.

It’s a popular belief that those who can delay gratification become later on successful people, but not everyone hunts success.
There are some that purely hunt “self-control”, some that avoid getting greedy and some others that understand results on the long term or better put, they understand the impact of their impulses.
Monks are the first example to come in my mind right now.

Can i delay gratification? Sure i can, but not for everything.
I can delay it for food without a blink, for sweets, for clothes and so many other things. You learn to do that when you don’t have a choice.
Those who struggle know what i am talking about.

But there is one thing i can’t delay if i have to do it alone: smoking.
I’d probably end up saying “to hell with it!” while blowing the smoke off.
If i had to go through a test to survive the 15 minutes or 15 hours a cigarette, i would pass it but is only because i would know what’s in it for me at the end of the test. And no, is not getting two cigarettes at the end. It’s gratification, not the instant one….it’s being pleased with myself for managing to resist the urge. This is priceless. Delayed gratification is good for your soul.

If you wish you learn more about this subject, all you have to do is google the subject and you will get tons of results.


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