The Marshmallow Test

Reading about willpower I kept myself thinking about life situations I’ve lived and knew I’ve stayed there for a long time. Relationships and career are definitely topics I would include in this discussion. How many times have I thought to quit my job? I lost the count. Haven’t I done it because of fear or thinking that things would truly get better? A relationship that is not working, have I tried for still loving that person or for thinking that he could change? In reality, I won’t have an accurate answer for these questions but one thing I know, if I stayed there that long it was because it was a choice and certainly offered me great opportunities to grow. I resisted the marshmallow temptation.

The Stanford marshmallow experiment, conducted in the 1960s, was a series of studies in which scientists had tested the willpower of a group of four-years-old. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between eating one marshmallow provided immediately or two if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, ability  to maintain  friendships, and their capacity to “cope with important problems”. By the 1980s, a theory emerged that became generally accepted: Willpower is a learnable skill, something that can be taught the same way kids learn to do math and say “thank you”. (Source: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhig).

It is hard to say when we must make a decision. How to resist the sweet marshmallow for 15 minutes when you don’t have a clock? Maybe 15 minutes have passed, or would it be 13? It doesn’t matter really, things will happen at its own time. However, every so often time seems to fly. In other moments it just seems to drag. But something inside of you say: that’s it, time has arrived, and today I need to do something to change. “Will power is a timing issue. Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some down time. It’s a limited but renewable resource”. With that said, you can only do certain things in one day. Until you go to bed, recover your energies, and retrieve your will power to start again. That’s why I always say, if you feel stuck and think there is no solution for that discussion or problem, go to sleep!

My goal today is to have several sources of income. I believe, after reading and hearing so many successful stories, that is the way for financial freedom. Not to focus exclusively in one source for the rest of your life. Trying to understand how willpower works is fundamental to implement your multiple objectives and projects. I believe we have to adjust daily to the situations that are put in front of us. I am getting into conclusion that having a rigid life with discipline doesn’t work, flexibility is the key. Things will happen that will change the plans ahead of you. They will consume your willpower muscle and drain your energy sometimes. But like your mobile battery, you can recharge every night. Adjust to the “storms of life”, focus of the most important thing for that day, and concentrate on your success list not on your to do list.

Reading more and more about this subject, things are getting clearer for me. Genuinely, once you understand the characteristics of willpower and accept the fact that it is a limited resource but renewable, the management of your tasks and goals in life will be handled in a better way. Discover how your battery works, don’t fight against it. Willpower is not an endless source of energy, it is a muscle! It gets tired sometimes 😉

Features x Benefits

When thinking about my projects and the ways I will implement them, I have to deal with obstacles that are mostly in my mind and related to my attitudes: doubt, confusion, laziness, frustration. I know my mind is in full capacity, producing all these amazing ideas, but it takes effort, patience, and most of all, persistence to put it place. This mid-June I’ve been passing through a lot: pregnancy, moving to another country, dealing with a new culture, learning a new language, selling an apartment, and having to find a new routine with my husband. The latter I have to say, is a constant challenge. Simply because being in a relationship, living with another person, no matter how much you love him or her, how right you are for each other, is a freaking challenge. We are different people, we have different personalities, we were raised differently. So, how to persist and invest on a successful relationship?

During my morning studies I bumped with a video about Copywriting that mentioned about Features x Benefits. We all heard how we must advertise Benefits instead of Features. We are selling feelings because this is what people buy. No one wants to be sold, they want to feel they are making a decision. And you know what, this is an absolute true for love and business. Why am I mentioning something personal here? Because if you don’t feel good with your personal life or you are way to stressed, this will impact your will power and drive to do other stuff. From my experience you would need to be in another level of balance to continue focused in your projects, in the same way, with the disrupt of stress on your personal side.

So, I kept thinking about Features x Benefits, over and over again yesterday. Why should I focus on the features of my relationship (he is doing this, or he hasn’t done that, or I don’t agree with this attitude, etc, etc), driving me mad, instead of thinking of the benefits of being together. About the life we are creating as a couple, the loving family we want to have, the funny moments we want to share…all the benefits we will have by being together, no matter what. I love a phrase from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the mother of the bride says: “The man is the head but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head anywhere she wants.”. I know about feelings, specially mine, and I will control them and not the way around. I will repeat something that Tony Robbins once said: “Nothing in Life has any meaning except for the meaning that I give it”. And I choose to have the life I desire, personally and professionally. Knowing yourself and how to control your mind and attitudes will help you to understand the benefits of every situation in your life, not the features.

Keep meditating, reading, learning and persisting.


Change your Perception

My last post (Are you in Love?) generated a discussion between a group of girlfriends from University that made me think about few things. Looking back at the peak of my work crisis, now connecting the dots, I see that there are lots of things that we can improve in our current situation without having throwing everything up in the air. Tony Robbins once said: “Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning that I give it.” Thinking about this sentence and remembering what I’ve lived during these “dark age” at work, with a demotivation beyond limits, I see that lots of what I’ve been through was inflated due to my perception.

Therefore, this had caused a lot of confusion inside of me, questioning innumerable occasions about my work, my career, thinking that the only way out would be a radical change. Literally, burn all the bridges behind you! Like that that would be no alternative than dedicate myself 1000% to my new plan. The biggest issue was I wasn’t sure about my plan. In reality I see I didn’t have a plan, I had an escape that wasn’t the solution for my problems.

I think it is extremely valid to analyze about how you are feeling and what are the reasons behind this, or where you would like to be in 3, 5 years’ time. However, it is not easy to find a resolution that will be the answer for your dilemma. What have I done instead to make my situation bearable and pleasant for me?

  1. Get away, right now, from people that complaint! Avoid contact with them as much as you can and if this encounter is inevitable you must learn how to shield yourself. Don’t fall into the trap! Complaining is contagious and when you start it can get out of control. Practice silence. Don’t argue, don’t create polemic. In other words, don’t add fuel to the fire.
  2. Doing something that you really enjoy after work helps lot! My passion is dance! I do salsa classes twice a week and when I am there, listening to the music and focusing on the movements, my mind stops worrying. Lots of my friends would say that having this personal time would be almost impossible because of their kids. Then, do something for your personal growth on the precious minutes you have alone. Sow your mind with positive things! Read a good book on your way to work, listen to good music or podcasts for your personal development. Do not keep thinking about all the worries of life during those 20 minutes.
  3. Change your perception. Today that task you do can be unbearable however it can be useful in the future. I remember I used to hate the classes of computer programming at University but if I had engaged myself how I should have done, today it would have helped me immensely! Do your best always!
  4. Be grateful for being able to learn something new, to hear, to think, to create! I guarantee next time you do that same task it will be tolerable.

It was not always I could put in practice what I have suggested above. Sometimes the stress is big and the only thing you will want to do is to scream and complain. Nonetheless, finding balance through the control of our thoughts and feelings is a DAILY exercise. Commit with yourself! Through the change of your attitude you will change your situation.

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” Émile Coué