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 😉

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

Are you in Love?

I will start my post today with something I heard on my way to work this week: “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job” (by Jim Rohn). I kept thinking about that and the first thought that came to my mind were my relationships. I think that is a great analysis to make to understand where you want to go and who you want to be. It’s been a while that I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with my professional life, something with true purpose.

After hearing those words, I remembered about how I felt in my first serious relationship. I started dating my first boyfriend because he was nice. We enjoyed time together but for me it was always ok, never amazing. Moving forward to next relationship, I feel different, butterflies in the stomach, maybe it is real love. Years pass by and I realize I am putting so much effort on the relationship, not on me, expecting the other person to change, things to change, praying for circumstances to change, and nothing happens.

Of course not, because the only person I can change is myself which consequently would change the situation. I realize I don’t want to be there anymore. It is much easier to know what you don’t want and, in my opinion, this is already a good start. It is a sign for change, that you need to move on so you can grow.

I made a choice, to get out of a relationship that it was not good for me anymore. I opened myself for life and started experience more. Even not having discovered what I wanted back then, when you open yourself and are able to receive, boom, true love finally appears! You can feel it in every single cell of your body! I felt in my heart, body and soul that I found my true life partner!

When you start to experiment life you will be in situations that won’t be great for you and at that time you don’t realize. It takes time to understand your feelings, sometimes more time than you think, but if you are constantly analyzing yourself and being aware to what you feel you will figure it out at some point.

I’ve been working at the same company for 13 years now. It’s been a good journey overall, though like a roller coaster sometimes, but it also allowed me to discover so much and to meet so many good people that I can only be grateful. However, I am feeling the same way as in my first relationship. I realized that I am in a good place, that provides me care, security, but I am not in love. I like, I have good times, and keep telling myself: “You are in a good situation, why change? Maybe if you just try more, try harder, the “just like” will become passion.”

Why bringing these examples? You have to relate with people for everything you do life, everything. Your job, your social group, your relationship, your family…living is interacting with people. And I think you need to be in love in all the areas in your life. Be in you love for your life, for your job, for your family. We don’t have just one goal in life, we have several. And these goals might change with time because WE are constantly changing.

Don’t just like what you do, be passionate about what you do! Finding out what you really want won’t be easy but never stop trying to discover these. Once you start investing more on yourself than in what you are doing things will become clearer. I made a choice this year to initiate a project that’s been long on paper and I will be very excited to soon share with you. Find your purpose, if you haven’t found yet don’t stop looking. I will finish today with of Steve Job’s quote “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

Enjoy your weekend!