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 😉