Friday, September 18, 2015

Stupid Marshmallow!

"If you're thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you are going to eat it," Mischel said. "The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place."
-excerpt from Money Secrets of the Amish
I've just had a light bulb moment. I virtually always eat the marshmallow. I'm ruined.

I received the other book *my husband bought* today. The third chapter is titled, "Don't eat the marshmallow: delayed gratification." In a study some four year olds were presented with a marshmallow. They were told they could eat it right then OR if they waited something like an hour they could have two marshmallows. Many chose instant gratification and ate the one marshmallow right then. Some chose to wait so they could get two. The ones who chose to wait didn't sit there staring at the marshmallow on the table but rather played hide and seek under the table or distracted themselves in other ways.

I am terrible, down right horrible with delayed gratification. My husband is even worse than I. Oh goodness how have we survived these past thirteen years living our adult lives together!?!? If I want to eat something I eat it now. It doesn't matter how nutritious it is or if I'm even hungry. If I want it I eat it. I have slowly trained myself to desire less and less things in terms of purchases but I have a VERY difficult time waiting if I do want to purchase something. Heck, sometimes I'll make a grocery plan for the week and even though, on a Friday evening I don't need to run to the store for another two days (when I will actually be at the store working) I'll run out regardless just because I can't wait to buy those groceries I have committed to paper. Sometimes I'll have a plan to do these chores or those, whatever, but if I want to watch a show or read a book or sit down at the computer instead, good riddance to you delayed gratification, those chores can wait I'm going to do the fun thing instead. Neither my husband nor myself hardly ever make it to the actual holiday or birthday before giving each other the gifts we've gotten for one another. I'm looking over my habits and lifestyle and realizing I am horrible in this regard.

The book talks about how delayed gratification is one of the money secrets of the Amish. They are very good at waiting for the bigger picture. Let's face it delayed gratification usually makes the thing you were waiting for better and often times, like getting the two marshmallows later as opposed to the one right now, the outcome of delayed gratification is bigger and better than what it's instant counter part would have been.

Oh, please tell me you can teach an old dog new tricks? (I know, I know that you can) I was not taught this as a child. When my parents split, at age ten, we kiddos began basically taking care of ourselves. This of course meant for the most part we ate what we wanted when we wanted, as long as it was in the fridge or cupboards. We did what we wanted when we wanted. Heck I was the only one in the family that ever cleaned anything and only to maintain my sanity. I never did homework, for school. Honestly almost never. Well, now that I've identified a HUGE area of myself that needs working on... oh boy, not something else. This is truly a root cause for many of my issues though. Oh that darn Marshmallow!

And now there's something else that I consciously need to work on with my little one. Honestly, since I was never taught it, I can look at my parenting style and delayed gratification is not something I instill in him often. Wow. Just wow.
Walter Mischel, the Standford professor of psychology in charge of the marshmallow experiment, was quoted in a 2009 New Yorker article: ""This is where your parents are important," he said. "Have they established rituals that force you to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage you to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile?" According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood - such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning - are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we're teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires."
-excerpt from Money Secrets of the Amish


  1. You reminded me of one of my favorite lines from literature. In the play, The Importance of Being Ernest", Gwendolen says, "The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts."

    That's delayed gratification in a nutshell.

    1. Perfect! Yeah, no, me and suspense don't do well together.

  2. I read a book about health & nutrition once. It basically says, when you see a treat & want it desperately, think about whether it's the kind of thing you can only get once a year or less frequently (special birthday treat, something only made at Christmas, etc) & if it is, have it in a filling but small portion & enjoy every bite of it slowly.

    If it's not, let's say it's a kit kat bar (one of my current weaknesses, which is terrible, because the chocolate isn't even that good), ask yourself what will happen if you don't eat it right now. Try to wait, have a piece of fruit, etc. If you still really, really want it after an extended period of time, have half of what you were planning to have.

    All said, slowly build up to delayed gratification, and learn the difference between something you can't have often vs something that's always available.

    I'm not perfect at this (as evidenced by the 10+ pounds I need to lose), but I'm much more of a stress eater than anything else.

    Much better at delayed gratification on the finance side vs health/eating side. ;-)

    1. Me too, with being better at the finances side vs. eating.

      That is very good advice; sounds like an excellent way to practice delayed gratification with treats. I really do need to and intend to start working on this. I had not before thought of this as an issue involving delayed gratification but shoot now I realize I have a serious issue with that aspect of will power in general, not just with food and health.