The Secret Of Delayed Gratification
Could you sit with your favorite cookie in front of you and not eat it? Could you eye a favorite shirt at the department store and make a choice not to buy it?
Surprisingly, many individuals can’t. Whether in their relationships with finances, food, work, or romance, many people find it difficult-to-impossible to resist the urges they feel in order to avoid impulse decisions. Why do you think rates of personal debt are so high and savings are so low? Why do you think rates of obesity are at epidemic levels? Why do you think relationships are more volatile and strained than ever before?
The Marshmallow Experiment
In 1970 psychologist Walter Mischel famously placed a marshmallow in front of a group of children and gave them a choice: they could eat the marshmallow immediately, or they could wait until he returned a few minutes later and then be rewarded with a second. If they didn’t wait, however, they would not get a second marshmallow.
The choice was simple: they could have one treat right now or two treats later.
Upon leaving, many children ate the marshmallow almost immediately. A few, though, resisted eating the first marshmallow long enough to receive the second.
Mischel termed these children high-delay children.
Published in 1972, this popular study became known as The Marshmallow Experiment, but it wasn’t the treat that made it famous. The fascinating part came years later.
The Power of Delayed Gratification
Interestingly, the children who were best able to delay gratification in the marshmallow experiment, later on did better in school and had fewer behavioral problems than the children who could only resist eating the marshmallow for a few minutes.
As adults, the high-delay children ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures. In contrast, the children who had the most trouble delaying gratification had higher rates of incarceration as adults and were more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
The researchers followed each child for more than 40 years. Repeatedly, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeeded in whatever capacity they were measuring. In other words, this series of experiments proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.
The Bible speaks clearly to the concept of self-control. Here are a few verses that show the importance God places on the ability to delay gratification, to manage our emotional impulses and to make wise choices for ourselves both short-and long-term.
Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)
A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls.
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Titus 2:2 (NLT)
Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have strong faith and be filled with love and patience.
2 Peter 1:5,6 (NIV)
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.
God thinks this is pretty important, huh? That is why I wrote my book, Peace For a Lifetime. It speaks to the vital nature of our relationship with our emotions, our need to feel, understand, and think differently so we can effectively and wisely manage our impulses in order to achieve the plans God has designed for us.
Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future lives and crimes to society. _Daniel Webster
Learning To Say ‘No’ To Ourselves
So is this where we give up, tell ourselves we would have taken the marshmallow and sulk in our hot chocolate? I hope not!
What I love so much about the journey is that Emotional Abundance is never too late to develop or acquire. You may not be good at delayed gratification today, but you can always train yourself, just like you train your muscles at the gym.
In his book, Play The Man, NY Times bestselling author, Mark Batterson, talks about the secret sauce to success in self-control. He states, We want success without sacrifice, but life doesn’t work that way. Success will not be short-changed. You have to pay the price, and it never goes on sale. The best decision you can make for yourself is making decisions against yourself.
The best decision you can make for yourself is making decisions against yourself.Click To Tweet
Exercising the no muscle gave Jesus the strength to withstand the temptations of satan in the wilderness, and the no muscle is the one thing that will help you withstand the temptations you face throughout your day. Exercising discipline physically helps develop discipline spiritually and emotionally.
As Batterson adds, Discipline begets discipline.
What area do you need to develop your no muscle? Where are your triggers? What areas do your children have difficulties using their no muscles?
Is it hard for you to say no to:
– spending money?
– an angry outburst when something doesn’t go your way?
– your sexual appetites?
– making everyone around you happy?
– social media?
– what about video games, technology, alcohol, sports?
The next time you find yourself having the impulse to do something you know you shouldn’t —to skip the work project you should really get done, or to buy something you shouldn’t just because you want it —don’t. Yes, don’t.
Strengthening Our ‘No’ Muscles
Instead, allow yourself to feel the emotions inside when you say no to yourself. Listen to name the emotions, understand where they are coming from, and coach yourself honestly and truthfully through the emotions towards a positive reward at the end.
The truth for me is, I don’t really need this extra helping of mashed potatoes. The truth is, what I am really wanting is to feel loved and valued. The truth is, God loves me and I love me. I want to care for myself well and get my body in the shape that would make me feel best. And the truth is, if I don’t get that extra helping right now, I will give myself my favorite fruit after my workout as a treat. And my body will thank me later. That will be the best gift to myself.
We can do this!
Hebrews 4:15 (NIV) tells us, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
John 16:33 (NIV) adds, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
We can develop our ability to delay gratification and in doing so, we will watch everything around us begin to change. Life becomes calmer, we are better able to manage our emotions, our time, our resources, and we get to experience the life we’ve always dreamed.
Life does not always have to feel out of reach. Success isn’t just for someone else. Peace is achievable, sustainable.
Yes, delaying gratification is definitely worth the wait!
About This Community
Don’t we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that – a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891
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