The ability to delay or resist instant gratification is one of the most fundamental psychological skills.

A four-year-old is given a choice, have one marshmallow immediately or have two after waiting about 15 minutes.

It’s a challenge that surely would try the soul and restraint of any adult, never mind that of a pre- schooler.  It embraces the continual battle between impulse and restraint, desire and self-control. Turns out, the choice you make about the marshmallow, is a great indication of character and also of one’s future life direction.

As many of you may already know, this is the famous so-called “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment” carried out in the 60’s and 70’s by psychologist Walter Mischel, who tracked the participants from the start when they were four until they graduated from high school.

Those who resisted the initial temptation when they were four, became more socially adept, personally effective, more disciplined and better at coping with life’s pressures.

But, those who opted for the instant gratification at the young age, grew up demonstrating fewer of these qualities. They were lacking in social graces, stubborn and indecisive. They also got frustrated quicker, felt less deserving and got into arguments quicker.

What transpires from these early studies is a cautionary tale about how our traits and personalities from our formative years can influence our level of success later in life.  The ability to delay instant gratification or an impulse in the attainment of a goal is pivotal whether that be in closing a sale, building a business or winning a championship.

For those who lack the ability to control their impulses, all is not lost. There is, fortunately, also ample evidence that emotional skills can be enhanced as we make the journey through life.

We can remind ourselves to slow down and contemplate and not rush to react to every impulse.

Copyright 2015 John McGlinchey.  All Rights Reserved.,