Don’t Eat that Marshmallow: The Importance of Self Control

We are faced with more temptations than ever before. Don’t want to do an assignment? Then log onto Facebook, check your email or watch some YouTube videos.

Yet research scholars claim that the ability to persevere with a task in the face of temptations (i.e. self control) is our number 1 success strategy. And we know this because of the trusty marshmallow.

You see, back in the sixties researcher Walter Michael conducted the famous marshmallow experiment at Stanford University. He put 4 year old children in a room by themselves, placed a marshmallow in front of them and gave them a simple choice-

“You can have the marshmallow now or you can wait 15 minutes and get 2 marshmallows”

He then left the room and observed the child’s behaviour.

10 years later, Walter Michael surveyed the same students to see how they were going.

Interestingly, the children who had resisted eating the marshmallow had better school grades and social success than the children who ate the marshmallow straight away. They could also manage their stress levels more effectively and were less likely to have problems with their weight. For a modern summary of this research, check out the TED talk by Joachim de Posada below.

So why were the students who had resisted eating the marshmallow better off?

Well, they were more likely to go to their classes, get on with doing their school work, resist eating unhealthy foods, etc. The simple reason being that they had better self control (willpower).

The good news is it doesn’t matter if you would have gobbled down the marshmallow straight away at the age of 4. Why?

Because self control is like a muscle: it can be strengthened with the right activities and lifestyle. It may feel uncomfortable or difficult initially, but the more you do it the easier it gets.

For my next blog post I’ll be releasing our latest mind map called “Strengthening Self Control”. It covers some basic information on self control, things to avoid to maintain self discipline as well as simple strategies to strengthen your self control. Stay tuned!