Have you ever heard of the Marshmallow experiment?
If you haven’t there are several videos on YouTube, but basically you’ll see several kids sitting in front of a single large marshmallow going nearly crazy because they are not supposed to eat it.
The children have been told that if they can wait a while — i.e. resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow while the researcher is out of the room — they will get a second marshmallow as a reward after the set period of time.
Some grab the marshmallow and eat it right away, but others wait and are rewarded. Naturally it’s hilarious watching the children’s faces contort with emotion!
This experiment may seem simple, but the insights gained from it are powerful. Those who don’t eat the marshmallow right away show their ability to control their desire for immediate gratification in order to get a better reward later.
This concept, which psychologists call ‘delayed gratification’, makes a huge impact on various aspects of life. Research has shown that kids who are able to wait usually end up being more successful in school, having better social skills, are more confident and more resistant to stress.
But what does that mean for our relationships?
I’ve realised that every day, I get to decide how I spend my time and energy. When I invest it in my marriage or in my relationship with my kids, the immediate ‘reward’ is often small. It could be ten years or more before I see the impact of these ‘investments’; a relationship with my wife that is still loving and kids that confide in me, for example.
However, when I decide to invest my time in a project at work or spend “quality time” with my laptop, it’s different: I might receive an immediate ‘reward’ like praise and affirmation at work, or peace and quiet in front of a screen.
But I’ve asked myself: where will these decisions lead in ten years?
And, if I want to achieve the things in the future that are really important to me, what do I need to do now?
I decided to make a simple plan to be intentional and invest time and energy in those things that are really important to me — my marriage and family — even if there isn’t an immediate or visible reward.
I’m trusting that the second marshmallow will come later!
Moving to the next level in your relationship:
- Write down things that are really important to you in your life. Which are your top three?
- What things can you do to intentionally invest time and energy into those things, even if there isn’t an immediate or visible reward?
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