Skip to content

Who resists a Marshmallow? Instant gratification & The culture of unmet desires.

James wetu, youth coach

Hey there, the last quarter of the year is fast approaching! Yes, and it will come riding very fast! So, where are you on the things you said matter to you and you wanted to work on them? Any progress this far?

I came across a statement while browsing my notes, not sure, where I got it from, but it was on my notebook anyway; it read; if you cannot paint a vivid picture of your future, you have little motivation to plan for it. That sound harsh, is it? Nevertheless, it got me thinking about my goals and my desires.

I plan for my future; I have clear aims I am pursuing daily with hope of achieving them. The picture is so clear in my mind, the lifestyle I would love to live, the people around me and so on. However, achieving them is not a rocket science. We grapple with hurdles and monsters in the process and often, people give up. I pray it is not you!

To be sincere, achieving set goals can be an uphill task. Personally, it still struggle following up on my goals. I oversleep, I forget making that call, I forget I was to read, I shortchange writing with chatting and many other activities I slowly overlook. Why is it so? When I clearly know my future depends on carrying out those tasks?

Let me share thoughts on how you can remain focused on your goals and the most important things about your life.

To focus on your most important aspects of your life, it involves tradeoffs. What is it you are trading? What satisfies you now at the expense of your future is the tradeoff.

In the modern world where everything is happening so fast because of technology and where an overnight sensations become obsolete the following day calls for deliberate scrutiny of what causes us lasting bliss and satisfaction. I have not read of an age where so much promise for happiness and satisfaction existed than in today’s world. Advertisements have taken a superior function in shaping our choices and have actually managed in making our decisions predictable, with attached promise for satisfaction.

Instant gratification is satisfaction gained by impulsive or hasty behaviors, choosing now over tomorrow compared to delayed gratification, which promise better long-term rewards. Wikipedia states gratification as the pleasurable reaction of happiness in response to a fulfillment of a desire or a goal.

The kids and the Marshmallow.

Daniel Goleman explains an experiment carried out by Walter Mischel on effects of impulses. He explains it in his famous book, Emotional Intelligence.

Walter Mischel developed the famous Marshmallow experiment to test gratification. The experimenter went with marshmallows in a classroom containing four year olds and told them, if you wait until I run an errand then come back, you could have two marshmallows for a treat. If you cannot wait until then, you have only one and you can have it now.

This certainly is a challenge for a four-year-old soul with an internal battle between impulse and restraint, desire and self-control, gratification and delay. As we shall note late, the preference the child chooses says more than just the character but also the trajectory that the child will take through life. Read about marshmallow here told help you understand the temptation to eat it

The four year olds who were able to wait to what seemed an endless fifteen minutes; to sustain themselves in their struggle; covered their eyes so they wouldn’t have to stare at the temptation, rested their heads in their arms, sang, talked to themselves and even tried going to sleep. Just the way you would avoid a movie to save for a holiday with family or afford you child a Disney cap. These preschoolers got their two marshmallows reward but others, more impulsive, grabbed the one marshmallow usually within seconds of the experimenter leaving the room did not.

The truth emerged twelve to fourteen years later when these same students were tracked down as adolescents. Those who resisted the temptations at four were now, more socially competent: personally effective, self-assertive and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to regress under stress or become rattled and disorganized when pressured. They embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up even in the face of difficulties. They were self-reliant and confident and they took initiative and plunged into projects.

They became academically competent, better able put their ideas in to words, able to use and respond to reason, to concentrate, to make plans and follow them and more eager to learn. They also scored high on tests and, more than a decade, they were still able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals.

The others who grabbed for the marshmallow, however, tended to have fewer of these qualities and showed instead a relatively more troubled psychological portrait. They were more likely to be seen to shy away from social contacts, stubborn and indecisive, easily upset by frustration, to think of themselves as unworthy and also become immobilized by stress, to be resentful and mistrusted, overreact and sharp temper and after all these years still were unable to put off gratification

So what?

the brain and the effect of impulses

From this experiment, it is easy to note that the choice of whether to delay or effect an impulse that promise satisfaction is rooted in our emotion circuitry. I had to share this because it is essential and valuable for goal pursuers.

The ability to delay gratification contributes powerfully in determining whether we achieve our goals or whether we live a contented lifestyle. Poor impulse control in children is powerful indicator of later delinquency like the one explained in the experiment. As Daniel Goleman writes ‘Goal directed, self-imposed delay of gratification is perhaps the essence of emotional self-regulation: the ability to deny impulse in the service of a goal, whether it is in building a business or solving algebra just shows how well one is able to use his/her mental capacities.

It is evident how impulses can actually make us achieve as well as forfeit long term goals either in pursuit of business, relationship, education among other life goals.

How do I deal with desire for instant gratification?

According to Positive psychology, you can adopt a combination of the following to navigate freely and help you delay gratification if need be.

  1. Empathize with your future self. Before making a decision between instant and delayed gratification, take a moment to think about your futureself. How will your future you feel if you choose instant gratification? Will your future self be happy you made this decision the way you did, or will your future self wish you had opted for delayed gratification?
  2. Pre-commitment. Make some decisions beforehand to avoid the temptation to divulge.
  3. Break down big goals into small, manageable chunks. Big goals are fun set and can be motivating, trying to meet a big, distant goal; it is hard to stick to your long-term goal. Breaking these big goals into smaller pieces with rewards after each step makes you more committed and more likely to make the best decisions.

All the best in your endeavors.

What are your thoughts on gratification? Do you have an experience on managing the urge to satisfy an impulse?

Feel welcome to share on the comments section below.

1 Comment »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: