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The famous Stanford marshmallow study

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:23pm

When parents ask a common question that is "When should my child start setting goals?"  
This question indicates a complete lack of understanding of what a goal actually is.  Goal achieving is something that is, or should, be going on every hour of your life.

Here's a story that will help explain this concept...

In the 1960s, Psychologist Walter Mischel and his staff wanted to know to what extent the ability to delay immediate gratification might influence later educational and life success.

The study involved 400 four-year-olds.

Each child was put in a room by themselves with a two-way mirror and filmed. On the table in the room was a marshmallow.  The researcher then told each child that, "I've got to leave for about 10 minutes.You can eat this marshmallow now if you want.  Or if you wait till I get back, you can have two marshmallows when I get back."

Some of the kids where pretty determined to wait; one child actual licked the table all round the marshmallow but avoided the marshmallow itself.  Some could wait a few minutes only.  Others gobbled it down immediately.

The researchers continued to track these 400 children throughout their school careers and into early adult life.

The results were dramatic.

"Those who had deferred eating the marshmallow for 15-20 minutes in order to get the bigger prize just a few minutes later were more socially competent, personally effective, self-assertive and better able to cope with the frustrations of life.

They were less likel to go to pieces, freeze, 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 more self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable; they took initiative and
plunged into projects; More than a decade later, they could still delay gratification in the pursuit of their goals."

According to their parents' evaluations, the children who had waited were academically superior, could better put their ideas into words, use and respond to reason, could concentrate better, make plans and follow through on them, were more eager to learn.

This simple little marshmallow test of the ability to delay gratification has shown to be a better predictor than IQ what future SAT scores will be.  In fact, the kids who could wait just 15-20 minutes scored, on average, 210 points better on their SATs than the "instant gratification" group.

12-14 years LATER.

You see, discipline is not factual knowledge... it's who you are.  You can't get discipline from a book.  Most of those pre-schoolers couldn't read a lick.

There is a Chinese proverb that says "If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow."

In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck writes, "Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life's problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems."

Good advice?  You tell me.

Sadly, today's society is set up to give us what we want now.  We're told at every turn that we deserve more now.  Take it.  Don't wait.  Screw patience.

Does this all mean that if we don't have self-discipline by the age of four, we're doomed to a life of mediocrity and failure?


At Think Right Now, they've studied this in depth.

They've taken people who can't say no to anything, who are distracted at every turn, who can't keep their minds on their work and helped them turn it around...

So they can get the bigger prizes later and enjoy the process.

Simple little tweaks.

To do this, our program, Setting & Achieving Goals Now! - is amply filled with repatterning statements specifically designed to reverse any lack of self-discipline...

This means better jobs, better pay, higher confidence, better relationships, better health and more guilt-free fun...


Dear Mike,

I have been using your Setting & Achieving Goals Now program - for the past 4-6 months and I want you to know it has made such a difference in my life.

When I first came across your website - I kept wondering what the catch was.  When I realized that all I had to do was listen to the CD's I thought "whatever", it can't hurt.  I so glad I decided to move forward.

The change has been great. I had been a stay at home mom for over a year, I wanted to get back in the work force, but I was scared and confused.  I didn't know where to start.  I just starting listening to the CD every day and suddenly plans and objectives jumped into my head; clues on what to do and how to
reach my objectives came from everywhere.  I am proud to say I am now working in a job I love and keep reaching the goals I set for myself.  

Misti, GA

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