On, December 29, Shane gave a practical example to thoughts and feelings I’ve been having. The example he used is the “Marshmallow Test” or “Marshmallow Challenge”. The basic premise is you tell a child, “Here is a marshmallow for you. You can eat it now, or you can wait and when I come back I’ll give you a second one.” The test is to see how well your child has self control, can they defer reward in the short term for a greater reward later.
Here’s an example of the test
Looking back at myself, I would have passed that test like a boss. But here’s the weird bit, I would have passed that test so hard I would have ended up failing it. I realize that’s a very confusing statement. Consider, the point of the test is to forgo a small reward now for a bigger reward later. For me I’d forgo the smaller reward and then forget that there was a reward. So ultimately I would fail the test. I’d have excellent self control, but nothing to show for it. Thus the self control is almost self punishment.
This how things were for … well for quite some time. But I’m pleased to say that this has been an area of growth! I am now gathering more of the rewards that come from forgoing near rewards. And interestingly enough some of that is actually getting more of the shorter term rewards. One example is my recent phone upgrade. I have gone from a Razr v3 to an iPhone 5s – yes that is quite a jump, from 2008 to 2013. Part of the delay was my rocky relationship with employment over the last few years. And some of it is the inevitable analysis paralysis that comes from having to make a relativity large decision with lots of variables and many good choices. But if I’m really honest with myself the decision was made several years ago when I got my first and the first iPhone. I ain’t about to knock any of the other good choices, just saying for me, I was already committed.
But why wait so long? Well, there’s a weird level of perfectionism but more than anything else it was a misguided belief that there’d be an even better marshmallow later. This is a fallacy and while yes, technology and life move forward and continue to improve, that won’t mean this awesome thing you have now is any less awesome. It just might not be the newest version. But me, I’d hem and haw, look at the other awesome choices, consider, re-consider, second guess the re-consideration, second guess the second guessing, get fed up with the whole affair and push it off to tomorrow, and then repeat. This is a somewhat destructive version of self control. There’s a thing you want, you have the means to achieve it, there is the opportunity to achieve it, and yet you still don’t have it. I’ve learned that when enough pieces line up, puting it off isn’t really a good thing. As someone smarter than I has said, “That thing you want to do, that you love. Go do it.” Sorta like following your bliss but less hippie-dippie.
There is reward in doing the thing/getting the thing that you want. Sometimes the doing of it is even more enjoyable than the getting. If you never do, you can never receive. So action and choice are vital to being rewarded.