I’ve written about rewarding yourself in my last few blogs.
In this one, I’ll explain why it is good to delay a reward.
- If you would like to understand more about why delaying a reward is beneficial, come to the next IMPACT Goal-setting workshop.
In another blog, I explained how rewards can help motivate you to complete a step.
Well, that’s not the complete picture.
You might want to delay that reward a little.
There was a delightful study by psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford University in the late 1960s about delaying gratification.
The question behind the test was simple: is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?
In the study, a child was offered a temptation, which would be doubled if they waited.
The researchers were trying to work out why some children had the self-control to wait whereas others didn’t.
It became known as the “Marshmallow Test”, because marshmallows were one of the temptations that were offered.
The researchers created a plain room, which became known as the “Surprise Room”, because the temptations were thought of as surprises.
It had little furniture and little to distract the child.
It also had a one-way screen so that the researchers could watch what was going on without those in the room seeing them.
They used the room to observe how a child handled temptation.
A researcher would spend time in the Surprise Room building the trust of the child through play and other activities.
Once trust was established, the researcher would seat the child at a table and place a single, tempting marshmallow on a plate in front of the child.
The researcher would tell the child that she was going out of the room and would be back soon.
She would also tell the child that if he waited until she got back, then he would be given a second marshmallow as a reward.
You can find videos of how the children fight the temptation to have the first marshmallow – or other tasty delights – on the Internet.
The videos make very funny viewing as the child goes through an excruciating process deciding whether to eat the marshmallow or not.
Some of their facial expressions are a delight to watch!
Mischel continued to follow up the children over the course of their lives to see whether being able to delay gratification correlated with how successful they became in their life.
He found, as he explained in The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self-control and How To Master It, that those that were able to delay gratification became more successful.
Now if that isn’t something that tempts you to delay a reward, then I don’t know what will!
If you would like to explore self-control and how to strengthen it, then come to the next IMPACT Goal course.