Fighting Off The Marshmallow Monster

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you better discipline your thinking. Reading time: 2:58.

          The  boys were fighting over a candy bar with all the vigor their four-year-old arms could muster. “Hey hold on there,” mom intervened.  She grabbed the Twix candy bar and put it on the coffee table well within their reach.



a candybar          “Now listen to me. You can each have a candy bar,” mom added, while placing another Twix candy bar on the coffee table. “But I have an even better idea, especially if you guys like candy.”

        The two boys knodded and bubbled with enthusiasm. “You can each have two candy bars, if….”

        The “If” turned out to be an exercise in delayed gratification and a learning tool toward their eventual development as leaders- a learning tool that all leaders as works-in-progress can leverage no matter where you are in your career.

       The mom said that each boy could have one candy bar right now— or if they waited a few minutes —they could each have a second candy bar, if and only if they did not IMMEDIATELY eat the candy bars she placed on he coffee table  –one for each boy.  “Now I have to go and get the other candy bars, ” the mom said, as she left the room. “Remember don’t eat those candy bars on the coffee table until I get back.”

      Looming Like a Confectionery Devil

Marshmallows snow in a gingerbread house

Marshmallows snow in a gingerbread house

          Oh, how tempting those candy bars loomed like a confectionery devil. The boys squirmed waiting anxiously. One of the boys picked up the wrapped candy bar, smelled it and then put it back on the coffee table. He winced almost as if he were in pain. So tempting.

         “Where’s mom, where’s mom,” the twins chorused to no avail. The temptation grew to eat those candy bars before mom returned. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Almost 15 minutes had passed. The boys mouths were watering with anticipation of TWICE the chocolate melting in their mouths.

      Picture yourself as one of those four-year-olds. Could you fight off the temptation? Would you have delayed your sense of gratification?

     The fact that you are a leader today suggests very highly that you would indeed have fought off that kind of temptation, according to some 60 years of delayed gratification research first conducted at Stanford University and later at the University of Rochester (New York).

     The results are consistently clear: The longer you fight off the Marshmallow Monster (their original choice of temptation instead of the Twix candy bar) the HIGHER your SAT college scores, the BETTER  your social skills and the LESS  your substance abuse.

         In fact recent research at University of Rochester (New York) on the  landmark marshmallow studies “have been cited as evidence that qualities like self-control or emotional intelligence in general may be more important to navigating life successfully than more traditional measures of intelligence such as IQ.”

      So the next time you’re passed over for a promotion, or you lose a sale, or your project fails, drown your sorrows in a bag of marshmallows  — if you must.  But chances are the leader in you will help you fight off that Marshmallow Monster. Over time.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Delay gratification to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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