Posted: October 9, 2013 in World On The Edge

file8431234481540Does anybody reading this like to wait? I know I don’t. And I never have.
Still, growing up, when I wanted something I wasn’t sure I could have, I was frequently given the advice, “Wait and see.”

Of course, that requires patience. The timing of something we desire doesn’t always come quickly. And waiting is difficult.

Some things we wait for are out of our control; they depend on others.

But there are other things we, ourselves, make the decision to wait for. We want it—-maybe very badly– but for one reason or another, we wait for it. This is self-control.

Our society today doesn’t speak much about patient self-control. It speaks about immediate self-fulfillment, quick self-gratification. We want what we want when we want it. But making conscious choices that allow us to live in agreement with our deepest values often requires the ability to delay gratification.

Years ago, a researcher came up with an idea to show the value of the ability to delay gratification. His study subjects were a group of four-year-old children.

He offered each participant a large, puffy marshmallow but told them all that if they would wait 15 to 20 minutes while he ran an errand, they could have not one, but two marshmallows.

Some of the four-year-olds were able to control their impulse to eat their marshmallows right away. Others could not.

Many years later, the researcher followed up with his subjects and found that the ability to control impulses and delay gratification was associated with success in many different areas of their lives as adults.

For example, those who delayed gratification were more self-motivated and more persistent in the face of obstacles in their lives. On average, they scored 210 points higher on SAT tests. Those who had quickly consumed the first marshmallow offered them, continued to have impulse-control problems in adulthood. The researcher characterized them as more troubled, stubborn, indecisive, mistrustful, and less self-confident.

All those years of giving up candy for Lent, and waiting for the chocolate bunny in my Easter Basket, must have helped. When I look back at past events in my life, I can see that quite a few of those things I waited for turned out well. I’ll bet you can, too.

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