Take it or leave it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


A sweet treat now or two later?

This simple choice has agonized preschoolers since the 1960s, when psychologist Walter Mischel, author of the book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control began running his famous experiment to test children's ability to delay gratification. It turns out that a child's performance on this willpower test predicts such long-term outcomes as SAT scores, relationship satisfaction, adult income, even body-mass index. The ability to resist instant gratification for  distant rewards is not something we are born with. This acquired skill gets better with age, and it is open to modification and can be enhanced through cognitive strategies that have now been identified.

So it's okay if you're impatient by nature (as I have sometimes tended to be). There are tactics to help our minds resist temptation (or at least defer it until a more opportune occasion) and this skill has implications in fields as varying as child rearing, education, and public policy, not to mention the realms of culinary satisfaction and carnal desires. A simple strategy is this: whenever encountered by a seemingly irresistible goodie, take ten slow, deep breaths, then see if the urge hasn't temporarily passed. This exercise will also help to oxygenate your blood which offers additional benefits in energy production. Proving you can kill two birds while you wait.

Or you can sing a song. Janet Jackson showed us how to do it with her mid-80's hit "Let's Wait Awhile." This ditty will buy you 4 minutes - be sure to listen for my favorite line, "You said you would always love me" - although you may find in the meantime that some things are just too good to resist!

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