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2 Easy Ways to Increase Willpower — Courtesy of the Cookie Monster and the Mischel Self Control Marshmellow Test | TIME

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Willpower is destiny:

Haven’t we all heard of Mischel’s Marshmallow Self-Control Test by now? If not, here’s a quick summary:

  1. Stick a little kid alone in a room with nothing but a marshmallow.
  2. Tell the kid they can eat it now or, if they wait 15 minutes, they get two.
  3. Then you leave the kid alone.

Some children eat the marshmallow immediately, others wait and earn two.

Check with those kids 20 years later and you find this silly test of self-control predicts who gets good grades, goes to jail or gets rich.

Via Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence:

The big shock: statistical analysis found that a child’s level of self-control is every bit as powerful a predictor of her adult financial success and health (and criminal record, for that matter) as are social class, wealth of family of origin, or IQ. Willpower emerged as a completely independent force in life success— in fact, for financial success, self-control in childhood proved a stronger predictor than either IQ or social class of the family of origin.

Watching the kids during the experiment is pretty cute:

PAINFULLY cute!!  omg i felt so sorry for them!!!  15 minutes is waaaaay too long for a little kid.

as for me, no question: i would eat that marshmallow immediately, and savor it for the full 15 minutes!  or make it into taffy... and savor that for the remaining 12 minutes.

Heh heh. It's hard to teach the benefits of delayed gratification!

especially when all you get is a second marshmallow.  i wonder if those kids who painfully waited for 15 minutes felt that it was worth it in the end...

Seriously I wonder if the results would be different if the rewards was a bag of marshmellows?

i'd wait for that!

Somewhere between a Marshmellow and a Bag it becomes worthwhile.

now THAT is an experiment i want to see!

Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster underwent a similar trial:

What’s really important? 

Attention is one of the most essential elements of self-control. Distraction is a powerful tool.

What are the effective strategies you can start using immediately? To review:

  1. Distract yourself. Willpower is tied to attention. Focusing on something else increases self-control.
  2. If you can’t distract yourself, just delay the impulse and focus your attention on the reward ahead.

For more tips check out my round up of self-control research and my interview with NYT bestselling author and willpower expert, Roy Baumeister.

(After all these years, how does Cookie Monster still make me smile like that every time I see him devour a cookie?)

I hear you, Eric.

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