Monday, December 13, 2010

What a marshmallow can say about you

So, I'm still busy. And when I get a break in between the madness, I take full advantage by letting my brain rest, avoiding the computer/my desk, gelling out... and... not blogging. It sucks because there are a lot of blog topics piling up and now it's becoming somewhat daunting with all I have to write about. Ah! But before I tackle that to-do list, I wanted to share something I learned over the weekend (which can possibly be applied to what I just said above)....

The relationship between marshmallows, delayed gratification and life success.

Let me back up a bit. I was lucky enough to have dinner with my good friend, Allen Lim, on Saturday. Allen is a genius and I love picking his brain, hearing his stories, etc. On top of his vast knowledge of exercise physiology, he's also quite the philosopher/psychologist. I was talking to him about my life and where I'm at right now, which sparked him to tell me what I'm now about to tell you.

It's so good, and something I have to share.


The Marshmallow Experiment
There was a psychologist back in the '60s who noticed kids around age 4 first began to show traits of self-discipline. He decided to test a group of kids and note the varying levels of self-discipline, particularly how one's level of self-discipline plays a role in delaying immediate gratification in order to achieve goals and long-term success.

The experiment was simple.... The psychologist took kids one by one into a room and made an offer: the child could eat one marshmallow now, or, if the child waited for the psychologist to leave and come back, the child could have TWO marshmallows when he returned. He then left the room leaving one marshmallow sitting on a table in front of the child -- essentially, leaving it up to the kid if he or she would eat ONE now, or wait and get TWO later. He was gone for 10-15 minutes, and what happened was fascinating.

Results were all over the place -- some chose to eat one marshmallow immediately, while some kids held strong and waited so they could have two, arguably the better choice (two is always better than one, right? lol). However, the psychologist didn't really know what to make of the results.... until years later....

The kids from the original study were contacted when they were seniors in high school, and what was found was amazing -- there was a direct correlation between the kids' choice of one or two marshmallows and how they were doing in school and life. Specifically, the kids who waited for two marshmallows (i.e. delaying gratification and practicing high self-discipline) had higher SAT scores, while the kids who ate the one right away had lower SAT scores and tended to struggle more in school, life, etc. The same people were then followed throughout life, and similar trends of success rates were found -- and it all related back to those traits of self-control that they exhibited at 4 years old.

The point is: Delayed gratification and self-discipline is the key to success in life.

According to regarding the results of this study: "The resisters [those who waited for 2 marshmallows] were more positive, self-motivating, persistent in the face of difficulties, and able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. They had the habits of successful people which resulted in more successful marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction, better health, and more fulfilling lives than most of the population.

Those having grabbed the [one] marshmallow were more troubled, stubborn and indecisive, mistrustful, less self-confident, and still could not put off gratification. They had trouble subordinating immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. When it was time to study for the big test, they tended to get distracted into doing activities that brought instant gratifciation This impulse followed them throughout their lives and resulted in unsucessful marriages, low job satisfaction and income, bad health, and frustrating lives.

To see this study in action click here, it's actually very funny to watch these kids stress out.


Anyways, I think Allen's point to me was that I represent the kid who waits for two marshmallows given my current life circumstances -- or at least I hope that was his point :)

This study can also relate to our sports and how we approach triathlon or whatever we do... God knows that for most of us endurance sport requires a lot of patience in terms of developing ability, and if you can wait and stick to it, as rough as it gets as times, the payoff is worth it.

So what about you?

Which kid would you be?

One marshmallow, or two?

And, btw, hopefully, after reading this you'll be able to practice self-discipline regarding my blog meaning if you can wait now, come back later and the'll be good stuff for ya... delayed gratification in action right here folks lol ;)


  1. no delayed gratification here - only b/c I read that study before, and it makes complete freaking sense (and I speak on experience!).

    You and I need a philosophical bike ride sometime. I haven't one of those in too long!

  2. Is this the Allen Lim who is involved in the cycling controversy about watts per KG and the guy that Floyd Landis said helped him using doping products?

  3. ya, I am totally the one marshmallow kid. I need INSTANT gratification. EEK!

  4. I love this study - thanks :-)

  5. Great post. Thanks for posting it.

  6. This p0st is something new to me..Thanks fr sharing such a wonderful idea..

  7. I'd be the 3 marshmallow kid... the one the waited for the second marshmallow to come and then "accidently" dropped the first marshmallow on the floor forcing the guy to bring another one out for me, but I'd pull the 5 second rule and still eat the floor marshmallow.

  8. I'd wait for the 2 mellows, than take em and make a smore...

  9. I didn't like marshmallows as a kid. I thought they were weird. Unless they were burnt to a crisp over a fire.

  10. I'm the one marshmallow kid...bring it on now! As in NOW! That way, I can plan whether I'll take the second or third or fourth marshmallow. May I have a cup of hot chocolate to go with it? Swiss Miss anyone? Cheers!

  11. Great example. I am going to try it on my boy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is a instant gratification guy.