In a famous study on delayed gratification conducted by Walter Mischel, PhD, Mischel and his colleagues provided preschool aged children with a marshmallow, then gave them two options. The children could either eat the marshmallow now, or they could get two marshmallows if they waited for the researcher to come back to the room. In the video you can see many different faces and adorable expressions as the children grasped to their willpower to resist temptation. Throughout the years the researchers continued to keep track of the kids and found that the children who were able to resist the urge of deliciousness and temptation had more positive aspects in their lives. These positive aspects include: better grades, better relationships, and more career success, lower debt, and lower addictive behaviors. From the study we can gather that delayed gratification is an important cornerstone for having successful outcomes in many different aspects of our lives.

For many years, scientists have focused on cultivating techniques that center on improving ones willpower by suppressing the part of the mind that is centered on desire; however, this tactic has not been proven to work. In a study from Northwestern University researchers found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds had stressful reactions to this marshmallow temptation, which led to premature aging when they had to express willpower. Even though willpower will result in successful outcomes, our stress level and ability to reap the benefits of our success is relatively low. The latest research has uncovered that our evolutionary history has a lot to do with how we can develop a better state of self-control without causing stress, and much of this is linked to our emotions. In our evolutionary history we had to rely on and work with others to have the essentials in life (food, shelter, etc.). This meant that we had to sacrifice our own selfish desires to help others. So rather than thinking that our emotions are a roadblock to our success, we can start to use our emotions to benefit us.

Here are three types of emotions that are good for our overall success and happiness:

1. Gratitude:

In one study researchers used the marshmallow test as a reference when they asked adults if they would prefer to receive ‘x’ amount of dollars now, or have a check sent to them later with triple the amount of money. What they found is that people who experienced more gratitude were more patient because they understood the value of the future reward more than the present. So when we consider what our long term goals are, we must experience gratitude and consider how our values are going to help us continue to have the grit needed to succeed.

2. Compassion:

In our evolutionary history, it was essential that we expressed compassion because social support was necessary for survival. Often, in modern society our virtues rely on having a ‘get ahead’ attitude that requires us to be more assertive and hard charging. Although this mentality has been a proven method to help individuals rise to the top, it is only short term. Through time people start to notice how you exploit them and the temporary gain that you received beings to deteriorate over time. By devoting things like time, effort, and money to others you are able to show that you sacrifice yourself to help others, which is more valuable in the long run. Cultivating this mindset is attractive to others, which make you easier to work and get along with.

3. Pride:

Studies have linked pride to having greater amounts of self-control, or the ability to resist temptation. Having pride gives us excitement because we are able to tune out the distractions and focus on what it will feel like to accomplish our set task. However, pride can work against you. To use pride to your advantage, create a list of the reasons for your goals so you can focus and stay on task.

Sarah Burnap

Personal Trainer | Coach

Sarah’s career path first began when she joined the Marine Corps when she was eighteen. After her enlistment, Sarah began to explore her options and found her passion for encouraging others through fitness, coaching, and teaching. Sarah has over 10 years of experience in personal training, coaching and communications consulting with Special Operations service members, entrepreneurs, and professional and amateur athletes from many diverse backgrounds. After completing her bachelors in communications, Sarah found that empowering others to thrive under pressure stemmed from having the right mindset. Sarah continues to fulfill her mission of encouraging others to be more resilient by competing in Ms. Veteran America, a competition that is dedicated to raise awareness for homeless women veterans, and by teaching mental skills to help people overcome barriers and reach their full potential. Sarah is the creator of The Goal Setting Planner, an evidence-based planner that teaches you to #writeyourestiny by helping you to overcome setbacks and reach your goals. 

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