Willpower is destiny
Haven't we all heard of Mischel's Marshmallow Self-Control Test by now? If not, here's a quick summary:
- Stick a little kid alone in a room with nothing but a marshmallow.
- Tell the kid they can eat it now or, if they wait 15 minutes, they get two.
- Then you leave the kid alone.
Some children eat the marshmallow immediately, others wait and earn two.
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Big deal, right? Wrong.
It's a huge deal.
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.
Watching the kids during the experiment is pretty cute:
So how do you use this to teach kids (and blog readers, for that matter) about improving self control?
Enter Sesame Street.
COOKIE COOKIE COOKIE
Sesame Street's Cookie Monster underwent a similar trial:
The above was just a promo. In the episode there was more of a detailed lesson for Cookie Monster about fighting temptation.
How did Sesame Street assemble such a lesson? They consulted Mischel, of course.
After testing so many kids, Mischel had learned a good deal about what does and doesn't improve willpower. So what's really important? Attention is one of the most essential elements of self-control. Distraction is a powerful tool.
So Mischel gave Sesame Street a few strategies related to attention that might help Cookie Monster.
One was a type of refocusing: "Think of the cookie as something else."
So that didn't work for Cookie Monster.
But then they tried another method: Delay and focus on reward.
Success! Cookie Monster was able to hold out for the bigger plate of cookies.
How this can help you
I'm seriously hoping you're already more disciplined than a five-year-old or a blue puppet.
Meaning if these methods worked for them, they'll definitely work for you.
What are the effective strategies you can start using immediately? To review:
- Distract yourself. Willpower is tied to attention. Focusing on something else increases self-control.
- If you can't distract yourself, just delay the impulse and focus your attention on the reward ahead.
(After all these years, how does Cookie Monster still make me smile like that every time I see him devour a cookie?)
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