Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

3 November 2009

Can a marshmellow predict the future?


Life is an unrelenting Mr Toad's Wild Ride full of constant surprises but there must be ways to not only succeed but thrive. I'm not much for smiley-pie "You're a winner always" theology but I plan on being someone who "does something" with his life.

Read a really interesting story in the Toronto Star a couple of days ago called "How a marshmellow can predict your future". Here's the highlights:

Researchers told children that they could have one thing they really wanted right away – a marshmallow, or a candy or a cookie, for example – but if they could wait while the researcher left the room and came back about 15 minutes later, they could have two.

It was designed to test self-control. The researchers, led by psychologist Walter Mischel, found only about 30 per cent of more than 600 children tested could hold out.

Jonah Lehrer, in a recent New Yorker magazine article, reports those children who waited 15 minutes averaged 210 points higher – more than 10 per cent – on college entrance exams than did those who could wait only 30 seconds.

Collectively, the brain skills needed to wait for marshmallows are known as "executive function" or, more broadly, as "self-regulation." They include inhibiting impulses, sustaining attention, planning, prioritizing, and finding and carrying out strategies to stick to your plan.

In kid-friendly language, it means you can "rise to the challenge."

I hope I haven't offended any marshmellows over the years. I had no idea the influence they had over time and space. Shoot... I used to just throw them in the fire.

Executive function. I can buy that. I can also buy that there are some to whom this will come easy and some who it won't. But circumstances shouldn't be an excuse... and free will is given to us all. Life gets wild for all of us, and sometimes it feels out of control. And what about the eat-the-marshmellow-first-folk? Are we/they doomed to a life of only temporal mellow-related pleasure?

Read another good piece yesterday on the blog of a Leadershipy guy named Brad Rourke. In a post called "Seven things I can control" he lists these as the variables over which we DO have control.

  • Attitude: What do I bring to the situation? What are my expectations?
  • Effort: Am I just coasting along at half steam, or am I all in?
  • Tone: Do I say the correct things, yet clothe them in sarcasm or smugness?
  • Motives: Do I have hidden motives, such as vanity or pride?
  • Thoughts: Am I harboring negative thoughts about others?
  • Actions: Regardless of my intentions, are my actions helpful?
  • Reactions: How do I react to what others do? Is it helpful?

And he's right. Having "executive function" at your disposal sure does help in the activation of these 7 things. But whether we're the gobblers or waiters... we CAN control these things. Life really is so unpredictable and there are time where it SUCKS for everyone. But that's kinda the point. One of my favorite scriptures is about beating our own body into submission... executive function.

1 Corinthians 9:24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.


... and that happens by choosing the right attitude, effort, tone, motives, thoughts, actions and reactions... whether you're the chubby bunny marshmellow champ or not.

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