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Delayed gratification is an important key to success

Posted by Ilise Benun on

If you ever find yourself frustrated about not seeing immediate results to the marketing efforts you spend so much energy on, read on.

One of my longtime friend and hero entrepreneur Derek Sivers shared on his blog some great points about delayed gratification. 

Here is an excerpt from his article:

40 years ago, at a nursery school at Stanford University, psychology professor Walter Mischel ran an experiment.

A bunch 4-year-olds were brought into a room, one at a time. They were given one marshmallow, and told they were allowed to eat it immediately, but if they could wait 15 minutes without eating it, they’d be given a second marshmallow, and could eat both.

70% of the kids ate the marshmallow right away. Only 30% of the kids could wait the full 15 minutes to get the second marshmallow. This experiment has been repeated in other countries (Brazil and Japan) over the years, and the ratio stays the same: two-thirds can’t wait, one-third wait.

But here’s the interesting part:

15 years later, the researchers followed-up and found that those kids who waited for the second marshmallow scored, on average, 250 points higher on the SAT test, and were higher achievers in whatever field they had chosen (academic, athletic, artistic). They were all-around more successful and happier.

So the ability to delay gratification is one of the best indicators of future success.

So what are you really doing when you delay gratification?

You’re giving more importance to the future than the present. Willing to give up a little pleasure in the present, to benefit your future self.

The great book, The Time Paradox, notes that we all have a different time-focus that greatly shapes how we think and act.

Future-Focused People

    For future-focused people, long-range goals fuel today’s decisions and actions. This keeps them ambitiously working, saving, and planning for a better life. Self-discipline and the ability to delay gratification are key.

    Future-focused people are more successful professionally and academically. They also eat well, exercise regularly, and schedule preventative health exams.

    But by always looking through the present to the next goal, they often do not fully appreciate the present. Think of the stereotype of the successful executive who is always too busy for his family. (Friends and family require your attention to be in the present.)

Present-Focused People

    Present-focused people actively seek activities and relationships that bring pleasure, variety, immediate gratification, and short-term payoffs. They avoid anything tedious, requiring effort, maintenance, or routine. They’re playful and impulsive, engaging in leisure activities (until it becomes boring).

    Present-focused people are more likely to gamble, use drugs and alcohol. They’re less likely to exercise, eat well, floss, or get regular health exams. They are the least likely to be successful.

    While some present-focus is needed to enjoy life, too much present-focus can rob life of the deeper happiness of accomplishment.

So what can we take away from this?

Marketing and business development is all about future gratification. It's time tested and proven that doing the work will bring results. It's having the patience to wait for those results that's hard for most people. But the ones who are future focused in their business, who have what it takes to wait and keep doing the work are more likely to get the rewards they are looking for from their business. With or without marshmallows.

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