What is the balance between your short term and your long term focus?
How well are you able to shift between focusing on and getting your short term needs and wants met verses you longer term needs and wants?
Looking into your future, and being able to see the impact of the choices you make now on your future wellbeing, is a vital skill to learn and practice.
That’s what this video is all about. Watch it now.
In the 1960s, a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel conducted a series of important psychological studies.
During his experiments, Mischel and his team tested hundreds of children, mostly 4 and 5 year olds, and revealed what is now believed to be one of the most important characteristics for success in wealth, health, work, and life.
Let’s talk about what happened and, more importantly, how you can use it.
The Marshmallow Experiment
The experiment began by bringing each child into a room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them.
At this point, the researcher offered the child a deal.
The researcher told the child he was going to leave the room and if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.
BUT, if the child decided to eat the first marshmallow before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow.
So the choice was simple: one treat right now or two treats later.
The researcher left the room for 15 minutes.
As you can imagine, the footage of the children waiting alone in the room was rather entertaining. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others squirmed in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation. Most of the kids succumbed to their NOW desire but a few of the kids did manage to wait the entire time.
This popular study became known as The Marshmallow Experiment, but it wasn’t the treat that made it famous. The interesting part came years later.
The Power of Delayed Gratification
As children grew up, the researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child’s progress in a number of areas. What they found was amazing.
The children who were willing to delay gratification and waited to get the second marshmallow ended up having higher school exam results, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills, and higher scores in a range of other life measures.
The researchers followed each child for more than 40 years and over and over again, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever capacity they were measuring.
In other words, this series of experiments proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.
The ability to delay gratification has a direct correlation to success, in business, in investing, in life. Being able to manage the deep, unconscious lizard brain responses to react to short term desires and the “sugar-rush” of gratification, is the key to success.
- If you delay the gratification of spending the money now and invest it instead, you’ll have more later and have more choices as a result.
- If you delay the gratification of watching television and rather use the time to learn a new skill (like being better with your money and investing), you’ll learn more and become wealthier.
- If you delay the gratification of buying a pre cooked meal and instead cook a meal with great ingredients, you’ll eat healthier and save money.
- If you delay the gratification of staying in bed, and instead get up and do a workout, you’ll be fitter and healthier
… and on and on the list could go.
In his great book Automic Habits, James Clear says…
“Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.” James Clear (meme on textured paper backgound)
The skill of being able to evaluate the long-term reward that you’ll get from current actions right now is priceless.
So let’s take, for example, a coffee.
When I was living in Paris I would go down to the local Cafe on the corner near the market and sit and have an espresso. It came in a little glass and less than half of that cup would be filled. This tiny dribble would cost me six euros.
If you’re not in Paris your coffee or espresso shot might cost you less, so lets say $4 a day.
If you did your espresso shot every day or if you go and quickly get a snack for lunch every day, at $4 a day, over a year that will add up to around $1000.
Over 10 years that would be $10,000 which is a pretty significant chunk of money.
If you are funding any of that through a credit card, ”because it’s just convenient to throw it on there”, or some kind of loan like an overdraft as part of your money habit, that $10,000 is actually going to end up costing you over $24,000!
That’s a hefty chunk of money.
Many people never find the means to repay that debt, so it just keeps being rolled from one credit card to another, one revolving credit to another.
And most people won’t associate these small instant gratifications with the longer term impacts of those decisions.
Banks know that people love that short term instant gratification hit, and they love it too because they get to reap the benefits of all that interest paid.
Banks know that debt is powerful and that debt pays – it pays them.
Debt is extraordinarily powerful. It is one of the biggest money earners for huge institutions around the world, and it’s also a way to control people.
If instead you took that $4 and that $1000 a year and put that into a low cost investment like an index tracker , even outside of any beautiful tax protected or tax deferred vehicle like and ISA or a Tax Free Investment Account, and it was returning just 7% a year, which is even less than the market average over time, in the same 10 years you would end up with $13,800 in the bank.
That is a big difference from being – $24,000 in debt. It’s a massive $37,800 difference. It’s the difference of delayed gratification.
I’m not saying don’t have your espresso, but I am saying understand the consequences of short-term decisions versus long-term gains.
The more you’re able to evaluate the choices you’re making now and understand where those choices are taking you, the more you’re going to have extraordinary success in your life.
When I was deep in a debt hole and made that decision to get out of it and to claim back my freedom and my life – I made decision by focusing on the long term benefits.
I focused on the joy I’d feel being free of debt.
I focused on the freedom I’d have when I was no longer tied down by the repayments I had to make.
When you can do that, when you can project yourself to feeling the benefits you’re going to get by delaying gratification, you’re already halfway there.
At the end of the day, our destiny isn’t created by the big decisions we make in our life – what career we have, where we live, who we marry or don’t, what we study.
If you don’t like where you’re headed, make a different choice.
That’s the freedom we have every day. The freedom to make a new set of choices.
In the comments below I would love you to share:
- What is a new choice you can make now? Something in relation to your money that you know will help you get to a different wealthier destiny.
- What is something you can differently now that’s going to ensure you can live differently (and better) than everybody else down the road?
- Do you need to start investing?
- Do you need to break free from debt?
- Do you need to be breaking out of minimum repayment thinking?
- Do you need to invest in your financial education and learn new skills?
Remember, your life is meant to be lived and money is meant to serve and support you. The great thing is we can learn how to become great leaders to our money and learn how to invest properly so our money can do the working while we do the living.