SOURCE: Adapted from an article by Ken Sande
A five year-old child was sitting alone in a room with a marshmallow placed a few inches in front of her. She was told that she could eat it immediately, but if she waited just fifteen minutes, she would be rewarded with an additional marshmallow.
Six hundred other children were invited onto the campus of Stanford University in the early 1970’s to take the same test, which became known as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment (delightfully illustrated in the following video).
Only one out of three children were successful in waiting the full fifteen minutes to earn the second marshmallow. In followup studies of both groups of children, researchers found that the ability to defer gratification correlated to a wide range of positive life outcomes, including:
- Better social competence (emotional and impulse control)
- Higher cognitive skills (as measured by SAT scores)
- Better ability to cope with frustration and stress, and
- Healthier lifestyles (as measured by body mass index).
These results should not surprise anyone who reads the Bible. Scripture repeatedly commends the ability to control our impulses, to resist temptation, and to cultivate self-control (see Prov. 16:32; Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 9:25-27; Gal. 5:22-24; James 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-6), which are key elements of two of the core disciplines of relational wisdom: self-awareness and self-engagement.
The development of these character qualities is heavily dependent on our God-given ability to change our habits (see, Eph. 4:20-24).
[If] you learn to apply these insights to one simple habit (which we call a “keystone habit”), it can start a cascade of changes in other areas of your life, whether it’s the ability to resist a marshmallow and improve your health … or to control your emotions and improve your relationships.