I was chatting with a group of youngsters and telling them about the famous ‘marshmallow experiment’ conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960’s at Stanford University. The children who were willing to hold off fun now, to do something that would result in more fun later, were said to have the ability to ‘delay gratification’. The study tracking the kids across 40 years showed that the kids who could delay gratification had a different trajectory. They ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, less chances of obesity, could handle stress better, and had better relationships and social skills. You can read our article on this here.
The question of discipline is straightforward, am I willing to sacrifice fun now (eating a chocolate), and do something that is not so much fun now (go work out, or eat that salad), but will result in me having more fun tomorrow (being able to fit into pre-wedding suit!).
Can I not resist watching that favourite TV show now, so that I can sleep on time and wake up on time to go for a run tomorrow?
Can I delay checking the likes on this post for 2 hours, so that I can get the current job at hand done without distractions!
Can I hold off playing those video games until I get all my homework done for the day?
Now, these dudes are just so smart. One of my young friends threw me a question that stumped me. He said, “but Adi, don’t you also say we should always live in the moment?" If that is true, shouldn’t we always choose fun NOW? Being smart as I am, I gave some answer. But I knew my answer was a bit of a sham. He wasn’t satisfied and neither was I.
I kept thinking about it. Why should I focus more fun tomorrow? Tomorrow never comes, right!
The next evening I was getting ready to make some salad. My wife has a home herb garden where she grows some basil and chives. As I plucked a few fresh sprigs of basil, the answer to my young friend's questions dawned on me. My wife plants a handful of seeds every few weeks, so that there is always a fresh supply of herbs. What was planted last month is available for me today, and what was planted last week will become available after a few weeks. That way, there is always some basil available for us to use, NOW.
When I have invested enough time ‘yesterday’ doing things that would be fun ‘tomorrow’, I am reaping that fun today. Then I can easily invest some time today, ensuring that tomorrow will be fun too!
Hahaha, I know that sounds a bit like a scene from ‘Back to the future’, but it seems logical, doesn’t it! Besides, I notice that when I fall into this cycle, even doing things that are ‘fun tomorrow’ start becoming ‘fun now’!