You’ve probably heard about the famous “marshmallow study” in which children who were able to delay the gratification of eating a marshmallow in order to get two marshmallows later were deemed more likely to be successful.
The message was clear: delaying gratification is a critical success factor. But new evidence suggests that we may be missing the point. (http://bit.ly/2nPpzoj)
In a series of five studies recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers Kaitlin Wooley and Ayelet Fishbach at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found that achieving long-term goals depends on our ability to focus on incremental goals on the way. It turns out that long-term desires like making honor roll, getting promoted, or losing weight for the class reunion motivate people to set goals in the first place. But once we know where we want to go, reminding ourselves how much we want to get there isn't an effective strategy. Rather, those who succeed are not just those who are better at delaying gratification but rather those who find other ways to gratify themselves along the way (Tweet it!).
Many of the children who deferred their original sugar puff treat distracted themselves by singing songs or playing games in their heads. They didn't so much delay gratification as substitute its source. They discovered instinctively what the Chicago studies showed: Success is about discovering gratification in every situation.
Can you think of a situation, at work or elsewhere, where you met long-term goals by focusing on the rewards of step-by-step progress? To join the conversation, click "comments" below.
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