Marshmallows and Martial Arts

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

A bunch of 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.

A whopping 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 can.

But here’s the interesting part:

Fifteen 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 happier and more successful.

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

Your Time Focus

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.

As martial artists we practice and learn that training hard and sacrificing today will allow us to succeed tomorrow.

Present-Focused People

Present-focused people are more likely to be impulsive and only think about how it makes them feel right now. They’re less likely to exercise, eat well, floss, or get regular health exams.

As martial artists we practice being in the moment when we train.  It’s important to be able to concentrate on the here and now so that we’re not distracted.

Past Focus

How you view the past is also important because we see our lives as having a trajectory. If you remember the past as joyous, you predict your future will be joyous. If you are haunted by a bleak past, you probably predict your future to be bleak, too.

As martial artists we constantly take the opportunity to reflect on our training and how that will lead us to success in the future.

Balance is Best

The happiest and most effective people are balanced: equally high in future-focus and present-focus, and viewing the past as positive. When you have work to finish, be future-focused. When your work is done and it’s time to relax, be present-focused. During the holidays, be past-focused to enjoy family customs.

Learning to change your focus is one of the many parts of Tiger Rock’s unique R15E character development program. Contact one of our staff professionals today in order to schedule your free appointment and try out our program!