Who ate my marshmallow?

13 Mar 2016

There is a famous experiment in which children were sat alone in a room with a marshmallow on the table before them. The task was simple. If the child left the marshmallow untouched until the experimenter returned, (after 15 minutes, although the child did not know that) they got a second marshmallow and got to eat both. If the child ate the marshmallow before the experimenter returned the experiment was concluded (although they still got the one!)

The power of the experiment came in the follow-up when there was a clear correlation between those who had held out for the second marshmallow, and success in life as defined by a range of factors. Clearly the ability to defer immediate gratification in expectation of better rewards later has a strong influence on major life decisions. Obvious parallels are income now versus education (deferment) and more income later.

I get it: I have lived it. When my schoolmates who left at 16 were in the pub spending their wages, I was in the sixth form studying and living off my parents and small part-time earnings. When they had finished their apprenticeships and on full wages, I was at University eking out a state grant (we still had them in those days) and holiday earnings.

My latest sacrifice is alcohol. I was told that if I gave it up and allowed the pills to work I would be through into the promised land, depression would be a thing of the past. My only concern is that once I find the energy and drive to achieve my potential, I may find that the opportunities have disappeared due to age. Having gone round and round this particular course more times than the electric rabbit, it is a prize worth pursuing. It is not working out like that. I feel deprived of my one reward with as yet no significant alternative.

I feel like the child who closed their eyes to avoid temptation and opened them to find the marshmallow gone: who ate my marshmallow?


A Moodscope member.

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