The Marshmallow Test was done in the 1960’s at Stanford University. A psychological study of children between the ages of 4-6 years old. Each child was placed in a room and given a marshmallow. They were told they could either eat the treat now, or if they waited, they could have two marshmallows. The test was designed to to study the behavior of instant vs. delayed gratification. Their reactions were terrific. Some children would close their eyes in order not to see the tempting piece, others tried to cover it up or move it as far away as possible. Still others would smell it, feel it, lick it and poke at it. Some of the children tried to sneak small bits of the marshmallow, they would pull it apart and then try to mush it back together, making it look as if it hadn’t been touched. A few children simply crammed it in their mouth as fast as they could. It’s quite a fascinating study of how humans respond to temptation and gratification.
Steve and I saw this video on PBS years ago and we laughed as both of us knew without a doubt that I would have been the child who would stuff that marshmallow into my mouth without a moments hesitation. On the other hand, Steve would have been the child to wait as long as it took, thinking he could certainly accumulate even more marshmallows the longer he waited.
I’m wondering if instant gratification has anything to do with impulsive behavior? My guess would be that these two behaviors go hand in hand.
While yes, I am that instant marshmallow popper, having never been good at waiting, I am also realizing that I am also impulsive on almost every level.
Since since you’ve no doubt read about my 9 year old rescue dog and my crazy 1972 Chevy pick-up purchase truck disaster, you might already have a vision of how I walk through life. If it means waiting, rather than just going ahead and taking my chances...I chose the later. At least, that was the case before the 17 day truck ownership. I find waiting excruciating. I get impatient waiting on people who are late, with waiters who are too slow, with long lines, and with waiting for answers to my questions.
I am the worst at waiting for answers. Impulsive? No, not in this instance. Desiring instant gratification? Maybe, in a small way but mostly this is simple impatience. Great, so here I am impulsive, impatient and one who likes instant gratification. Not a pretty picture.
The Marshmallow Test goes on to prove that those children who waited for their marshmallow to multiply proved to have higher IQ’s. They were more successful in life and in most cases, seemed to be, more content with their lives.
Well, I can’t argue the whole IQ thing, but I do feel that I have lead a rather content and successful life, despite my shortcomings.
Sure, I’m the first to say yes to a fun outing. I’m the first to buy patio furniture before my patio is even complete. I’m the one who so wants to buy a lake house. The one who gets my children all excited about the possibility of buying one. I’m the one who puts quickly puts in offers when that “perfect” house comes about, but also the first to get cold feet and back out. Yep, that’s me.
So where will all of of my impulsive, impatience led me in the future?
I would like to think that the last few years of my life have taught me a great deal about myself and hopefully, I will put these learned life lessons to use...soon.
I have written about my daily journaling and, have written that lately I have been reading my journals from the past five years. Much of my writing was really praying. I wrote volumes of pages asking God why, when, begging, justifying, rationalizing, bargaining. Many of my entries ended with, please God allow me to understand your will for our lives. The same endless questions would resurface the next days, weeks, months, and years. I wanted my answers immediately. God what are you doing? Please allow me to feel your presence. Please give us a break, show us your mercy. Page after page the whining and complaining was interminable.
Oh I wanted God to give me instant gratification, not five years of angst. I wanted God to allow me insight into the future. Impatient? Absolutely. I wanted God to take away fear, doubt, sadness, illness right then and there. Impulsive? I’m afraid so.
I was great at ending my written prayers with, in your time, Lord, may your will be done, but I wasn’t wanting to wait that twenty minutes...I wanted my marshmallow right then.
God, thankfully knew me better. Patiently, lovingly, mercifully he allowed nature to take its course. In his time, he blessed us with a healthy, amazing Harper. It was his time that enabled Steve to live much longer than we might have believed possible. No prayers I could have imagined praying were close to the wonderful years with Steve, nor with Harper's incredible health. I can only stand in awe at God’s perfect timing.
Looking back over my journals, I see that patience, trust and faith go hand in hand. God is enough. He knows exactly what he is doing and there is reason and purpose in his plan for our lives. I’m working on lessening my impulsive behavior, on strengthening my patience, on curbing my desire for instant gratification. I am consciously trying to put myself in God’s hands. I pray each day I live that I will allow God to remind me to wait, to listen, to be still. I pray that I will learn that God’s timing is perfect. I need only to be patient and have the faith to allow God to prove himself merciful.
Even if I have to squeeze my eyes tightly shut so as not to be tempted by my own marshmallows, I hope that while they are shut, I am learning to trust in a God who has proven over and over he is trustworthy and constant.
For what it’s worth,
Micah 7:7 “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”
2 Peter 3:8-9 “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,”