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Now or later? Delayed gratification 

By  Lysette Offley

Now or later? Delayed gratification - photo of biscuitsWhat would you have done, at the age of 8, if somebody had put a tasty biscuit in front of you and gave you a choice: you could have that biscuit now or if you waited until that person returned from running a quick errand, you could have 2?

What indeed, would you do today?

You probably know of the very famous experiments done in 1970, by Walter Mischel, a psychologist studying gratification, both the instant and the delayed sort.

You may not be surprised that most of the children grabbed the biscuit the moment they were given permission to eat it, and yet just a few hung on till he returned and were rewarded with both biscuits as promised.

He called these children, ‘high-delay’ children.

Mischel then followed the development of those children through school, observing their school results and behaviour. He discovered that the high-delay children did better across the board and had fewer behavioural problems and their instantly gratified friends.

And later, as adults, they got through college faster and got higher paid jobs. Of the other group, there was a higher percentage who spent time in prison and who struggled with drugs.

What’s that got to do with you improving your study skills?

Well, in subsequent experiments Mischel observed the strategy so high-delay children used to resist their urge to eat the first biscuit. He found that they deliberately distracted themselves from the urge by focusing on something else.

They played with the toys, sang songs to themselves and made a point of looking around the room at anything else other than that biscuit, trying (successfully) to put it out of their mind.

In other words, they deliberately focused on something that would get them to their desired goal.

So, if you’re the sort of person who finds it difficult to sit down to study; if you’re the sort of person who gets distracted by just about anything else other than your work, you might want to spend a few moments thinking about what it is you would have to focus on that would have you take the action necessary to get your goals achieved.

Increase your ability to delay gratification

It all comes down to motivation. If you don’t focus on the reason why you’re studying, it’s difficult to get started. On the other hand, if you remind yourself every day of what’s important to you about passing your exams; if you focus on why you’re studying and what you’ll get in the future from working hard now, you’ve got a fighting chance of succeeding.

What do you focus on to get things done?

Lysette Offley


With 40 years of experience, Lysette Offley is a Memory and Mindset Coach to women and men at the top of their game in the Financial Services Industry who recognise the value of continual personal and professional development and support to achieve a healthy work-life balance, along with satisfaction and fulfilment.

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