The marshmallow test or why is self-control essential for business success

Self-control marshmallow test success
Photo: Margaret Almon

We live in a society, which gives us the impression that everything can be obtained quick and easy. But when we try to put theories into practice and try to obtain measurable results we discover that it is not that easy as we expected.

We face this kind of situation, when we start a business and do not have much experience, we try different things out and inevitably face unexpected obstacles. The way in which you react to those obstacles, if you decide to give up or if you push yourself harder until you obtain your target, is determined by the amount of self-control you have. Self-control is therefore essential for business success.

But what is self-control? According to Psychology Today self-control is” the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, evaluate alternative actions, and, often enough, avoid doing things we’ll later regret.”

Marshmallow Test with children 

To test the amount of self-control on children the famous marshmallow experiment was conducted by the Amercian Psychologist Walter Michel in the 70s. A group of children was given a marshmallow, but they also received the information that if they wait 15 minutes without eating it, they will receive a second one. Some children could not resist and ate the first marshmallow immediately whereas other children waited patiently that the 15 minutes will pass. Those children who were able to delay direct gratification and waited 15 minutes received a second marshmallow. But also over the years, those patient waiters had a greater success in their private but also professional life. Therefore the ability to delay gratification implies a higher amount of self-control and is a good predictor of success.


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