In the late 1960s, Stanford University conducted the renowned “marshmallow test” that tested delayed gratification in children (watch this video with Joachim de Posada on the study at de posada says don’t eat the marshmallow yet.html).

Here’s what happened…children were left in a room with a marshmallow. They were told they could eat it now if they like, or if they don’t eat it and wait for 15 minutes they would be given another marshmallow as a reward.

2 out of 3 ate the marshmallow right away.

However, 10-15 years later, the researchers revisited these children and learnt that those children who waited the 15 minutes for the reward had become more successful adults (in their academic, personal and social lives) than the children who had ate their marshmallows immediately.[1] [2]

The evolution of mobile phones, credit cards and laptops has meant that we can now have virtually anything that we want with a few minutes of thinking it.

We are living in an ‘I want it now’ world where everything is immediate. You can get light with a switch, order anything online, download music in seconds, and access movies in a few clicks.

Whilst immediate gratification can make life more accessible, it is also training people to become more time urgent, impatient and insistent on getting what they want ‘now’…and it is having a negative impact on the culture and work ethic in many organizations.

Immediate gratification can also manifest in a reduced attention span, impulsive decision making, reduced introspection and contemplation, and becoming time intense.

Socially, it can lead to impatience in conversation, poor listening skills, reduced rapport building, connection and communication with our clients, colleagues or family.

Technology evolution and accessibility are great advancements – but they need to serve you. Just because you have the technology to do everything at lightning speed, doesn’t mean that you should.

Here are some ideas on moving past ‘immediate gratification’:

  • Allow for certain activities to take longer than planned

  • Have ‘buffer time’ in your day where you allow yourself to catch up

  • Slow down and single task certain tasks (instead of multi tasking everything)

  • Allow extra time to meet people face to face, and get to know your clients and colleagues

  • Make time to resolve issues over the phone or in person, rather that ‘saving time’ by always communicating via email.

  • Under-plan to overachieve


When the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, became stuck for ideas, he would often take a ‘power nap’ to refresh his mind. He sat in a large comfortable arm chair holding a ball-bearing in each hand. He closed his eyes and just relaxed. As he would drift off to sleep the ball-bearings would fall and wake him up – often with a fresh idea.

Sometimes you have to slow down in order to go faster.


[1] fact lehrer


About the Author:

Michael Licenblat B.Sc.(Psych) is a Resilience Expert who helps people in business bounce back fast from pressure, stress and burnout in their work and life. He is a professional speaker, coach and author of three books.

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