Look Out! Here Come Those Pesky Resolutions!

by DavalosMcCormack on December 13, 2007

Most of us want to be better. We want to look better, hence the billion dollar beauty product industry, not to mention the surgical options for body enhancement. We not only want to look better, but we want to be better people too. We want to break what we consider to be bad habits and replace them with good ones. And every year, right about now, people ask us what our New Year’s Resolutions will be. Ever wonder how you’re going to achieve the changes you would like to see in the New Year? One word: Will Power. That’s it. If you want to change, plain old will power or what you may call self control is the key to success! Now go and have a good New Year!
Just kidding. How do you get will power? How can you strengthen self-control? I’m glad you asked because there have been a number of studies on this very subject. My favorite one is a long term study done by Walter Mischel, a psychologist who worked with 4 year old children at Stanford University around 1970. This guy wanted to test the kid’s self control, so he put one after another in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. Kids love marshmallows. Then he told each child that he was going out of the room; if they rang the bell he would come back into the room and they could eat the marshmallow; but if they could wait till he came back without eating the marshmallow or ringing the bell they could have two marshmallows.

The whole experiment was taped and some kids just couldn’t keep their eyes from the marshmallow, some wriggled in their chairs, covered their eyes and some could only hold out for a minute before succumbing to the bell for the single measly mallow. Others however, distracted themselves, squirmed around, played with their fingers and did whatever they could to exercise self-control, and will power, in order to gain the prize of two marshmallows. Some waited as long as 15 minutes for the reward. That’s a long time for a 4 year old!

What was learned? Well, Walter Mischel studied these same kids 14 years later and as you can imagine, the kids who waited and delayed their gratification did better on SAT scores, got into better colleges and in general were more successful as adults. The others? Ten years later they had worse teacher parent evaluations, were less successful in school and as adults, they earned less and were more likely to suffer from some sort of addiction.

Wow! To have a successful kid, keep them away from marshmallows!

NO! It’s not too late. The question is: How do you practice self-discipline and strengthen your will power so you too can be a success?

Start small. Choose one thing you would like to do more – perhaps it’s writing or walking, or maybe you’re interested in smoking less. You can begin by simply deciding to write for 30 minutes every other day until you have 30 pages; or you can tell yourself when you want a cigarette that you have to wait till a certain time then have it, or if you want to increase your walking, get off the bus at the stop before your usual stop and walk the extra blocks.

The idea is to have a goal in mind, consider the long term effect, (delayed gratification) and focus on what it is you want to change. You will feel like you have accomplished something with every little step. Or you can cover your eyes and squirm until you’ve delayed the need to have it all right, right Now!

You too can have a happy and successful New Year, after all, it’s just child’s play.

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