Sometimes it pays to wait. Since I tend to be an “eager beaver” about many things, my husband often reminds me that “Patience is a virtue.” Usually my unwillingness to be patient or to WAIT, is because I am also particular in details and want to see something accomplished…now, rather than later. Procrastination is a bad word in my vocabulary.
Having said that, history often teaches us that “waiting” can be an exciting thing when something we least expected happens because of our willingness to “just give it some more time!”
For example, did you know that today, October 4th, 2022, marks the 100th year since the beginning of the King Tut excavation by the Englishman Howard Carter and his financier, Lord Carnarvon?
Lord Carnarvon was a wealthy Englishman who was interested in Ancient Egypt. He gave the money to pay the bills for Howard Carter’s work in Egypt. They searched for Tutankhamun’s tomb, in the hot dusty Valley of the Kings, for five years without finding anything. Carnarvon was ready to stop financing the effort, but Carter convinced him to WAIT just one more year. (Lord Carnarvon is shown in picture below.)
It must have been a breath-taking moment when Carter notified Carnarvon that he had found the entrance to Tut’s long -hidden tomb…approximately 3,000 years old!!! What a temptation it was to open everything up, with the help of the Egyptian workers, but he again WAITED for the arrival of Lord Carnarvon to travel from England.
“King Tutankhamun, also known as the Boy King, assumed rule as pharaoh during the New Kingdom period at age eight or nine. During his short reign, which lasted around 10 years, he made efforts to restore ancient Egypt’s polytheistic religion and culture while beginning to restore existing monuments. His tomb contained more than 5,000 artifacts, providing an unprecedented look at royal burials and life during the period.”
Howard Carter examines King Tut’s sarcophagus. The rest of this story is “history.”
HOW IS WAITING LEARNED OR APPLIED TO OUR MODERN LIVES?
Waiting has made big changes in various walks of life and many stories could prove this point. What about more modern-day abilities to WAIT and the results? How much are our children learning about the advantages to learning to WAIT?
There have been some studies about “delayed gratification” of which you may have never heard, since we live in a world of “instant gratification!” One of those was called the MARSHMALLOW EXPERIMENT. This is what happened.
In the 1960s, a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel began conducting a series of important psychological studies.
During his experiments, Mischel and his team tested hundreds of children — most of them around the ages of 4 and 5 years old — and revealed what is now believed to be one of the most important characteristics for success in health, work, and life.
The Marshmallow Experiment
The experiment began by bringing each child into a private room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them.
At this point, the researcher offered a deal to the child.
The researcher told the child that he was going to leave the room and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow.
So the choice was simple: one treat right now or two treats later.
The researcher left the room for 15 minutes.
As you can imagine, the footage of the children waiting alone in the room was rather entertaining. Some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others wiggled and bounced and scooted in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves, but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And finally, a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time.
Published in 1972, this popular study became known as The Marshmallow Experiment, but it wasn’t the treat that made it famous. The interesting part came years later.
The Power of Delayed Gratification
As the years rolled on and the children grew up, the researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child’s progress in a number of areas. What they found was surprising.
The children who were willing to delay gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.
The researchers followed each child for more than 40 years and over and over again, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever capacity they were measuring. In other words, this series of experiments proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.
And if you look around, you’ll see this playing out everywhere…
- If you delay the gratification of watching television and get your homework done now, then you’ll learn more and get better grades.
- If you delay the gratification of buying desserts and chips at the store, then you’ll eat healthier when you get home.
- If you delay the gratification of finishing your workout early and put in a few more reps, then you’ll be stronger.
… and countless other examples.
Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.
This brings us to an interesting question: Did some children naturally have more self-control, and thus were destined for success? Or can you learn to develop this important trait?
What Determines Your Ability to Delay Gratification?
Researchers at the University of Rochester decided to replicate the marshmallow experiment, but with an important twist.
Before offering the child the marshmallow, the researchers split the children into two groups.
The first group was exposed to a series of unreliable experiences. For example, the researcher gave the child a small box of crayons and promised to bring a bigger one, but never did. Then the researcher gave the child a small sticker and promised to bring a better selection of stickers, but never did.
Meanwhile, the second group had very reliable experiences. They were promised better crayons and got them. They were told about the better stickers and then they received them.
You can imagine the impact these experiences had on the marshmallow test. The children in the unreliable group had no reason to trust that the researchers would bring a second marshmallow and thus they didn’t wait very long to eat the first one.
Meanwhile, the children in the second group were training their brains to see delayed gratification as a positive. Every time the researcher made a promise and then delivered on it, the child’s brain registered two things:
1) waiting for gratification is worth it and
2) I have the capability to wait.
As a result, the second group waited an average of four times longer than the first group.
In other words, the child’s ability to delay gratification and display self-control was not a predetermined trait, but rather was impacted by the experiences and environment that surrounded them. In fact, the effects of the environment were almost instantaneous. Just a few minutes of reliable or unreliable experiences were enough to push the actions of each child in one direction or another.
(This writing from Author James Clear, who writes about habits, decision making, and continuous improvement. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits.)
The Holy Scriptures also tell us that God wants us to WAIT: Isaiah 40:31 says “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.“
Video on Teaching Children the concept of SELF CONTROL…or WAITING. Turn up sound.