There is a famous experiment in psychology commonly known as "the marshmallow test".
"In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned... In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures." Source or Watch it here
TL;DR: The longer you could wait, i.e. delay gratification, the more likely you were to succeed later in life.
Intuitively this conclusion made sense. If an individual has better self-control and does not give in to temptations, they are likely to succeed in life because they can make decisions that will bring them long term benefit — for example, forgoing a wild night at Zouk to study for an upcoming exam or picking a salad over french fries. In most cases, short term pleasure usually equates to long term pain; which is why the conclusion of the "marshmallow test" was so widely accepted. Schools even started to teach delaying gratification as part of “character education” programs.
Unfortunately, this conclusion is inaccurate. Much to the dismay of many parents, the real reason why some children were better at resisting marshmallows isn't biological; it was economical (latest study). Yup, that's right. How wealthy your parents are will determine your marshmallow resisting abilities, which will decide whether or not you end up in Forbes.
Based on previous experiences, children from low-income families have fewer guarantees. One day there is food, the next there isn't; hence, these children learn to grab whatever is in front of them because it might not be there for long. Furthermore, things promised to them in the future, such as a special treat or a shiny new toy, may be withdrawn out of financial necessity. As such, these children become sceptical of vague promises made to them.
On the flip side, children from wealthy families lead a life filled with guarantees. Their pantry is always fully stocked; there is no reason for them to worry that there won't be food the next day because that has never happened. They also trust that their parents will be able to compensate them with other sweet treats if they do not get the extra marshmallow.
"The results imply that if you can teach a kid to delay gratification, it won’t necessarily lead to benefits later on. Their background characteristics have already put them on that path." source.
Surprisingly, a recent study has suggested that everything we know about "self-control" is false; there is no innate characteristic or trait that magically makes an individual more disciplined and able to resist temptation. Self-control/discipline is all about your environment--- living in an environment with fewer temptations.
If you've been paying attention, you'll realise that it isn't a parents' absolute wealth that shapes an individual; it is their "background characteristics", i.e. their environment.
So what does all this mean? It means you are not entirely doomed if you're born poor. As an adult, you can change your environment such that you give in less to temptations and "instant gratifications", and focus on building long-term success.
It was found (1,2) that individuals from low-income groups tend to splurge and spoil themselves when it's payday. Even though it may mean they'll have to struggle at the end of the month, they will treat themselves to McDonald's or new clothes.
Does this sound like you?
It is essential to be fully aware of what you are giving up for that little treat. Is a Big Mac worth $5? What else can you buy with $5?
To learn more about how to change your environment to break out of the poverty cycle, download our free Ebook: 5 Steps to 99.968% Discipline Level!
If you have any thoughts/comments/questions, please share them :)
Lots of Love,
Jump Stakes Team
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