The Power of Delayed Gratification and the Traits of Successful Individuals


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 03, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Delayed Gratification and the Traits of Successful Individuals


In 1972, a groundbreaking study known as The Marshmallow Experiment was conducted at Stanford University. The study involved offering children a choice between an immediate reward (a marshmallow) or delaying gratification for a bigger reward (two marshmallows). Surprisingly, the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow displayed higher levels of success in various aspects of life. This experiment led researchers to conclude that delayed gratification is a critical trait for achieving success. However, is self-control an inherent quality, or can it be developed? Let's explore the findings of the Marshmallow Experiment and how the ability to delay gratification can be cultivated.

The Impact of Delayed Gratification on Success:

The children who demonstrated self-control by waiting for the second marshmallow showed remarkable outcomes in their lives. They achieved higher SAT scores, had lower levels of substance abuse, were less likely to be obese, displayed better responses to stress, exhibited improved social skills, and performed better in various other life measures. This long-term study spanning over 40 years consistently demonstrated that delayed gratification was a significant predictor of success.

The Role of Environment and Experiences:

One might wonder if certain individuals naturally possess more self-control, making them destined for success. However, the Marshmallow Experiment revealed that the ability to delay gratification and display self-control is not predetermined but can be influenced by experiences and the environment. The researchers found that even a few minutes of reliable or unreliable experiences had a profound impact on the actions of each child. Trusting that delayed gratification is worth it and believing in one's ability to wait were crucial factors in developing self-control.

The Connection with Decision-Making and Success:

Success in almost every field often requires choosing the path of discipline over distraction. Delayed gratification aligns with this principle, as it involves making the conscious decision to forgo immediate rewards in favor of pursuing more challenging endeavors. By training the brain to see delayed gratification as a positive, individuals can cultivate the necessary self-control to achieve success in their chosen fields.

Developing the Ability to Delay Gratification:

If you currently struggle with delaying gratification, the good news is that this trait can be developed through small improvements. The key lies in making promises to yourself and consistently delivering on them. By starting with small commitments and gradually increasing the difficulty, you can train your brain to recognize the value of waiting and build confidence in your ability to exercise self-control.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Start with small promises: Begin by making small commitments to delay gratification and follow through on them. This could involve postponing the consumption of a favorite snack or resisting the urge to check your phone for a certain period.
  • 2. Gradually increase the difficulty: Once you become comfortable with delaying gratification in small ways, challenge yourself to tackle more significant commitments. This could involve delaying the purchase of an item you desire or postponing leisure activities until you have completed important tasks.
  • 3. Celebrate progress and learn from setbacks: Acknowledge and celebrate each instance of successfully delaying gratification. If you encounter setbacks, reflect on what led to those lapses and devise strategies to overcome them in the future. Remember that developing self-control is a journey that requires patience and perseverance.


The Marshmallow Experiment and subsequent research have highlighted the critical role of delayed gratification in achieving success. The ability to delay immediate rewards and exercise self-control is not an inherent trait but can be developed through deliberate practice and a supportive environment. By training your brain to see delayed gratification as a positive and making consistent promises to yourself, you can strengthen your self-control and increase your chances of success in various aspects of life. Remember, success often requires choosing the path of discipline over the ease of distraction.

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