All of us seem to be in a frenzy of sorts and spend a huge chunk of our lives rushing around. We live a supersonic paced life and thus expect everything around us to move at supersonic speed too – be it feedback, rewards or opportunities at work.
Newsflash – it doesn’t work! And you might be short-circuiting your career in the process.
How then does one avoid getting captivated by the desire for instant results?
Take the following lesson to find out.
Please study the video carefully and attempt the quiz question located at the bottom of the page at the end of each lesson.
Good Luck and Happy Learning!
In the 1960’s, Walter Mischel, a Stanford professor, revealed a startling characteristic for success in health, work, and life.
He conducted a study with children between the age of 4 and 5 years. The experiment began by sitting the children down in a room 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 if – and only if – they could refrain from eating the marshmallow while he was away, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.
A simple choice: one treat right now or two treats later.
The researcher left the room for 15 minutes.
Video footage of the children waiting in the room revealed that some kids jumped up and ate the first marshmallow as soon as the researcher closed the door. Others squirmed in their chairs as they tried to restrain themselves but eventually gave in to temptation a few minutes later. And a few of the children did manage to wait the entire time.
As the years rolled on and the children grew up, the researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child’s progress in several areas.
What they discovered was astonishing.
The children who delayed gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as compared to their peers.
Now, these studies are a small insight and human behaviour is a lot more complex. we are definitely not implying that the choice four-year-old makes will determine the rest of his or her life.
But these studies do make one thing clear – if you want to succeed at something, at some point you will need to be disciplined and patient.
We live in a hyperconnected world of instant gratification and viral results.
Our cultural norms encourage us to seek ‘insta-fixes’—whatever it takes to ease our discomfort now. This is apparent in the prevalence of casinos and gets rich quick schemes all around. Waiting for years to achieve personal goals or aspirations sounds just plain absurd.
Reality check – it’s ridiculously rare that you will receive promotions or pay hikes every few months. And thus, you may be tempted to give up and quit, spurred by cultural dogma and stories of overnight success. So, you’d do very well to internalize this now – at the start of your career. ‘It takes a lot of hard work and unrelenting patience to succeed’. Remember the lessons on outlearning and outworking others? Seek excellence and in-depth learning, that requires spending considerable time learning the job, the environment, the products, the competitive landscape, etc. and success will follow. The alternative is giving in to a job-hopping impulse and setting yourself up for a professional impasse later in life. That happens a lot by the way.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, scientist and author, found through research that people find true meaning and take joy in their work when they see themselves as being part of something larger than themselves.
It is an innate human need to know that our work matters; that we are part of something larger than ourselves – that we are making a difference somehow.
Truth is, in the job that you have, you already are making a difference. Sure, it’s hard to see that when you’re stuck with mundane tasks that every job has – such as filling in a form, or entering data into a system, negotiating a deal or dealing with angry customers day in and out – but a whole lot of people are better off because you are where you are. Without you, a lot of people’s need would not have been met.
One day, you will get to a position of responsibility, and you will be able to clearly see how your work makes a difference.
Until then, don’t shortchange yourself for ‘instafix’ job choices.
But how does one cultivate patience?
Using functional MRI (fMRI) to look inside the brain, neuroscientists Adrianna Jenkins, and Ming Hsu found that imagination is a pathway toward patients. Imagining an outcome before acting upon an impulse may help increase patience.
Scientists call this technique, “framing effects,” or making small changes to how options are perceived or framed.
For example, when asked to choose between receiving $100 now and nothing after 30 days, or nothing now and $120 after 30 days, participants who chose the greater reward reported imagining vividly what they could do with it, just before they made their choice.
One participant wrote, “It would be nice to have the $100 now, but 20% more at the end of the month is worth waiting because it’s one week’s gas money.”
The more participants imagined the consequences of their choices, the more they were able to be patient in order to receive the greater reward. Use that to your advantage. Just before you’re about to make a choice that involves waiting for something better – think about what makes that something ‘better’ and if it’s worth letting it go for something lesser now.
There are stories aplenty of people who were patient and persisted despite the odds, before finally achieving great success. Walt Disney, for instance, was turned down 302 times before he got financing for Disneyland. George Lucas put up his own money to make Star Wars because no one believed in his vision. By the time the movie was released, he was completely broke. But he ended up becoming phenomenally wealthy precisely because he had been unable to sell any of the rights to the film or sequels.
Thus success in nearly every field requires the delay of instant gratification in favour of doing something harder that will reap rich dividends. As young people on the threshold of a new career, you probably face your own version of the marshmallow experiment very often. Patiently continuing on despite obstacles is pretty much your best shot at making your professional and personal dreams come true.