Motivation: Seeing the Big Marshmallow

marshmallow_treatpops_2This is, like, my fourth post on Motivation for students, primarily, but helpful for other species of humans as well. If you missed yesterday’s post on Motivation and Marshmallows, you may want to scroll down my blog here and catch that one first. This post concerning the Marshmallow Study will make a heckuva lot more sense if you take just a couple seconds and read it first. If you’re a rebel, feel free to skip the advice.

If you are interested in the application of the Marshmallow Study, as it’s been dubbed, to success in business and in your personal life, I recommend a book entitled, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life by Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer. This gem of a book looks at why intelligence and hard work don’t necessarily equal success, and how you can utilize delayed gratification in your daily life to reach your own goals.

Common sense dictates that if you are smart and work hard, you will be successful. Not necessarily, according to Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet.

After reading de Posada’s book, it became apparent to me that the real secret to success is seeing the big picture, which is an incredibly motivating thing to do. When we only see the little individual marshmallow instead of the benefits of waiting to eat it—doubling our reward—we miss out on half of the benefits. We lose opportunity as a result of our impatience and shortsightedness. It takes foresight and vision to hold out for the rewards that are ours when we keep our eyes on the big picture and finally reach our ultimate goals.

Incidentally, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! offers a “Five-Step Marshmallow Plan.” Following this simple plan really helped me focus and see what I needed to change and do in order to begin reaching my goals via delayed gratification.

Seeing the Big Picture

What motivates a student who thinks that he is at the mercy of his teachers and that he must do whatever those teachers tell him to do?

Very little motivates him when he has no control over his environment.

A home-educated student is also unlikely to be motivated day after day when he doesn’t see the big picture, when he doesn’t see a purpose in the work he is doing. A big part of motivation is understanding the why behind what we are doing. I will be much more intrinsically motivated when I see how what I am doing right now will benefit me in the long run. How will what I do today or what I am asked to do by my employer or by my teacher be moving me towards my goals?

If we have no goals at all except to get through the day, chances are good that we will be unhappy. The human spirit thrives on challenge and success. Motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic, is necessary for a well-balanced life.

I admit that I have worked simply for a paycheck before. Perhaps you have too. Because I could see the big picture—putting food on the table—I was willing to work for that extrinsic reward. Eventually, my situation changed. Remember me saying that motivation changes? It sure does. Now I am self-employed, and I’m very intrinsically motivated to work for the sake of helping others and not for monetary reward. In fact, I hate taking people’s money. If I could, I would give all of my products away.

The self-propelled student is motivated intrinsically by seeing the big picture, setting simple goals, and then moving closer and closer to those goals. By teaching our children to see the big picture, teaching them how to set goals, and helping to remove any obstacles that would prevent them from reaching those goals, we are giving them an edge. We are giving them the tools with which to master themselves, and as a result, they will hang in there not for immediate gratification, but for the purpose of reaching their goals. That is delayed gratification at its best.

Marshmallows and the SAT

Interestingly, another follow-up to the original Marshmallow Study was done in 1990, and it found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and higher SAT scores. Those who did not eat the marshmallow scored higher on the SAT than those who gobbled up their marshmallows. Isn’t that fascinating? I think so.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

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One Response to Motivation: Seeing the Big Marshmallow

  1. dayuntoday says:

    Okay, I love the thought behind this post, and I agree wholeheartedly. What I don’t know is HOW in the world I can teach my kids to see the big picture. When my son is doing Algebra and saying,”What is the point? I will never use this again!” I honestly can’t disagree with him. Very, very few adults ever use advanced algebra. I tell him that it’s teaching him to think, but he is not convinced. Somehow I seem to have completely failed in this matter of teaching my kids to see the big picture–they plod through school just to get it done. I can’t really understand it, because I am the kind of person who simply loves to learn for the sake of learning, and could easily be a perpetual student. (I think algebra is fun, and wish I had an excuse to sit around doing complicated equations! :)) Do you have any suggestions? I can’t use the reason that they need it to get into college, because neither has plans to go to college.

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