I’m totally jumping around the alphabet now, but I can’t help it! I must lack self-control.
Seriously, self-control or self-discipline can predict academic performance according to some research I’ve been reading lately. In this post, I’ll talk about that and about marshmallows.
Self-discipline is when you make daily decisions choosing to do something you’re not excited to do but that’s important versus doing something more exciting that’s not as important. Let’s say you have a paper to write for English class (which you are so not looking forward to) but you really want to watch that episode of Ellen you taped or try to get to the third level of Halo 57 (or whatever the latest version is). Of course you’d rather watch TV or play video games as they are more fun and less work. The urge to do those things is strong. You are way less excited to write your paper. There’s basically no urge to do it (unless you’ve waited until the last minute and it’s due tomorrow!). But your grades are important to you, and you want to do well in school because that will help you get into college and get great scholarships. So what do you do?
If you have self-discipline, you go with the weaker urge because writing your paper is more important and valuable in the long run. And in studies where they looked at what students said about their level of discipline, and what their teachers and parents said about it, they discovered that highly self-disciplined students outperformed their classmates on almost every measure of academic performance. Now isn’t that interesting? Making choices that get you to the goals you value by putting off (for the most part) those time-wasters and brain-drainers pays off big time. Wish I knew that in high school!
And how do marshmallows work into this. A long time ago, psychologists designed a study to look at delayed gratification and they “tested” young children with marshmallows. They offered the child one marshmallow which they could eat right away, OR they could wait until the researcher came back and get TWO marshmallows. They then looked at the lives of these children after they had grown up. Those that waited for the second marshmallow were more successful than those that hadn’t. Significantly so. The self-discipline in not eating the one marshmallow right away doubled their sugar intake later – and so much more.
They’ve done this study with warm chocolate chip cookies (which I think is really mean),
and with money, to see who would hang onto their money for a week with the promise of double the amount if they returned the following week without spending a penny of it. All the studies have shown that the people who waited were more successful. Self-discipline pays off now and later!
What does all this mean? That when you are confronted with choices, take a moment to think about which choice will get your closer to your goals. Maybe put off the TV and the games until you tackle that one assignment. I’m not saying don’t ever have fun again or watch Ellen. Just make sure you’ve done what you needed to do for school first. And if a psychologist offers you one cookie now or two later, wait for the bigger payoff.
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Make it a great day!