Can You Pass the Marshmallow Test? (Immediate Gratification VS Delayed Return)

Siim Land

Can you pass the Marshmallow Test? What is it? How does it relate to your success in life? It’s about immediate gratification vs delayed gratification. Read this article and find out.

What Are You Trading?

What short term pleasure are you trading for long term value? Are you doing something completely meaningless right now that’s preventing you from gaining something significant in the future? In short, are you going for immediate gratification instead of delayed return?

To understand the difference, I’m going to tell you a story. It’s called the Marshmallow Test.

The Marshmallow Experiment

In the 1970s, there was a study conducted on a group of children. They were put in a room and the adult person with them made a proposal to them that reached existential heights.

“See this marshmallow here? It’s yours – you can have it, eat it, do whatever you want with it. I’m gonna go to another room for 15 minutes. 

But if you don’t eat this marshmallow here, you’ll get a second one when I come back. Sounds good, right?

If you wait now, you’ll have 2 marshmallows in just a half an hour.”

“WOW,” said Billy “I’m gonna wait for you.” I don’t know, Billy just sounded like the best name for this.”

What do you think happened to Billy when the teacher left?

He started squirming in his chair, fighting the urge to eat it, closing his eyes, making noises, singing la-la-la-la – everything that would distract him away from giving in to the temptation.

Children and Instant Gratification

  • There were some children who ate the marshmallow immediately, like after the door closed.
  • There were some who fought hard but eventually broke their fortitude and ate the marshmallow anyway.
  • There were some who resisted the urge, pushed through the temptation and persisted long enough to get their second marshmallow.

But the study didn’t end there. That’s not the whole story.

The Marshmallow Test Results

Years later they looked at the children’s lives. What had happened to Billy?

Billy had lower grades, poorer health and a reputation of misbehavior because he ate the marshmallow.

In general, children who pushed off immediate gratification were more successful, did better at school and were more in control of their behavior.

The reason for this was in how their cognitive apparatus had been constructed up the point of that existential face off.

They were taught to be more patient, conscientious, disciplined and have more willpower.

All the children had enough foresight – they knew that if they waited, they’d get 2 marshmallows. But only the ones with enough discipline actually got 2 marshmallows. And this mentality carried on to the remainder of their lives because that’s how their psyche had been conditioned.

Lessons to Remember

Morale of the story: PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN!

  • Pushing off immediate gratification right now can give you a greater reward later.
  • You’re always trading something whether that be the short pleasure of poor lifestyle habits for living up to a few decades longer. WTF?!?! Do you understand that if you quit your unhealthy habits, you’re going to expand your lifespan by 10-20 years?!?! This should be a NO-BRAINER.
  • Question your urges. It was the children’s crocodile brain that wanted to eat the marshmallow. The neocortex fought back but there wasn’t enough strength in the prefrontal lobes.
  • Doing something immediately will prevent you from doing something else in the future.



Every decision you make in the present has long term consequences in the future.

Can You Pass the Marshmallow Test?

If you eat the marshmallow right away, you’re gonna start giving in to immediate gratification.

  • You’re gonna watch YouTube instead of reading.
  • You’re gonna order pizza instead of working out.
  • You’re gonna go out to get wasted instead of creating a business.

Small incremental nuances are constantly wiring our brain and the creating the person we are.

Of course, you can have the short-term pleasure every once in a while, but if you do, consider all the other consequences that you don’t see right away. The outcomes of your actions today will reveal themselves only tomorrow.

Where in your life are you just seeing the facade and not the forest behind the forest?

Think about it and make the necessary changes.

If you need any help with it, then check out my 5-day online video course that teaches you how to take control of your life and habits. It’s FREE!

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