A friend told me of an experiment today.
He said that a researcher would leave a four-year-old in a room with a marshmallow and tell the kid that he would be gone a few minutes. The kid was allowed to eat the marshmallow, but if it was still there when the researcher got back, the researcher said, then the kid could have two marshmallows instead.
Here's what happened. The kids that delayed their gratification in order to get the second marshmallow were more likely, later in life, to get better SAT scores and have higher grades in school. They were more likely, as my friend said, to "be successful."
But it struck me. What does it actually mean to "be successful." Does it mean to make more money? Does it mean to get more stuff? Does it mean to climb higher on the career ladder? These are all economic goals that are associated, on many levels, with consumption and resource use (the more money you make, the more you spend, the more resources get used up).
The point here is that if these things are what make a successful human being, then the resource use is perhaps justified. But what if they don't define the real success of a human? Perhaps real success is how much we've loved or been loved or given.
Two questions for you:
1. What do you think success really means?
2. Can it be predicted by whether or not you hold out for a second marshmallow?
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.