Passing the Marshmallow Test
It’s one of the most famous and successful behavioral experiments ever. It’s been called the Marshmallow Test. In the late 60s, researchers at Stanford University put some young children, one-by-one, alone in a room with a marshmallow. Each child was told that if he or she could wait 15 minutes without eating it, they would get two marshmallows.
Then they tracked the kids right through to adolescence and what they found was eye opening. The ones who were able to wait for that second marshmallow performed significantly better in life on benchmarks like SAT scores than the ones who gave into temptation and ate the first marshmallow right away.
The experiment provided statistical evidence for something I think we all see around us: People who are able to act today within the context of a vision for the future do better than those who just live day to day. You see it in early adulthood, where some people choose a paycheck at a dead-end job while others decide to educate themselves for a better career. You see it in people who spend what they earn every month, versus those who think long-term and build a sustainable economic plan.
And you see it in dentists. I often say that it’s very hard to fail at a career in dentistry. Once you’ve done the heavy lifting of getting the dental degree and getting established in practice, it’s pretty easy to settle into a comfortable routine.
That comfortable routine is your marshmallow. It’s instant gratification, offered to you day after day, and you could just take it and leave it at that. But then there are those among you who take a longer view, the ones who are willing to spend a weekend here and there attending workshops (above and beyond mandated CE requirements). These dentists are the ones who invest time in local study groups or in online education. You don’t have to do it. But you know the rewards are so much sweeter in the long run.