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Could the ability to restrain yourself from eating one marshmallow make a difference between struggling through life and the ability to retire wealthy and early? Yes it can, according to a study done in the the 1960’s by Stanford University psychology researcher, Michael Mischel. The study tested 4-year old children’s ability to delay gratification. The researcher then placed a marshmallow in front of the child and gave him/her two options. The child could eat the marshmallow, or he/she could wait until the doctor came back from an errand and the child would receive two marshmallows. Only 1/3 of the children were able to wait until the researcher returned. I read the story in the book Influencer: The power to Change Anything (a book I would highly recommend by the way), but you can also find more details on the story here.Influencer: The ability to change anything

I know, it doesn’t really seem like a big deal right. Well, they followed these kids into their adulthood and it turned out that the children who were able to delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow were more successful, had high paying jobs, and tended to be more happy people than the ones who choose to eat the marshmallow. Think about it. The ability to delay gratification means you can save and invest when others are spending money on various things they don’t really need, you can control what you eat, make yourself exercise, push yourself through school when others are partying. This one small behavior has the ability to completely change your life. I know, it is much harder than I make it sound. Luckily, according to the book, Influencer, this behavior can be learned. Since the two books have a lot of similar ideas, I would also encourage you to read Made to Stick.

However, in some cases it really is simple. Most people give up on investing and even saving because they feel it is too difficult. But put in the context of the marshmallow story, finance and investing is really not eating one marshmallow so you can have two. You don’t spend your money, put it in some type of investment, and then it becomes more. The behavior that has to change is the “not spending” part. But, as i mentioned in an earlier post, it gets much easier once you get used to it.

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