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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get something right away, I get super frustrated. Whether it’s playing a video game, learning an instrument, or trying out a new hobby, I want to be good at it on the first try. What I’m describing is the need for instant gratification, which is the desire to complete a short-term and easily obtainable goal instead of a long-term one. However, research has proven the benefits of delayed gratification. Let’s talk more about its importance and how to develop it as a skill. Kick procrastination and stay motivated longer.

The Marshmallow Test

One of the most well-known studies of delayed gratification is the marshmallow test conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s. One by one, children were put in a room with a single marshmallow placed on a plate in front of them. The children could either eat the marshmallow right away or wait 15 minutes to receive two marshmallows. Essentially, they’d be rewarded for their patience. However, it’s difficult to wait for something when you have a high desire for it, and if there’s one thing children want, it’s sugar. If there’s one thing I want, it’s instant results.

Dr. Ilene Strauss Cohen wrote about this experiment for Psychology Today. In the article, The Benefits of Delaying Gratification, she states, “…the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow without eating the first one scored higher on standardized tests, had better health, and were less likely to have behavior problems.” The results showed that delayed gratification is correlated to future success.

Joachim de Posada gives an excellent TedTalk further discussing this marshmallow experiment. It will inspire you, so I’d recommend giving it a watch.

Or you could watch this short, adorable video of Kylie Jenner teaching Stormi patience with M&Ms.

How to develop the skill

The good news is patience is a skill you can develop with practice and, to reap its rewards, you just need a little delayed gratification (wink wink). I’d recommend making a simple goal you can easily complete. Starting small can help you build a habit and the momentum to stick with your goals. Tony Robbins, a philanthropist and life coach, gives a few examples that might help you stir up a few ideas. He says you can start by waiting three minutes before eating dessert. Next time, wait four minutes because incremental progress will let you build up confidence with each simple goal you reach.

Thanks to Robbins’s examples, I thought of some of my own:

Put the stuff you’ve been wanting in your Amazon cart. Instead of checking out, close the tab. Wait a day and see if you still want those items. If you buy them, you must have really wanted/needed them. If you don’t buy them, then you save yourself some money.

Instead of going to a party on a Thursday night, stay in and get plenty of sleep for your 9 a.m. class. You’ll have plenty of time to party on Saturday night.

I challenge you to write five examples of your own and stick to one of them for the week!

Delayed gratification is all about sacrificing a little of your present for the greater good of your future. You might want something for a singular moment but waiting could double the benefits you get out of it (just look at the kids who waited for the second marshmallow). Work out for an hour today, so you feel better for the rest of your life. Go to bed early, so you feel energized for the whole day. It starts with those minor changes. Remember to practice gratitude and keep track of your goals and the progress you’ve made with them. It might not come right away, but I guess that’s the whole point, isn’t it?


Importance of Delayed Gratification by Tony Robbins

The Benefits of Delaying Gratification by Psychology Today written by Dr. Ilene Strauss Cohen

Isabel Crabtree

Illinois State '25

Hello everyone! I am a marketing student at Illinois State University. I love all things music, true crime, and self-improvement. I write to inspire and share what I've learned. Thank you for reading!