The Future of Self-Improvement, Part I: Grit Is More Important Than Talent
In the late ’60s, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel performed a now-iconic experiment called the Marshmallow Test, which analyzed the ability of four year olds to exhibit “delayed gratification.” Here’s what happened: Each child was brought into the room and sat down at a table with a delicious treat on it (maybe a marshmallow, maybe a donut). The scientists told the children that they could have a treat now, or, if they waited 15 minutes, they could have two treats. All of the children wanted to wait. (Who doesn’t want more treats?) But many couldn’t. When the researchers subsequently checked in on these same children in high school, it turned out that those with more self-control — that is, those who held out for 15 minutes — were better behaved, less prone to addiction, and scored higher on the SAT. It’s not difficult to see how self-control would be predictive of success in certain spheres. In essence, Twitter is the new marshmallow. And yet: Self-control isn’t the whole story.
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