In the sixties, Walter Mischel, conducted a test on 4 and 5 yr old kids. The test was that, now famous, marshmallow test.
If you’re not familiar with test, Walter Mischel had a teacher bring a marshmallow to each kid and tell them that they could have the marshmallow, but if they would wait to eat it until the teacher came back, they could get another marshmallow. So they could have not one, but two marshmallows.
Then they watched the kids. About 2/3rds of the kids could not wait the 15 minutes until the teacher came back. Some of them could not even wait until the teacher left the room. But some were able to wait the full 15 minutes and they got two marshmallows.
The study continued. After a while Walter Mischel noticed that some of his kid’s classmates (who had “failed” the test) weren’t doing as well in school, so he went back and did a more formal study. The findings were that the kids who were able to get the 2nd marshmallow generally did better in life than their peers.
You can read more about it here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer
So, why are are talking about the marshmallow test? Well, the interesting part I’d like to highlight is in how those kids were able to get the 2nd marshmallow. From the article it reads:
Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.
Why is this significant? Well, usually when we think about self-control or self-discipline, we think of willpower. When we want more self-control or self-discipline, we think we need more or stronger willpower. But the kids who successfully waited to get the 2nd marshmallow, didn’t use willpower. They instead distracted themselves from thinking about the marshmallow.
The truth is that willpower doesn’t work – at least, not for very long. We need other strategies.
For your money, you need other strategies also. To get out of debt, willpower alone won’t work over the long haul. Here are some of the things we recommend for getting out of debt:
1. Use cash envelopes for your shopping, so you can stick to your month’s plan.
2. Pay off the debt from smallest to highest, irrespective of the interest rate. This way you get regular wins on along the way – so you stay motivated.
Another thing you should do, is not go shopping until you’re ready to buy. if you’ve decided you’re not ready to buy a new car yet, don’t go to the auto lot. Why put yourself through that?
Set up systems like those listed above (or similar) in your financial life to make it easier to attain your goals.
What about you? What systems for your money do you have that work for you?