Marshmallows + Delayed Gratification =  Sweet Sweet Summer

What day is it? At this point, every day feels like “Blursday”. We’re a month or so into this thing and wondering….will the shelter in place order be lifted? Will Little League resume? When will camp start? And of course, we just don’t know.

I’m going through the roller coaster of emotions like everyone else…frustration, anxiousness, loneliness, lethargy on my bad days and optimism, gratefulness, growth on my good days…this time has been a blessing and a curse. Everything is delayed as we wait for a return to “normal”. Like it or not, we are in the slow and painful process of delaying gratification.

If you don’t already know about the great Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, you should. New York Times bestselling author, James Clear, offers an excellent summary here. In essence, the researchers offered children the choice of eating one marshmallow now or waiting and eating two marshmallows later. They then followed those same children for 40 years. What did they find? Those that could wait and eat two marshmallows later instead of one now, were more “successful”. For example, they found “patient postponers” had some excellent keys for success in life:

  • Higher SAT scores
  • Lower levels of substance abuse
  • Lower likelihood of obesity over time
  • Improved response to stress
  • Improved social sckills
  • Better impulse control

We have a unique once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity right now. While everything is already delayed, we can teach and practice delayed gratification for our own future success and general contentment. Psychology Today has an excellent two part article with strategies for your family. I encourage you to check them out: Part 1 & Part 2.

Summer camp also gives us an incredible opportunity to develop delayed gratification through campers taking on responsibility and practicing self-discipline:

  • Cabin and camp clean up – sometimes you draw the tough assignment but you get contribute
  • Activity sign ups – sometimes you don’t get what you want right away
  • Trip and food preparation – there’s no magic wand to make things ready, you have to do it
  • Learning to belay – you have to help others so they can help you
  • Taking the many small steps in making a new friend – sharing time, space, and decisions together grows bonds and develops meaningful relationships

Through it all, we find that the process of some of the parts can be painful but the fun of the larger experience is worth it. That’s how we grow. So while we are working hard in putting camp together it’s comforting to know that sweet, sweet summer is just around the corner waiting for us. The waiting and the uncertainty will be worth the many rewards which are WAY BETTER than two marshmallows: community, independence, life-long friendships, and just plain old FUN.

Be well, Dan

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