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The Law of the Marshmallow

The Law of the Marshmallow- by Ken Runkle – America’s Profitability Expert™
Delaying gratification today leads to greater success tomorrow.


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The Law of the Marshmallow

Delaying gratification today leads to greater success tomorrow.

by Ken Runkle – America’s Profitability Expert™

In the 1960s, Stanford University conducted a study on delayed gratification. Young children were selected as test subjects. The idea was to tempt them to choose less now, instead of waiting for more later. They put treats, like marshmallows, in front of these children and gave them a choice. They could enjoy the marshmallow now, or avoid eating it and be rewarded with a second marshmallow when the tester returned. One marshmallow if you eat now. Two if you wait.

Some ate the marshmallow right away, unwilling to wait for the possibility of another marshmallow. Others showed greater willpower and discipline to hold off. The promise of two marshmallows was more powerful than the presence of one marshmallow.

Although a simple test, it produced amazing results. These children were monitored well into their adulthood. Researchers wanted to know if the discipline of delaying gratification was related to long-term success in life. The results were remarkable and instructive. Those children who delayed gratification during the initial test were clearly more successful than those who ate the marshmallow right away.

The ability to delay gratification in the short-term has a substantial link to success down the road. The idea is simple. Pay now, play later. You can’t go to the gym today and expect to walk out as an Adonis. You can’t invest in the stock market today and expect to be a millionaire tomorrow. You can’t invest ten thousand in marketing today and expect to grow by ten thousand percent in the next month. Delayed gratification means time and struggle and discipline to not eat the marshmallow today.

Are you willing to delay gratification today for a bigger payoff tomorrow? Are you willing to deal with the short-term struggles because your eyes are on the long-term payoff?

This principle has roots in agriculture. Predicting the future is fairly simple. You reap what you sow. Sow more, reap more. Sow less, reap less. When you harvest the food you planted last year, you have a choice. You can eat it all or you can eat some and set aside the rest to plant for next year. If you want a bigger harvest next year, you won’t be able to eat as much this year. The size of your reward depends on the size of your investment. Live on less today, invest what you don’t spend, and you’ll have more tomorrow. The less you eat now, the more you can plant for a bigger harvest next year. A bigger return later requires a bigger investment now.

Want a better marriage tomorrow? Spend less time today on other things and invest more time with your spouse. Want to buy a boat tomorrow? Spend less money today on other things and save it for a boat. Want a bigger practice tomorrow? Take home less today and reinvest it in the practice. Delayed gratification involves time, struggle, and discipline.

Two marshmallows are always better than one. Don’t settle for one.


Go for it!

– Ken Runkle, America’s Profitability Expert™, is the founder and president of Paragon Management, Inc. and has been helping dental practices reach peak profitability for over thirty years.


Paragon is the leading dental practice management and dental consulting firm for today's dentist. Over 30 years of service have established us as the industry experts when it comes to growing your practice and achieving the success that you deserve. Paragon is America's Profitability Experts.


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