Ravi: Hey Niraj, I was reading about an interesting research today. It is called the marshmallow Test.
Niraj: Sounds Interesting. Please tell me more about it.
Ravi: This Test was carried out to check the patience level of children. Some children were given 1 Marshmallow each and were told not to eat it for 15 minutes. Those who would wait for 15 minutes were promised a second marshmallow. Only few kids (less than 20%) could keep patience for 15 minutes. Others ate the Marshmallow before 15 minutes were over. It was also inferred that the kids who did not eat in 15 minutes, are expected to do very well in life as they exhibited patience which is a very important quality. Other kids showed impatience which will show in their future life too.
Niraj: Wow!! That sounds interesting. But if I were to conduct that test, I might have taught all the kids to practice patience and get a second marshmallow.
Ravi: What are you saying?? How can someone do that? Patience is a trait we are born with. Right?
Niraj: Not really. Patience is more of an art or a skill which can be learnt, practiced and developed. By birth, most of us are impatient, which also means, we are curious. We are curious about details, results etc. When this curiosity grows beyond acceptable limits, it becomes impatience and interference.
Also, we are born with a desire of instant gratification. When a child cries for milk, it wants that the demand should be fulfilled immediately. When it grows up, it extends this logic to toys, entertainment and other things that it demands. If you ask them to wait, they would refuse as a natural reaction. Most of them would prefer (rather insist) for their demands to be fulfilled immediately.
Ravi: Wow!! You sound logical. But then how would you teach Patience if we are naturally programmed to be impatient?
Niraj: Well, there is a secret for that. We are impatient because it’s difficult for our mind to stay idle. It constantly seeks some activity or entertainment. Whenever we want to keep patience, most of us keep the mind idle. Our mind finds this waiting period boring and thus it keeps forcing us to check again and again and makes us impatient.
For example, in the marshmallow test, the children were given marshmallow and were asked to do nothing but watch the marshmallow and not eat it for 15 minutes. Now, their mind is idle for 15 minutes. For these 15 minutes, it keeps forcing them to do something. Take some action. If no other action is available, they will succumb to impatience and will eat the marshmallow.
If they are given an activity, wherein their mind is busy, they wont even realise when 15 minutes got over. This way, all the kids could have kept patience for 15 minutes and got another marshmallow.
In our lives too, most of us struggle for keeping patience. This is because, we don’t know how to keep patience. We think that, Patience means “Doing Nothing”. However, fact is, “Doing Nothing” is the most difficult thing for the mind (For Mind to do nothing, we have to practice meditation, which is again a learned art).
But even without meditation, we can keep patience. For example, if you appear for an exam, and are waiting for result, the right thing to do is, find out something interesting to do during that waiting time.
If you make an investment, which is expected to create 10-fold wealth in next 15-20 years, there is no point in watching it every day. People wonder how do we keep patience for 15-20 years. Actually, you don’t have to consciously keep patience. Just involve your mind in doing something else. Best would be, involve your mind in your own work, your family, your hobby, your health etc. Let Wealth be created in the background.
If you want to lose weight and build health, if you exercise one day and start measuring your weight, you might not see any result. This might make you lose heart and you might give up. Rather, continue doing your part and check the result only after 3-6 months. Possibly, you might not even check it on weighing scale. Your mirror will give you a good idea of the result.
In most waiting areas (Doctor’s clinic, Salons etc), magazines etc are kept for the same reason. If the visitors are not kept engaged, they will get bored and will repeatedly ask, “how much time more?”. When they are kept engaged, a 15-20 mins wait becomes easy for them.
Ravi: Superb!! That’s like an in-depth research. But tell me, is it important to have patience in life? I mean isn’t it true that there are no results without action?
Niraj: That’s a valid question.
First, Patience is not about doing nothing. Patience is about continue doing your part, and being patient about the results.
What we think as action, is actually checking results. So for example, if you are waiting for the train, it wont arrive faster because you are impatient. Yes, once it comes, your part is to board it. That time you can’t skip action. But once you board it, you have to again keep patience till the time you reach your destination. Just because you are bored of the journey, the train won’t reach faster.
Also, by learning to keep patience, you can manage your stress better. Just because you want things to happen faster, it wont happen. But your impatience will unnecessarily give you stress and might affect your blood pressure. By keeping patience, you can keep your cool and thus have a positive health.
Ravi: Thank you so much Niraj. Now I know the secret of how to keep patience. I also realise what is the importance of keeping patience in my life. I will keep my mind busy in some productive action than getting impatient and affecting my health.
We look forward to your feedback and comments on the above article.
The Author Prof. Saurabh Bajaj (BE, MBA, FRM, CFGP, CIA, AFGP) is CEO with Nidhi Investments, Mumbai. His articles have a readership from 78 Countries across the Globe. He may be contacted on CEO@nidhiinvestments.com if you have any questions.
(The views mentioned in the article are personal opinion of the author. The characters used in the article are imaginary).