How to Eat Marshmallows, Forget Success and Live a Happy Life

The myth of the marshmallow experiment or how to learn to forget the uncertain future and enjoy the tangible present

Adolfo Ramírez Corona
6 min readMar 13, 2020

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— Kid, you have two options. Eat this marshmallow now or wait 15 minutes and have 2 marshmallows instead of one.

— Wait. What?

— If you can wait, it means you are going to be a successful person in ten years, have a great SAT score, an ideal body mass index, and a very good educational attainment.

— (Eats the marshmallow.)

— Why did you eat the marshmallow? I haven’t started the timer yet!

— Well, first, you can’t assure me that I was going to have two marshmallows in 15 minutes if I don’t eat this one. I mean, you can promise but the circumstances may vary and I don’t’ receive another marshmallow. Second, who knows, I may get a second marshmallow even if I eat the first one because I can make the circumstances change. I can negotiate with you, play some emotional blackmail, or try to get the marshmallows when you don’t see, you know? And third, the most important, I prefer to live in the present moment than in the future and I wanted the marshmallow in this present moment. I mean, there were no really bad consequences besides not getting the second marshmallow, right?

— Very good! You are a person who lives here and now, you are comfortable with whatever reality presents to you, and moreover, your happiness doesn’t depend on future conditions.

The renowned marshmallow experiment

As you may know, the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment realized by Walter Mischel in the decade of seventies with a follow up ten years later, consisted basically in offering a kid the option to have a marshmallow — or similar — right away, or wait 15 minutes and receive a reward of another marshmallow.

One-third of the children waited the full 15 minutes. Just a few of them ate the marshmallow in less than a minute.

Then, 10 years later, they check the results of their SAT scores, their body index mass (yes, really), and educational attainment. Those who wait for more when…

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Adolfo Ramírez Corona

Author, psychotherapist, coach—Human behavior, UX, media & audiences—Father, husband, meditator—Courses & coaching: antifragilewriting.com—More adolforismos.com