March 18, 2009 by  Ashley Guberman

At first glance, it’s hard to see any connection between the vision one may have for a corporation, department or one’s self, and Cookies or Marshmallows. I have to admit, it was a strange set of circumstances that tied these three together, but it actually makes for an interesting story.

Earlier this evening, myself and two of my peers were in a training session for some volunteer work. On the corner of the supervisor’s desk was a box of Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mint), and a paper plate with two large chocolate chip cookies. This training lasted well over two hours, and took place during what would normally be dinner time. My peers and I were silent about the cookies, paying appropriate attention to what we needed to learn. Yet I would be lying if I said those cookies were not a distraction. Eventually, one of us spoke up and asked “Are you going to eat those cookies? Because if not, you’ve got to take them out of sight before I do them grave harm.”

As soon as she spoke up, we all laughed upon realizing that the three of us had been thinking the same thing. We were all dealing with a mix of desire, hunger, distraction, and self control. It just so happened that one of us eventually spoke up because it became too hard to focus. It was at that moment that I knew what dogs must go through when their owners put cookies on their noses and tell them to “stay.”

It’s the ability to delay gratification that brings me to Marshmallows. In the 1960’s, a psychologist named Walter Mischel studied delayed gratification in 4-year-old children by placing them in a room with a marshmallow and leaving them alone to see what happened. He told them that they could eat the marshmallow, but that if they waited until he got back, they could have two of them. The story describes in great detail the level of pain and anguish on the children’s faces as they devise ways of delaying their desire to simply eat the marshmallow. One key factor in a child’s ability to to delay gratification was their ability to focus on the second marshmallow – the vision. Also, even for those that were initially unable to delay gratification, it was found that by teaching them certain visualization techniques, that increased their ability to wait longer before they succumbed to the power of the marshmallow.

Now, at last, we come back to the notion of vision. As a general rule, we can safely assume that people want good things from their work and their life. Those might include success, bonuses, promotions, pride, accomplishment, satisfaction, achievement, realizing lofty goals, or any number of other motivational factors (marshmallows). Further, to win most of these benefits one has to overcome a number obstacles, such as time, effort, challenges, competition, politics, ambiguity, uncertainty, fears, pressures and demands (delays). So maybe if the marshmallow experiment has anything to teach us as adults, it is that a clear vision for the future goes a long way towards increasing our ability to endure delays and challenges in our quest for satisfaction.

So how about you — either personally, or within your company — do you have a clear and motivating vision for your future sufficient to overcome the real-life obstacles that will invariably come between you and success? Take this test to find out. Then contact Primary Goals and we’ll walk through the building blocks of creating a vision that will get you all the marshmallows you want.

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Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
  • Leaders create vision by communicating a compelling future to their teams.
  • Teams create success based on how effectively the communicate and coordinate with each other.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures are successful only when they communicate value to people with a concern that the business can take care of
In all cases, it’s about Conversations for Committed Results.  That’s our Primary Goal.  



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