Monday, September 15, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 259

Giving into temptation doesn't define you.  However, how you learn from it, does.    

I read a great piece this morning from yesterday's New York Times.  The piece, written by Pamela Druckerman, shared some insight on the marshmallow test, and what temptation really means for us as members of society (and to a smaller extent, as leaders and learners).  The article, titled "Learning How to Exert Self-Control" shared thoughts from Druckerman based on conversations she had with Walter Mischel, the lead behind the marshmallow tests started in the late 60's.  The gist of these tests was to study delayed gratification, and to see how young children handled the idea of "waiting," in this case, to eat something they really enjoyed.

Druckerman shares many great tidbits in this piece, one of which is Mischel's belief (based on research), that distraction is a great way to deal with self-control, and that it isn't a problem to give in to temptation every once in a while, but temptation should never define our decision-making.

As leaders, this should make perfect sense.  We are nothing if not human, so to pretend that we aren't prone to temptation (whether it be to buy that chocolate bar, stay up later to finish a movie, or buy the newest video game) is just silly.  And in fact, giving in to that temptation can be just fine.  But, how we learn from that temptation is of utmost importance.

Let's say that you stay up to finish a movie.  The next day you're tired.  If you then continue to day-in and day-out stay up to watch movies, you haven't learned well from that temptation.  If, however, you realize that you'll need to alternate your late nights with a number of earlier nights, one might say you have learned, and as such, have used temptation to your advantage.

The big learning here is that our actions, at least in the initial frame, rarely define us.  Rather, it is how we gain insight from our actions, and what we do in response, that makes all the difference.

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