Jonah Lehrer tells a story of an experiment on self-control using marshmallows and preschoolers in the 1960s. To begin, the children were asked to pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks.

As the children picked their favorite treat, they were given a choice. They could eat one treat right away, OR, if they were willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, they could have two treats when he returned. The doubtful or impatient children could even change their minds. If they rang the bell on the desk after he had gone, he would come running back and they could eat the one marshmallow, but would have to give up the second.

Some were able to wait, others were not.

I doubt these children realized that they were being tested early on for a very valuable life skill. The students who had trouble with it, were in for a wake-up call when they got older, perhaps.

Waiting is tough, but it is inevitable. Here are some things that can alleviate it (Adapted from Future 365).

  • Embrace uncertainty. Of course, some of the children might have had some doubts as to whether or not the teacher would come back. Likewise, we will always experience some degree of uncertainty about our future. That’s okay; it’s part of the fun.
  • Take time to dream.  Focus on other things. Take a walk, stare out the window, sit quietly and let your mind run free. Notice any images or vivid memories that come to mind. Be nowhere and everywhere.  Imagine and dream.
  • Talk it out. Share your ideas about the future with other future-minded people. They will keep you looking ahead. They will help you expand your own thoughts and ideas. Also, listen to them.  It is often easier to see what’s next for others than for ourselves.
  • Don’t just imagine, try it.  If you have an idea, do something to make it happen. Jump in and explore. Start small with a pilot project. Even mistakes and failure can lead to wildly unexpected innovation.
  • Be curious about problems. At times, issues in organizations point to a need for systemic change. Finding opportunities where others see only barriers will open new paths to the future.
  • Give up perfection. We no longer have time to be mired in the drive to do things perfectly. We have to do what is good enough now so we save time to explore what can be.
  • Use our values. When you hear of a new technology, tool, or resource, view it through the lens of our values: access for all, intellectual freedom, privacy, and intellectual property rights. Will the emerging technology or innovation enhance or challenge those values? If there is a conflict, how might you resolve it?

Take your RAW-Q today.

Read about the marshmallow study here in The New Yorker.

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