Open Thread: Struggles with Personal Mastery

Have you heard about the Marshmallow test? 4 year-olds are seated at a table with a big, fluffy yummy marshmallow. They aren’t told they couldn’t have it. On the contrary, they are told they could have it, BUT if they wait until the researcher comes back, they can have TWO marshmallows.

This test tracks the ability to delay gratification. Four year olds that could successfully hold out against temptation would later go on to be successful adults — whatever that means.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not then an act, but a habit.                 ~ Aristotle

This means that habits of self-mastery start early. But that cannot be the whole story. I have no problem with patiently building a business, rather than taking the easy win of a job. But I don’t have the discipline to maintain a fitness regime when there are other things I’d rather be doing. By this standard, do I pass or fail an adult version of the Marshmallow Test?

Why Do We Fail?

The plethora of made and often-broken New Year’s resolutions demonstrates that we all struggle, somewhere, with some aspect of discipline.

My own struggle with self-mastery is allowing myself to fiddle with details and chase easy wins while allowing the bigger (harder) things to slide.

I’m working on a resource on the topic, and I want to know where your struggle lies. Is it knowing when to quit? Is it distractions? What would you find most useful in a resource like this? Please leave your answers in the comments!


3 thoughts on “Open Thread: Struggles with Personal Mastery”

  1. I need two things: the clarity to know this project is worth pursuing, and the persistence to keep at it when it feels like it’s going nowhere . . . or at least, when it seems like no one notices.I’m not sure any more if I’m shipping things, testing, and moving on, or if what I’m doing is starting things and not carrying through, giving enough time for success to show up.

    1. Hmm. The infamous dip? How are these projects aligned with your values? For instance, I’ve owned a number of businesses, none of which made much money, and which I simply dismantled when I was done instead of selling for squillions of dollars (which seems to be the only acceptable thing to *do* when you’re bored of your business) But I don’t start businesses to be an entrepreneur. I start businesses to pay the bills while I amuse myself by learning a new set of skills. So these projects, while they don’t look good on my resume, certainly served their purpose for me. So I’m wondering about the “why” of your projects. Did you get what you wanted from them, or not?

  2. Methinks that *part* of one’s problems (mine fersure, anyway) with *discipline* is cultural baggage hanging onto the word itself. Connotations, yaknow? “Stand in the corner”, “get a whippin”, “time out”, “no dessert for you” ~ all that violence to our sovereignty that’s been inflicted over the years in the name of “discipline” or even “self-discipline”.

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