In the course of a conversation today, Eric asked “what do you mean by success”? I define success as the ability to make and meet goals. These goals could be anything from making lots of money, to fitting into size 6 jeans, to deadlifting twice your body weight. The specific goals are not as important as the ability to reach them. I think that most people assume the internal, personal process of goal attainment does not differ from goal to goal- only specific knowledge and reasonable time course does.
Most meaningful goals that we set throughout our lifetime take several steps, change of habits, and/or understanding new concepts. Goal attainment is hardly ever about instant gratification. So a person’s ability to delay or defer gratification is related to their aptitude for goal attainment- or success.
There is a rather famous psychological experiment called the Marshmallow Test that was conducted at Stanford. Basically, researchers took children 3-5 years of age, placed them in a room with a marshmallow, and told them that they could either eat the one marshmallow whenever they wanted or wait for the return of the researcher and get two marshmallows to eat. A few children ate the marshmallow immediately, others delayed but not long enough to get the second marshmallow and a third made it to two marshmallows. In a longitudinal study of these individuals, later researchers showed that the children able to delay the longest had, in general, higher SAT scores, lower BMI and higher levels of education.
The ability to keep your goal (two marshmallows) in mind and delay instant gratification (eating the marshmallow in front of you) will help you be more successful in your personal, real life goals like losing weight or finding the perfect job. Of course, there is more to goal attainment than a little delayed gratification, but it is a great foundation for success.