How To Not Eat the Marshmallow

I was watching the new Cosmos series with Neil de Grasse Tyson, when a new car advertisement comes on. It hits me suddenly and I have the urge, no, NEED to research Subaru. Why? Some subliminal reaction? I have a good car. I picked this particular car and don’t have a desire for a new one, but yet I still had the new car craving. Because if I had a new Subaru Outback I’d have adventure. I’d be young and trendy. I could explore and travel and I’d be happy! Subliminal messages are like a virus to me. Just like the latest diet craze, any new fact or interest I get tends to take me chasing rabbit trails.

Ways to distract myself from spending money

The trick is to catch it at the first urge. There’s a short pause between seeing the shiny apple hanging from the tree and thinking of the sweet taste it will leave in my mouth. Also, thinking of it being there, taunting me. It won’t stay there forever. Shouldn’t let it go to waste. Ah heck, I might as well just eat it. STOP. Somewhere before my hand reaches for the prize, I have to catch my spiraling thinking. Faulty logic. Enticing images. That’s my magic moment. If I can learn to catch myself before I hit the BUY button I’ll be okay.

There are methods to distract yourself. When I’m exercising I use distraction to hold a pose just a little longer. I sometimes tell myself I’ll run to the next stop sign, then turn around. Mostly it works. It’s almost like working with a child.

You may have already heard of the study done with the marshmallows. I’m going to repeat it because it fits with my thoughts on spending money.

The Stanford marshmallow experiment:

The children were led into a room, empty of distractions, where a treat of their choice (Oreo cookie, marshmallow, or pretzel stick) was placed on a table, by a chair.[1] The children could eat the marshmallow, the researchers said, but if they waited for fifteen minutes without giving in to the temptation, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.[1]

Mischel observed as some would “cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray, others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal”, while others would simply eat the marshmallow as soon as the researchers left.[1]

It’s a natural response to distract ourselves. You want to eat the cookie. The cookie is within reach, but you don’t. So from now on, if I can catch myself in that moment before I hit BUY, I will go clean the toilet!

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Question It All

Question everything. Question everyone. Question it all. Anything that comes across your senses can be faked. A person may be exactly who they say, but may not. The $1000.00 coat looks nicer, classier, better tailored than the $100.00, but it could be a knock-off. Your neighbor may be a successful business person or a drug dealer. It’s not easy to tell sometimes.

If you want to see truth like you say you want to, you must bypass the easy stuff. The cover story. All the mind Jedi tricks that people play are distractions. Don’t be distracted. Retrain your thinking. How? Notice the story they tell you. Look at it then look again. Listen to the skeptics. Take courses in critical thinking. Be smart and use the scientific method. The story is the hypothesis. They say they work at a bank. What type of car do they drive? How do they dress? House? Children? is their lifestyle in the salary range of a loan officer or the president? What type of friends do they have? Check out the salary of bankers in your state. In other words, do the ingredients in this person’s life add up to who they say they are?

There are three main questions to ask if you want to exercise skepticism.

  1. Who is making claim?
  2. What’s the context?
  3. What is the quality of the evidence?

I wanted to share some resources for those who want to dabble in skepticism.

http://www.skeptic.com/
http://www.criticalthinking.net/
Book – The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
Book – The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins