The classic Marshmallow Experiment of 1972 involved placing a marshmallow in front of a young child, with the promise of a second marshmallow if he or she could refrain from eating the squishy blob while a researcher stepped out of the room for 15 minutes.
Follow-up studies over the next 40 years found that the children who were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow grew up to be people with better social skills, higher test scores, and lower incidence of substance abuse. They also turned out to be less obese and better able to deal with stress.
But how to improve your ability to delay things like eating junk food when healthy alternatives aren't available, or to remain on the treadmill when you'd rather just stop?
Writer James Clear suggests starting small, choosing one thing to improve incrementally every day, and committing to not pushing off things that take less than two minutes to do, such as washing the dishes after a meal or eating a piece of fruit to work toward the goal of eating healthier.
Committing to doing something every single day works too. "Top performers in every field--athletes, musicians, CEOs, artists--they are all more consistent than their peers," he writes. "They show up and deliver day after day while everyone else gets bogged down with the urgencies of daily life and fights a constant battle between procrastination and motivation."