How can marshmallows help you succeed?

Episode 18 of Part 1 of our Introduction series: Setting the stage for success.

Habits:  Self-control | Positive attitude

Skills:  Willpower | Persistence

Description:  This is the last episode in Part 1 of our introduction series. In this episode, we introduce the importance of self-control in achieving success. We'll outline Walter Mischel's famous 'marshmallow test' and identify how self-control supports positive outcomes in life. Then we'll end with one simple approach to building your own self-control and willpower.

How this lesson might be discussed with your child

This episode introduces the importance of self-control as a key factor in determining success. We outline the famous 'Marshmallow Test' experiment as conducted by Professor Walter Mischel and his team at Stanford University. The research eventually led to the discovery of the importance of self-control, and as a result, further exploration into the ways in which self-control could be taught and enhanced within students.

In considering the importance of self-control, possible questions for discussion may include:

  • Do you believe self-control and willpower are important to success? Why/Why not?

  • In what circumstances could self-control help you to achieve success?

  • How do you feel about your current levels of self-control?

  • Is there anything that you think might be a weakness for you when it comes to self-control? (examples might include chocolate or soft-drinks, apps and games, social-media, texting friends etc)

  • What strategies could you apply to help you have better self-control?

  • What do you think some negative outcomes might be of not managing your self-control?

Some specific discussion points

Discussion of any literary works, historical figures, or current events featuring prominent individuals offers an opportunity to discuss individuals who demonstrate high levels of self-control and willpower. 

Some possible questions may include:

  • When you think of self-control, who comes to mind first? Why them?

  • Do you think of that person as successful? Why/Why not?

  • Thinking of someone who you believe is extremely successful, do you believe that they have high levels of self-control? Why/Why not?

  • What is it about self-control do you think that helps people to succeed?

  • Does self-control in one area of your life automatically mean you'll have self-control in another area?

  • How might self-awareness, or knowing yourself, benefit your self-control?

Discussing the quote from this episode:

"There never has been, and cannot be, a good life without self-control." — Leo Tolstoy

Possible areas of discussion may include:

  • Do you agree with this statement? Why/Why not?

  • What do you think Tolstoy means by 'a good life'?

  • If we could all benefit from improving our self-control, does that mean that no-one is living 'a good life'?

  • If you have low levels of self-control now, does that mean you're doomed to a bad life?

Further information on this topic

If you'd like to dive a bit deeper on this topic, you might be interested in watching:


Walter Mischel – The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, an interview with Daniel Kahneman.


Or you might like to read:

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success
by Walter Mischel, 2015.