Don’t even look at the marshmallow…

I like failed experiments. Why? Because successful experiments are more likely the result of confirmation bias… So even in experiments I opt for the Anna Karenina Principle: remove all that isn’t a certain yes, everything that is accidental in the results or make the result a bad result, something I don’t want.

So I am preparing for an experiment today, the “don’t eat the marshmallow” experiment.

I have been, thus far, absolutely unreliable and untrustworthy to not eat something I should not eat, like candy or chocolate, or fruit.

So I ordered a 10 oz bag of dark chocolate covered mint patties, sugar free. Last time I did this I ate all of it within 16 hours…

That was before I distinguished this principle: Don’t even look at the marshmallow!

I’ll let you know how I did. Until now I have been able to control my buying habits… somewhat.

Any success is welcome… but I am most interested how dealing with the “not even looking” will work for me… If I can do it with the candy, then I can do it anywhere… and get a new lease on life.

This article is about one thing: how the mind, the human condition is working against you, your life, your satisfaction, your deepest desires.

You have a case, a sentence (words) you made up when you were very young, and now you live to prove it right, 24/7.

Knowing your case is half of the key to altering your present and your future. Knowing how it effects your attitude and behavior is another half. And this seems to be three halves… lol… Adapting a new type of life philosophy, completely and utterly counter to what the case demands you to do, is the third half.

It is not an issue you can “solve” in one conversation…

I teach how to free yourself from the tyranny of the case in the Playground, and it is a year long program so you can see all of it, and so you can allow consciousness to alter your attitude and behavior. Not you.

Why consciousness? Why not you? Because the you that changes behavior is the forceful little you, with narrow cone of vision, jumping into conclusions like a jumping jack, and wreaks more havoc than is worth putting up with. So no, you need to allow consciousness to do what consciousness deems needs to get done.

And we are, of course back to the core issue, eating the darn marshmallow.

Are you going to be a twitchy little bastard, the marshmallow eater who never amounts to anything, or are you going to avert your eyes from the marshmallow and make yourself busy doing other things?

We shall see.

Life, all of life, is a moment to moment marshmallow experiment, by the way.

So let’s review how the experiment goes: you are taken to a little room, and are presented with a yummy marshmallow. The other person is about to leave you alone with the marshmallow. You are told that if you can refrain from eating the marshmallow before he returns, you’ll get another marshmallow.

96% or more eat the marshmallow.

A surprising detail makes something clear: the small minority that didn’t eat the marshmallow, didn’t even LOOK at the marshmallow.

Wowzy, right?

This is what it takes to grow your TLB, your twitchy little bastard score, the measure of how unhappy and underachiever you will be.

If you have a one for the TLB score, you are definitely unhappy, and an underachiever, meaning: you could achieve a lot more given what you have as a potential.

Not looking at the marshmallow is a principle, it is portable. It is what most successful people obey, and most one hit wonders, and failures disregard it just before they fail.

Your eyes are either directed by you, or by some shiny, tasty, attractive, momentary pleasure thing… hijacking it from you.

Your behavior is ALWAYS consistent with what you see. This is the essence of the marshmallow principle… rewording it in a more general way.

If you can’t or won’t keep your eyes/your attention on something other than what wants to hijack it, you lose. That is the “game” of life.

The Playground is essentially a training to learn to not even look at the marshmallow.

In the Playground we look at feelings, emotions, words, interpretations, memes, stories, what we call the right hand circle… that is the marshmallow in the Playground.

And we instruct our eyes to go directly to the left hand circle, the Reality circle.

Before I continue: let’s talk a little big about principles…

Unless you can see that something is a true principle, you won’t be able to see much of anything related to it. Every true sounding sentence will send you into a tizzy of activities, and then your life will be, what it is, busy, and barely tolerable.

Learning to recognize a principle and see it everywhere, and I mean everywhere, is invaluable.

When you look at quotes and memes, you’ll see tens of authors echoing it… they saw it where they saw it…

One of these principles is the “Don’t Look at The Marshmallow” principle. Also known as “Don’t look backwards, unless you want to go that way”. Other variations are: Don’t try to fix what you see is wrong. or from the Bible:

Proverbs 23:5,33
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven…

Job 31:1
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

Psalm 119:37
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

Until you can see that your attitude is a result of you looking at the marshmallow, you will keep on looking at the marshmallow.

I learned it from a behavioral optometrist who changed my life. He simply put a board in my head that something like: Direct your eyes, don’t let your eyes direct you.

Your eyes, undirected, will move towards noise… and then your world, your attitude will be given by the noise, not you.

A lot of my students, especially the women, are given to being judgmental. The eyes are running them, not them running their eyes.

One of them had a moment of respite, and suddenly noticed how beautiful the world is, the sky, the leaves, the colors, the birds… Yeah.

I remember when I first noticed the sky and the trees… EVER. It was in 1987, June.

Of course I didn’t know what happened really, so it went away as fast as it came.

Until you know how to direct your eyes to where your attention is needed, you’ll live in unreality, and will be utterly ineffective.

Even two of the agreements in the Four Agreements ask you to adhere to this principle… the “don’t look at the marshmallow” principle.

1. Don’t take anything personally.
2. Don’t make assumptions.

Taking things personally is an automatic vantage point, where you are being self-referential: seems really automatic for homo sapiens, the mind man.
And making assumptions goes hand in hand with the mind being a meaning making machine… commenting on everything, and then relating to the interpretation and commentary as the basis of reality.

Almost all cognitive biases violate “don’t look at the marshmallow” principle… I say almost all… because I haven’t really looked at them all. For all I know, maybe all of them are of the same vein: violating the “don’t look at the marshmallow” principle.

PS: Hm, without the experiment I started this article with, I would not know that thinking about the marshmallow is as bad as looking at the marshmallow. It actually the basis of the Desire Trap…

The package hasn’t arrived yet, but I am already in a tizzy and taking my THINKING off the candy has been near impossible. Bummer.

Author: Sophie Benshitta Maven

True empath, award winning architect, magazine publisher, transformational and spiritual coach and teacher, self declared Avatar

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