Delayed gratification and the Indian lunch menu
A very interesting research study once came out of Stanford University, led by Prof Walter Mischel. It was called the Marshmallow test. They put four-year-old kids in a small room, put a small toffee in front of them and gave them two choices. If the child could wait for 10 mins, he/she will get two chocolates. If, however, the kid decided to just eat the candy right there and not eat it, that would be the end of the experiment... no more extra chocolates for the kids. Watch the video below of how some kids struggled against the inner urge and temptation :)
Later on, they kept track of what happened to each of these children... how did they do when they grew up? As it turns out, the children who were able to hold off that temptation successfully and got two chocolates as the reward did extremely well in life. The ones who were the quickest to jump the gun were also the ones who ended up in gangs, became small-time crooks, etc.
This concept of "holding off" or working hard in an effort to win a bigger reward is called "delayed gratification": you skip the immediate opportunity of getting something and instead wait for the bigger prize. People who are successful in cultivating this habit also do not default on their loan payments, they don't overspend (generally), can work hard before their exams and not get out to see that India-Pakistan cricket match.
Well, all that sounds good. What does it have to do with the Indian lunch menu, again? Think about it: we do delay the prize ourselves! You start off with the bitter part: karela. Then the plain old bland dishes come in: the ones you eat every day. This counts as dal, some rice, some sabzi (vegetables). But then you move on to the more "interesting" dishes. Your chicken curry, your spicy fish... you get the idea. And then, of course, comes everyone's favourite part: the dessert. Let me not name too many desserts here: you might just feel like having one :)
Even the cultural pressure is there on almost everyone to follow the courses in order. If you "jump the gun", the first time might be passed over as a childish aberration, but then people really look down upon you as uncivilized, etc.
So does this mean, if you try the candy experiment on your own kid and he picks up the chocolate within 10 seconds he is doomed to fail in life? No sir, he isn't. Look at the 3rd paragraph above where I slipped in the phrase "successful in cultivating this habit". Yes, this is a habit, and it can be successfully cultivated. The children from the experiment who grabbed the chocolate early were taught not to do that, and the next time they were able to successfully hold off the temptation. As it turned out, they too were able to succeed in life. Delayed gratification can indeed be practiced, reinforced and made into a habit.
So what does this mean for your lunch menu? Just hold on a little longer, braveheart! The dessert is yet to come :)