John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

  • 01/04/2024: A piece on the personal quality of restraint from 2015 that never ran

    I wrote it for Slate and was just reminded of it. This is a very rough draft. I wish it had run:

    On a recent Saturday, I listened to the audiobook of The Marshmallow Test while doing chores. In the famous experiment, children were given a choice between candy they could eat immediately, and a larger reward they’d have to wait for. The narrator, Alan Alda spoke soothingly about all the wonderful things that had been discovered about the link between restraint and success in life since since the book’s author, psychologist Walter Michel, started his experiments in the in the late 60s.

    I carried the firewood, and watched our kids grapple with their own willpower challenges. Saturday morning they are allowed sugary cereal, but before they can play computer games, they must finish their homework and chores. You can imagine what this mix of rewards and constraints causes: they vibrate.

    I walked into the kitchen and my son sprang from the computer in what qualifies as a parkour move. He was trying to pretend he wasn’t just playing Call of Duty. My daughter was nonchalant. She walked by listening to a Sherlock Holmes audiobook, while simultaneously reading a different book on her kindle. In her wake Schroedinger’s dishwasher: half loaded and unloaded.

    The seller of an at home Marshmallow Test would make a killing. For parents, the correlation between self-control and success is so enticing — higher SAT scores, lower body mass index, higher salaries. The kit could include a little two way mirror behind which parents could observe. A helpful website would explain results. Depending on how long junior held off, you could click the link to the Harvard application, or the one for the local defense attorneys.

    Today’s marshmallow test would have to be modified though. One marshmallow is not temptation enough. Unlike the late 60s, when Michel started, today’s temptations go beyond just sex, alcohol, food and gambling. In the digital age, we have to engage in thousands of little acts of restraint to get through the day.

    We must resist iphone app notifications, email chimes, and the itch to check Instagram. Did people like that design in the latte foam from that cafe that shows how I spend my charming private time? Also: LOOK AT WHAT MILEY CYRUS IS DOING NOW! You don’t actually have a choice. You’re going to look at Miley Cyrus whether you like it or not, because for a day or so her gangrenous tongue advances on every front– on the t.v. in the deli, your homepage or in your friend’s facebook feed. On the news, ebola is an existential threat one minute and the next minute it’s ISIL at the door. White hot stories dominate and disappear. Social media draws us in and pulls our hottest first reactions out of us. Then, a new obsession arrives.


    To recreate the cluster of attacks on our willpower, today’s test of delayed gratification would blast the young lad with marshmallows from a fire-hose. When his parents came to claim him, he would look like the Michelin Man.


    This is why I am not a psychologist. But I am a parent and a participant in modernity, which means I am trying to solve a problem for myself as well as my children. I’m listening to the The Marshmallow Test because I’m looking for restraint– to stay focused on important work, to reacquire the rich feeling of immersion in a single task and to keep from giving in to Outrage Culture on Twitter, cable news or in my inbox. I’m not giving up my Instagram, Twitter, facebook or any of it, but at the end of the workday I want to no longer feel like I have become a wraith by my own hand. This is an attempt to find that balance.


    Restraint may be the most taxed personal quality in our modern age. The average person is interrupted every three minutes, according to one study. When we are interrupted we can finish the task, but professor Gloria Mark, who studies “interruption science” discovered that it takes almost half an hour to get back to what we were doing and the cost is more stress, higher frustration, time pressure and effort. The average attention span has dropped from twelve seconds in 2009 to eight seconds in 2013. We are constantly either restraining the impulse to distract ourselves or dragging ourselves back to whatever it is we are supposed to be doing or would like to be doing. Or we just give up, out of gas because we have squandered our resistance and lose ourself in YouTube for an hour. Today’s story of Sisyphus can be told in a vine, because the rock gets reset as soon as he starts pushing it up the hill.


    Reclaiming restraint is not just a personal challenge. Public life feels like it could use a dose. Beheadings, plane crashes, beatings captured on CCTV all come over the transom and leave us to do the sorting. The public dialogue is more raw too. An event takes place and immediately a race is underway to entertain and inflame. Ideological fights in which combatants question motives and produce irrevocable insults used to flare up, but now the flares are always lit. The expression “fly off the handle” isn’t as useful before because, as David Brooks says, we live off the handle.


    The writing about our swarming digital life falls into one of several unsatisfying categories: debates about whether this is really a problem, charming stories about people who have disconnected completely, and pieces that hector you to stop using Instagram and be more mindful.


    The hectoring sort are the worst. For example, this video: “Digital Insanity: Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? Why I Refuse to Let Technology Control Me.” In it, Prince Ea raps about how technology makes us less connected.


    I discovered it on a friend’s facebook page where its success relies on people passing it around through digital media (25,000 facebook likes so far), so the message is a little compromised at the word go. But then I looked at the Huffington Post page where it lives: “If this Video Doesn’t Convince You to Put Down Your Phone, Nothing Will,” read the headline. But arrayed around it were headlines for stories that were in violent opposition to the message. “What’s This ‘Ello’ Everyone’s Posting About on Facebook?” read one. Another: “The Most Dangerous Celebrity on the Web is…” If I was worried my phone couldn’t handle clicking through to read those stories and the others calling out to me, the next headline offered help: “6 Ways To Get More Battery Life With iOS 8.” Even the advertisement was conspiring to keep me constantly connected. “Now stay connected with built-in vehicle Wi-Fi.” I don’t even have to put down my phone when I’m driving.


    The message was clear: put down your cell phone but first don’t you dare put down your cell phone.


    This is like inviting a chocolate cake addict into a bakery called Chocolate Cake Town and lecturing them on the evils of chocolate cake while smearing their face with warm clumps of it. Not the way to go. (The hectoring is likely to actually make people self-sooth with more chocolate cake.)


    Pulling the plug isn’t the answer either. Most of our jobs won’t let us. Also, I wouldn’t want to. I love the digital wander, following link after link until I find myself achieving maximum Stockdale, wondering Who am I? What am I doing here? as I emerge from wherever my curiosity has taken me. My phone delivers wonder in the middle of the day with bright regularity– depression era color photographstwo Star Trek captains waiting for the cable guy, and T.S. Eliot reading The Waste Land. Digital life has introduced me to new friends and kept me connected to old ones. My interest in Instagram makes me more mindful about color and light and the world around me when I’m simply taking a walk, which I now do more often because I came across this great article about how even brief interactions with nature enliven the mind. On the kitchen bulletin board most of the articles, sayings, charts and pictures tacked up that the kids ignore while on the computer below it, come from the computer below it.


    To reclaim restraint, we must rescue it from the scolds. Restraint has always been the necessary partner of imagination and creativity. Dr. Seuss wrote Cat in the Hat from a list of 200 words his publisher gave him. He almost went nuts at first, but then when he embraced the limitations, it freed him. Architect Frank Geahry said his toughest job was one in which he could do anything he wanted. “I had a horrible time with it,” he said. “I had to look in the mirror a lot. Who am I? Why am I doing this? What is this all about?” It’s better to have some problem to work on. I think we turn those constraints into action.” Finally Thelonious Monk lays it on us. His advice to saxiphonist Steve Lacy, is another one of my favorite random finds on the Internet: “DON’T PLAY EVERYTHING (OR EVERY TIME); LET SOME THINGS GO BY. SOME MUSIC JUST IMAGINED. WHAT YOU DON’T PLAY CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAT WHAT YOU DO.”


    Restraint is useful not because it keeps you from doing something bad; it is necessary to help you create something good. Constraints free you from what Wordsworth called “the weight of too much liberty. His sonnet, “Nuns Fret Not in Their Convents’ Narrow Room,” one of the best arguments for the power that comes from limits.


    It turns out that limits aren’t important for just being productive at work. “Sunday neurosis” is the psychological condition that comes from people not knowing how to spend their leisure time because without the structure of the workday they are overwhelmed by all the choices. “To make the best use of free time, one needs to devote as much ingenuity and attention to it as one would to one’s job,” writes psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easy,”


    Improving how we think about restraint helps with one of the key reasons we’ve lost it: Fear Of Missing Out. We hang around the Internet like dogs at the dinner table, worried we might miss an email that will advance our career or a new hysterical video. (What is that hastag everyone is using, anyway) But the brilliant, successful and creative are not scanning the world this way, they’re setting limits about what to do less of and sticking with them. So Ira Glass, host of This American Life, is just fine with not having read or formed an opinion on the firing of Jill Abramson. Jim Collins, the author of the wildly popular business books including Good to Great writes that creating a “stop doing” list changed his life and put him on the current wildly successful path he’s on. He then discovered in his exploration of what made the difference between mediocre companies and successful ones, “many of the big decisions were not what to do, but what to stop doing.”


    How we think about restraint is important in finding more of it, because while our share of willpower is finite, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has found that how you think about your capacity for restraint allows you to draw on more of it when you are stressed. If you believe that you have a store of willpower on which you can draw, even when you feel depleted, it’s possible to push past that feeling of depletion. This is easier to do if you think of the pain of restraint as a by product of gorgeous work or is at least a necessary condition for it.


    That Wordsworth, Ben Franklin, William James and Thoreau struggled with restraint is sometimes used as an argument against getting too exercised about how overwhelmed we think we are. My favorite advice comes from Marcus Aurelius who wrote in his meditations: “Concentrate every minute on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can– if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.” Surely every second century knowledge worker taped this to their stone tablet.


    People thought the telegraph was “too fast for the truth,” but got used to it, as they did the telephone and the television. But that’s not a reason to wave away today’s challenges. It means that we, like previous generations, have to find a way to adapt. In Hamlet’s BlackBerry, William Powers gathers a number of these philosophers to makes just this case, using their adaptations to change to help inform a new philosophy for a life with screens that accepts progress but also helps us navigate back to the quiet, independent self.


    At the moment, we’re all just stumbling around nailing up plywood against the intrusion and hoping it works. GQ’s Jim Nelson resolves for a period to resist clickbait. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin limits himself to one open browser tab on Thursdays. Executives drop their devices in a basket outside the meeting room so they won’t be distracted. U.S. Cellular doesn’t allow email on Fridays. A friend’s son at college installed parental controls to limit his Internet browsing (His roomate sets the password and doesn’t tell him what it is). Programs like Rescue Time, Freedom and Moment help those without roommates who want to recover themselves.  At lunch with old friends, everyone has a story– how their family embraced the Digital Sabbath, how they hit inbox zero or how they made the drive all the way in to work one day without once checking their phone. The New Year’s Resolution you just made– and perhaps have already broken– is probably related to limiting your digital intake.


    In addition to Michel’s discovery about the correlation between willpower and success, the other big discovery about willpower in recent years has been that it is a finite resource and that you use the same stock of willpower in all manner of tasks. You’ve almost certainly heard about decision fatigue and ego depletion– the idea that your amount of willpower diminishes the more you use it, leaving you less equipped to deal with future challenges. That’s why staring at a wall of 16 different kinds of tortilla chips makes you want to take a nap. It’s more likely that you’ll fight with your spouse or eat the chocolate chip cookies if you’re drained by a thousand decisions at the end of the work day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” president Obama told Michael Lewis of Vanity Fair. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”


    You’ve got to routinize yourself. If willpower is like a muscle then you’ve got to think about managing your energy for the day. You’ve got to build up your store of willpower and whittle down the number of decisions and acts of restraint during the day to leave you with enough to deploy when you really need it. Unfortunately, you can’t just listen to Marcus’ orders and just decide to be focused. What’s different today from the past when people felt overwhelmed, is the number of distractions has increased. You can’t just gut it out and be focused. Restraint requires a maintenance and preparation just like eating, exercising and doing housework. This may feel odd and smell of self-help but this problem can’t be solved through ironic detachment. If you don’t plan it, someone else is going to plan it for you through the decisions that push you around all day and make the day feel like it has been cut to ribbons. It will feel difficult at first– creating a system of willpower requires it– but studies have shown once you develop a habit of restraint, the effort required to deploy it diminishes. [link tk]


    The morning is where you must plant your flag and stack your sandbags. If willpower is like a muscle, it is strongest after we wake, when we are rested and the intrusions of the day have not yet started pushing us around. Everyone who writes about willpower suggests walling off some sanctuary time ignoring email, Twitter, Instagram until the last possible moment in the morning. Use the rich time to do your most important and hardest work and the personal tasks like exercise and meditation that build your store of willpower. For most of us, the morning is the time when we have the greatest chance of finding flow, that state described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi where you are so engaged that distraction melts away and you lose track of time.


    You will not only be more productive– since true productivity can only come through “the sustained attention of the genius”–but you’ll also bank that achievement. Later in the day when you feel shredded you will at least know that your life is not a formless blur, but has shape that you gave it in the morning through accomplishment and productivity. If you cannot protect the morning or you are an afternoon person, find some sanctuary during the day where you have the chance to enclose yourself from the digital pelting. When talking about this idea to people, time and again they describe the pleasure of being on a plane that doesn’t have wifi, how much work they can get done and how rewarding it feels when they land to have read a book uninterrupted. This is what the mornings should be like, with the added sense you usually have on a plane which is that you are aligned with your priorities– you are where you should be doing something you should do.


    If you can make a plan in the morning, or revise an existing one, it will also pay off later in the day. Items that we need to deal with create what productivity guru David Allen calls “open loops.” Your mind keeps cycling back to the undone tasks even if you are focused on new goals. This is known as the Zeigarnik effect. Just like with your cell phone, you’ve got to shut down the programs running in the background to keep your battery from being drained. You don’t actually have to finish the undone task to take its weight off you. Your subconscious mind simply needs to know that you have a plan for it. (And once you start somewhere that may actually make it easier to finish).


    Knowing what to tackle early in the morning sounds like an invitation to decision fatigue. For this task you need to figure out what your priorities are. There are shelves of self help books in the section of  the book store with the wind chimes, but a fast rule is to write down your priorities in order and then cross off everything but the first three. Figuring out your priorities has another useful benefit. Later in the day when it feels like you’ve slipped into another fog of constant partial attention the light of a clear priority can motivate you to focus.


    Okay, this all sounds like reasonable advice but it’s only half the picture. A plan for restraint will face its real test when it faces the enemy. It’s hard to act with restraint in the moment. The pull is powerful. It’s not just the Fear of Missing Out that comes over us but an actual psychological and biological need. This is what people talk about most when they swear off Twitter and Facebook. They want to be free of the refresh reflex– that desire to check and check again for the next interesting pellet of information. As Kelly McGonigal describes in The Willpower Instinct. “Our cell phones, BlackBerrys, and laptops have a direct line into our brains, giving us constant jolts of dopamine,” she writes. “There are few things ever dreamed of, smoked, or injected that have as addictive an effect on our brains as technology.” McGonigal goes on to explain why those of us who have been in that cycle have felt so shallow. The need for dopamine is separate from the delivery of happiness. There’s never any payoff every time we do what the dopamine wants. When we hit refresh we are scratching a rash that only gets worse the more we scratch it. 


    The addiction to the little taps is so powerful, one colleague described exiting Instagram before bedtime and then immediately re-launching it to see if there was something new on Instagram. (Perhaps you’ve already felt that tug pull you away from this article? Stick with us fella. Don’t be a dopamine fiend!)


    This is why Louis C.K.’s explanation of why he doesn’t let his daughter have a smartphone touched such a nerve. He argues that technology helps us avoid even the tiny abrasions of daily living which are necessary for a full and rich life. Previous generations wanted to escape too, but they didn’t have such a varied and powerful method of escape in their hand to deliver jolts during the tiny pauses in the day. When excitement is close at hand, it also makes the threshold for boredom lower. To keep our attention things must be hopping. In our family, we  live this at the dinner table where our kids attention seems rented and provisional. I understand why studies show that we’re no longer making eye contact with people.


    This is where the investigation into personal restraint connects with the decline in our public restraint. “We are what we repeatedly do.” If we repeatedly distract, then we are distracted. Twenty years ago Neil Postman, in Amusing Ourselves to Death, argued that the real danger to public life was not totalitarianism– enslavement by the state– but self-enslavement. We would drop our restraint and distract ourselves so thoroughly we’d lose our capacity as a society to tackle big problems. There’s not much on Twitter or facebook to weaken Postman’s concerns.


    The danger is not simply cotton candy diversions like Miley Cirus or the carnival barker stories on the right side of many web pages (15 hottest athletes). The bigger cost of the loss of public restraint is that we think we’re having important debates when we are just engaging in another form of distraction. This is the danger of the Outrage culture. 


    People have always been outraged, but now outrage is everywhere all the time, as Slate demonstrated in its Year in Outrage package. Media sites live off the traffic generated by conflict, worry and sensationalism. Partisan media stokes the constant battle and social media draws from us our first impulsive reactions. The need for repeated stimulation makes the circus more attractive and the busyness of our distracted lives means we have less willpower to expend deploying restraint in public debate. “The ability to compromise is particularly advanced and difficult form of decision making,” write Roy Baumeister, the leading psychologist studying ego depletion and journalist john Tierney in their book Willpower, ” and therefore one of the first abilities to decline when our willpower is depleted.”


    So the id is in control of the news cycle. In late December, after two policemen were shot in Brooklyn in retaliation for the death of two black men killed by police, former New York governor George Pataki Tweeted immediately that it was the “…predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio.” The next morning Pataki’s reaction led the discussion on the public affairs shows. Conservatives heralded it as a brave truth telling. Liberals said it was thoughtless and incendiary. They were right, just as Conservatives were right when they pointed out that liberals had jerked their knee in the same wayblaming Sarah Palin in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, AZ.


    The instances of partisans winning applause and the spotlight from a quick slashing remark swamp the number of instances when a partisan is held up for counseling their teammates to think twice, consider the opposition’s point of view or simply count to ten, the way the Chief of police in Nashville recently did.


    There’s nothing wrong with telling a sharp truth, but such truths are effective when they either surprise or arrive at the end of a reasoned argument. In an age of constant outrage easily conveyed through social media, a sharp truth is indistinguishable from general intemperance. Views gets sorted into the existing outrage machine and fed to ideologues in their corners questioning motives and reciting old grudges. In these debates, anyone who isn’t already on a side gains no insight and so drops out.


    If someone does try to break the cycle of agitation with reason, context or restraint, we have less tolerance to accept it.  If we are too impatient to sit at a red light without needing distraction from email or Twitter, it’s less likely we are going to have the patience to walk past the easy hot explanation provided by outrage culture and embrace cool reason. There is no dopamine in deliberation.


    Those who engage in heated social media debates leave the field weary. “People offer me so many small incidents of wrongness that it sometimes erodes my energy for doing things,” writes Erin Kissane in “Ditching Twitter,” her essay on why she was leaving the social media site. A web designer and writer who once described Twitter as her “rossary,” Kissane grew tired of the constant jackhammer on her willpower from the steady dose of outrages– both real and contrived– in her Twitter stream. Should she engage or not engage? But how can she not engage? But which topic to tackle? When she did weigh in, strangers demand your attention, misinterpret what you say or react indignantly. Managing the responses, writes Kissane, means “my bounce-back is in shorter supply these days.” The more our willpower weakens from sifting the outrages, the more we are susceptible to joining in an easy outrage. We grab the hymnal already prepared for us by our friends. Or, all the yelling looks too tiring and we abandon the conversation completely. Neither of these leads to progress in public discussion.


    The first impulse wins out over restraint in more than just Breaking News moments. CNN’s Peter Hamby studied how Twitter dictated the currents of the 2012 presidential campaign conversation. That’s why so much of the coverage of that race felt so shallow and skatershot. A good example of this phenomenon occurred during the first presidential debate. Reporters competed to top each other in describing how badly Obama had performed. Thirty minutes into a 90 minute debate, the political press had declared him the loser. Because social currency came from topping each other, the analysis was as influenced by the intramural competition to be clever, as it was the events of the debate. In a future debate Mitt Romney would be on the losing end of the quick context-free exchange about Benghazi.


    But it’s also too pat to say that the burden of news we feel today simply comes from companies choosing profit over the public interest. Cell phone cameras, digital video that’s easy to transfer means more images of difficult truths are available. When the Ray Rice video was everywhere, showing him knocking out his wife, people pledged not to watch it, arguing that the victim was being exploited with each view. On the other hand, the video powerfully conveys just how awful and violent the act was, and how unfeeling Rice was in its aftermath. The grisly photographs from ISIL massacres seem excessively gruesome for the public audience, but on the other hand they convey the actual barbarism which is important to understand for national policy aimed at stopping it. The burden is now on us. If disturbing news opens loops in your head, weighs you down all day, you’ve got to know that and set limits.


    Some media institutions are trying to find new restraint. After the grand jury decision in Ferguson, the St. Louis Post dispatch deactivated its comments section on the theory that anonymous rants would poison the serious conversation. The Week magazine has dropped the comments section for good. After hackers released private emails from executives at Sony, Arrin Sorkin plead for the media to show restraint or risk aiding the terrorists. Some outlets did. The family of Peter Kassig called for restraint in showing beheading video of son, just as the families of victims in Newtown and Aurura asked president Obama to use his office to plead with the media not to glorify the shooters. Unintentionally, the Serial podcast became a twelve-part public course on media restraint to counterbalance the lack of same by Rolling Stone in its discredited story about rape on college campuses.


    Unless you can handle the baiting and umbrage taking and energy it takes to sift through the outrage without letting it deplete you, then social media might not be the place for you to talk about sports or politics or religion or whatever your passion is. Yes, you can mute the trolls and set up lists to organize your social media, but all of that activity is fatiguing, leaving you less available for other things you may value more highly. If you are going to engage, do it in short doses or when you have willpower to burn. If you worry about missing out on links to interesting articles or videos, use Prismatic or another program that scrapes your Twitter feed for links that people are talking about, but shaves off the editorializing.


    Another way to maintain restraint in the moment is to set up what policy thinkers call “choice architecture,” a structure that directs you in the moment to an activity that is in keeping with your priorities. Michel calls them If-then statements in which you set up an automatic behavior you do want to do triggered by the thing you want to stop.  If I feel the urge to check email then I will think about something I’m grateful for or I will observe something beautiful outside my car or call my mother. Having an automatic action removes the fatigue of resistance and in the case of email keeps you from getting on the dopamine treadmill. Writer David Mitchell’s if-then is that when he’s distracted he opens his laptop: ” rush to your laptop and open it up. Open the file without asking yourself if you’re in the mood, without thinking about anything else. Just open the file: and then you’re safe. Once the words are on the screen, that becomes your distraction.”  Productivity author Peter Bregman interrupts himself to make sure that if he’s off being distracted, he’s brought back to his priorities.


    All of these are techniques are intended to help with restraint in the moment, when you can’t sooth yourself with a walk in the country or a yoga class or a retreat in a Benedictine hermitage. But those larger techniques that people have employed to unplug, find richness that has been lost in the modern age will help with restraint. Exercise and Meditation improve focus and strengthen your resilience in the face of irritating interruptions. Even keeping a good posture, and maintaining glucose levels can help increase your aggregate willpower.


    It’s harder to come up with tricks for finding restraint in our public conversation. In politics, it might be a start to pause for a minute or two before automatically equating restraint with weakness. It took five years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq before restraint on the battlefield became the central tenant of counterinsurgency strategy that turned around the Iraq war. In public debate it would be great if those with ready access to a microrphone would follow Jefferson’s rule: “when angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry count to one hundred.” Or perhaps they could follow the aphorism of William Arthur Ward that starts “before you speak, listen.”

    But these feel like fantasies. Perhaps simply restoring personal restraint and being aware of the constraints and spaces we must build in our private lives will cause us to be more aware about the public need for the same thing. And then of course there are the children. Their brains will be wried differently to adapt to a world with faster and more plentiful inputs, but the need to balance between moving quickly and slowly will be even greater. I confess that after all of this work on myself, I am no closer to improving on the system for getting the kids to accept this thinking in their own lives. The battles with screen time continue, but on a vacation while I was finishing this piece and not engaging in any of the slow, meaningful and life-affirming behaviors I say I want to, they suggested a strategy almost in uinson: “Have you heard about the Marshmallow Test?” They were mocking me of course, but at least they knew what it was. I’ll take that as a start. 


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