Metacognition according to Marshmellows

You have heard about the marshmallow test right?

Check it out here:

I read an interesting yesterday that dug into the science of self-control. As a student, a pastor and a future parent this was fascinating to me.  Below is an excerpt of the article.

Psychologists assumed that children’s ability to wait depended on how badly they wanted the marshmallow. But it soon became obvious that every child craved the extra treat. What, then, determined self-control? Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place. In adults, this skill is often referred to as metacognition, or thinking about thinking, and it’s what allows people to outsmart their shortcomings.

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  • It’s very humanistic of course, and metacognition has its shortcomings. For example how would it work when you are battling a character defect, or mental failings, and not a fluffy sugary corn syrup treat.
  • Nevertheless it shouldn’t be dismissed entirely out of hand. Being able to focus on positive things in life is better and more productive in general than entering a dialogue with negative things.
  • Reminds me of a story in Genesis 39:1-12

How you found thinking, and acting on positive things even in the midst of obvious negativity helps?

Locus of Control

In May 2009, I begun my MDiv at Andrews. I came  excited, expectant and full of optimism.

I battled classes from Aleph through to Omega. From Mabul to Timelessness. I was stretched beyond my physical, emotional capacities at times. But I had great friends, professors, and I didn’t snap. 107 credit hours, and by the grace of Jesus, I stand on the cusp of completion.

Some of the teachers that I initially dismissed as being too simplistic taught me some of my most important lessons. The ones that could exegete a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma  left me with wide eyed wonder, but I can’t repeat much of the material from their classes.

One of the most important lessons that I learnt is what is termed the Locus of Control. This term says that as the environment around you changes, you can either attribute success and failure to things you have control over, or to forces outside your influence. The orientation we choose has a bearing on our long-term success. 

Sometimes I chose to blame professors [for the grade I didn’t like] the awesome Michigan snow [for making me late, even though I left my house with exactly 37 seconds to spare] or sneaky deadlines [for making me pull an all nighter].

At times I neglected things within my own control, and then got eaten alive by my circumstances outside of my control. God’s grace is a very soothing balm, and so I finish full of excitement, expectation and optimism for the blank canvass of my future! And furthermore my biblical locus trumpets victory.

NIV – 1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

The Secret Secret to Success in the Christian Life

Floyd Patterson, nicknamed the Gentleman of Boxing, was the youngest man to ever win the American Heavyweight Boxing Championship. In a recent interview with boxing historian, Bert Sugar, Patterson was reminded by Mr. Sugar that he had been knocked down more than any other boxer in history. The great boxer humbly replied, “Yes, but I got up more times than anyone.”

He didn’t win the championship by not falling down; he won the championship by getting up.

And so it is for the Christian. The single secret to succeeding in the Christian walk is to keep getting up. Solomon understood this point, and articulated it with typical accuracy in Proverbs 24:16, “For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

— an excerpt from David Asscherick’s sermon, The Secret Secret to Success in the Christian Life —-

Unrealized Potential.

Max DePree writes that unrealized potential is a sin—a very serious sin. It is the tragedy of the unopened gift, and the impoverished receiver. I bumped into a friend as I revised for a mid-term this week and we started talking about school work etc etc. The subject turned to notes, and she told me that some children learn better with certain colours.

Some stumble over reading words on white paper, but become wordsmiths when the paper is red, or blue or green. She then pulled out her notes for her classes. I was amazed! It looked similar to this picture >>>> but on red paper (red is her colour of choice.) She said that is the way she learns and retains information.

I think it is important that make time to explore how we think, how we learn, and how we process information. Many brilliant kids are suffering because they don’t see the world in black and white but vivid technicolour rainbows.

The problem is as adults we are trained to swat like a buzzing fly, the parts of us that don’t fit the prefabricated mould of societal expectation.

For sure that is not always a negative thing, but what about the iridescent frescos that flash through our minds on occasion. What do we do with them? What gifting and potential do we have that has been tied, gagged, and straight jacketed for the sake of endorsement?

I thank God every time my eyes are opened to area’s of my life where that is the case, and I make a point to live my life in technicolor not black and white. Concerning your latent and unrealised potential, I will give the final word to Albert Schweitzer

“The tragedy of man is not that man dies, but what dies within man while he is alive.”

Transmuted Anger

She sat crossed arm, pouting and petulant. Her face furrowed, and her rosy lips thinned as she huffed and puffed her frustration. The

object of her desire had been denied her and she was livid. She scooted her little form 180 degrees so that her back was facing her antagonist. She had just turned four years old that day, and in all the wisdom of her 48 months she knew that she was mad, and that mum was the cause! Like most four-year old girls she quickly moved past her anger, and a few moments later she was on her mother’s lap finishing their craft activity together.

Even as adults we all go through days like that don’t we? Unlike Hannah we don’t go back to our source of heavenly comfort as quickly. Instead we fuel our life with anger. Untamed anger can of course carbon vesuvian proportions of energy, but it is temporary, and usually very destructive.

Mahatma Gandhi during his stout-hearted struggle against the British for Indian Independence made the following statement:

“I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world.” (Young India journal, September 1920.)

His statement espouses principles we would all do well to emulate. Lets shine brightly with transforming influence rather than burning up with destructive anger. Lets move from heat to light.

Matt 5:16 (ESV)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

State of your Union

Two nights ago Obama delivered the State of the Union address. Hearing the speech was novel for me as a Non-American, but I was  captivated by the oratory of Obama. After his speech Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels responded on behalf of the GOP.

He accused Obama of having a serious lack of political integration.Obama was in essence saying that America was a mesomorphic stud, and Daniels said that the country was in fact an endomorphic slob. Who is right? I am not sure, but like David Asscherick says “there is my story, their story and then there is the truth”. Time will tell.

We all struggle with having a lack of integration between who we are, and who we desire to be. Its like the fun house mirrors that distort our image and make us look like something that we are not. I have found that there is always a cost associated with going forward, with transformation. Progress and personal growth always have an associated cost. It may cost cherished beliefs, friends, family, or sacred cows in our lives. It may even cost us the “personhood” that we have held onto as being our ultimate goal.

A lack of spiritual integration because of pie-in the sky thinking can lead us to pie-in the face experiences. I pray that God helps us to see our true condition, because only in having a brutally honest view of ourselves will we find the right solution.

Lamentations 3:40 Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.

Este ou Aquele

I had wonderful Sabbath yesterday. I went to PMC and Dwight Nelson preached a very challenging message, you can check it our here:  “Of Perfume and Tears and Grumpy Old Men”.

Afterwards I went to a Brazilian potluck with my wife. We lined up, and right at the end of the table was some kind of pie, and I asked the server if I could have some. She said “este ou aquele.” I stared at her blankly. The she said in English  “You came to a Brazilian potluck so you must speak Portugese – “este ou aquele.” My wife eventually came to my rescue and explained what she was asking: (this or that?)

It reminded me of a trip I took to Cedar Point Theme park in the middle of a sweltering Ohio summer. We had been there for a few hours and my lips were sewn together from thirst, I was desperate for water.  I went to a concession stand to find water. The person who came to serve me was a didn’t look any older than 16. He reminded me of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, skinny, nonchalant and totally clueless. This was our conversation (my English accent, his American):

Me: “Can I have some warter please?”

Boy: “huh”

Me: “Can I have some warter please?”

Boy: “huh? you want what?”

Me: “Warter”

Boy: “You want fries?”

– at this point I am starting to wonder about this kids mental capacity. The lights are on but nobody is home…

Me: “No, I just want warter” ( desperate I turn our conversation into Pictionary and start signing for the kid)

Boy: “You want Coke?”

– Now I am thinking, good grief! Am I going to die of thirst in an American Theme park? Where is my American cousin when I need him?

Then the light bulb came on in my head, and I understood I had the answer to my own dilema. I thought to myself “this kid has probably never left Ohio and so my accent is throwing him off,  so let me meet him where he is.”

Me: ” Can I have some WARDER please”

Boy: “Ohh, warder, sure!”

I always think about this story with a smile, but it forever holds an important lesson for me. That is this – I sometimes miss opportunities in life because I don’t take the time to understand other people, but get frustrated that they don’t understand me.

In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi asked God to help him to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication and opens the way for a plethora of opportunities!