First, read some more on the Stanford marshmallow experiment – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Stanford marshmallow experiment refers to a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel, etc.) provided immediately or two small rewards if he or she waited until the experimenter returned (after an absence of approximately 15 minutes). In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI) and other life measures. However, recent work calls into question whether self-control, as opposed to strategic reasoning, determines children’s behavior.
So, the solutions here would be to be able to think of something else (distraction) or think of the final prize (change the desire).
The second solution, by Scott Adams:
Expanding on that point, let’s say you have a choice between pasta and a white potato. Assume you enjoy both foods equally and you want to choose the best one for your waistline. Which do you pick?
I recently posed that question to a crowd of ninety senior managers at a huge tech company. About 88 of them chose the potato. That’s the wrong answer because pasta is only half as high on the glycemic index. The two people out of ninety who knew pasta was the better choice wouldn’t need to use as much willpower later in the day to stay within a good diet range. Studies have shown that if you use your willpower resisting one temptation you have less in reserve for the next. The systems approach to weight management is to gradually replace willpower with knowledge, e.g. knowing pasta is better than a potato. (The book describes more ways to replace willpower with knowledge in the diet realm.)
This solution implies finding a system in which the craving isn’t there.
Third – find habits and create them. Find what you like about the craving, and create a system / habit which stops it from happening.