Last week one of my nephews was amusing himself by jumping up and down on his dog’s squeaky chew toy. *Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak…*
His mother asked him to stop.
He did, for a few seconds, and then started again. *Squeak, squeak, squeak…*
Again, his mother asked him to stop.
He stepped off the toy, but then touched it with his toes.
“Just walk away from it!” his mother snapped. “Just turn around and walk away!”
He turned away from the chew toy, then back to it, then away again, the struggle visible. Finally he laughed a little and walked away. His mother nudged the chew toy to the other side of the room.
Watching this, I thought, Why is it so hard to walk away? Children on average have poorer impulse control than adults, but I’m also thinking of how many Serious Adult Problems can be avoided or at least mitigated if we were better able to literally walk away from something that’s bad for us or for other people. Turn around and walk away from the dessert table at the buffet, from the convenience store where we buy cigarettes, from the person who’s spoiling for a fight, from the person who lied to us and defrauded us before, from the long T.V. lineup or unending stream of websites that we’ve been hooked on for long sedentary hours, etc. etc.
Make it a habit, as hard as it is initially, to turn around and walk away. Easier said than done, I know. That first moment is the hardest – the moment you have to first stop, get up or turn around; it’s so hard that most of the time we don’t attempt it, even if we know it’s good for us to walk away, whether to take a necessary break or to avoid something or someone completely. But once the action is initiated, it becomes easier to follow through. And with enough repetition maybe that first moment, in which we catch ourselves and change direction, gets easier.