Goofing Up or Goofing Off?

goofing-up-off-0111134“Take it easy, but take it!” —Woody Guthrie

This is the beginning of the New Year, and everybody, including me, is involved in new beginnings and resolutions. Before too long, if we haven’t already, we will all goof up and maybe even goof off.

What’s the difference? To me, goofing off means getting lazy, losing focus, or dropping your commitment. Goofing off means not exercising your willpower, forgetting what you care about, ditching your goals, or deciding to be untrue to yourself. Goofing off is lying to yourself. Goofing up is simpler; it is just making a mistake.

Goofing up is like, “Uh oh, I was late for work and forgot to eat breakfast and I promised myself that I would eat a good breakfast every morning.” You’re trying your best, but sometimes you forget—it’s human. People goof up. Forgive yourself when you do. Slip a breakfast bar into your pocket and get going.

The idea is that when you fall off the wagon—be it diet, exercise, treating your sweetie right—get up and start over. Inhaled the leftovers? OK, eat less for dinner. Forgot to work out? Tomorrow is another day. Forgive yourself each time and begin again.

You’re allowed to make mistakes; in fact, it’s required if you’ve decided to learn something new. Have you decided to try yoga? When you’re practicing tree pose in yoga class—standing on one foot, with the other foot bent and resting on your calf or thigh—sometimes you will lose balance. Let yourself get wobbly, then laugh, regain your balance, and go back to being a tree. If you never lost your balance, you never took a chance, either. That goes for a lot of things, not only yoga.

Remember, too, that people respond better to positive reinforcement than to negative reinforcement. That’s why exercise instructors, for example, say, “Good work! Good!” And why when you’re in class with a positive instructor you feel more confident. So be your own positive teacher. Listen to yourself; what kind of message are you hearing in your head? Is it blaming and critical? Change the tape. Tell yourself you’re doing good, and keep going. Keeping going is key.

You may or may not succeed in learning new behaviors, but you can treat yourself with kindness either way. Compassion, like charity, begins at home. That’s my resolution, not just for the New Year but in general, all year round—to treat others with kindness, and do the same for myself. We all deserve compassion.

You don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s impossible. If that’s what you expect, you’re setting yourself up for misery and failure, and you won’t enjoy your success very much, either, since it loses its meaning when it becomes a nonnegotiable demand rather than something to be happy about when and if it happens. Learning doesn’t show up on a graph as a perfect line marching toward heavenly perfection; it’s a zigzag that goes up and down with a slow trend upward.

Goofing off is human, too, but it’s more insidious than goofing up. A goof-off is someone who doesn’t want to work. Changing behavior or learning something new takes effort and persistence, and the ability to resist abandoning your goals because you get discouraged. Know what you want, and if you really want something, go after it with determination. Nobody can stop you except yourself.

If you stop yourself—if you do goof off and wind up in a stall or standstill—accept that this was your decision. Take responsibility. Then you can forgive yourself and start over, maybe with the same goal, maybe with something else that is more fitting. It’s up to you.

So, are you a goof-off, or do you just goof up sometimes? The decision is yours.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, RYT, Object Relations Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Steven

    January 11th, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Those who goof off all the time and seem to always get away with it?
    I can’t stand those people.
    They are around always cutting up and taking responsibility for nothing, yet give them one good idea and they are all about taking all the parise they can get.
    Yeah, that’s right, I’m bitter

  • Harold

    January 11th, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    I goof off more often than not.It seems like its always a pattern of decision,following and then dropping out.this has now happened for quite a few things and it saddens me.I do not know how to get out of this.

  • dee

    January 12th, 2013 at 4:18 AM

    some people are just naturally inclined to being goofs- that’s who they are- love them or get them out of your life if it bothers you that much

  • Lynn Somerstein

    January 12th, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    So this is worse than the average goof off, this is intellectual theft. Maddening.
    Take care,

  • Lynn Somerstein

    January 12th, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    My “worse than the average goof off” comment was in reply to Steven- the comments are out of synch. Hope no one got too confused.

    Harold- goofing off- there can be many reasons- fear of success is one possibility- you might want to work on this with a counselor. But in the meantime, always beginning again is a good practice. Start, get distracted, begin again, start, get distracted, begin again, etc. It’s like meditation.

    Dee, you write in support of the charming goof- love them or leave them. I admire your sense of fun and compassion.

    Thanks for writing!

  • kel

    January 12th, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    good article..especially needed for those that r so hard on themselves for the occasional good up..they don realize that small set backs r a part of the learning curve n there is nothing to be disappointed about it.I know at least one person like that and he’s I will be forwarding this article to that person.thank you for this.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    January 13th, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    Hi Kel,
    Thanks for the kind words and for reading the article. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I hope your friend finds it helpful.
    Take care,

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