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