“The direction of a man’s thought is always the decisive factor in his personality. His whole outer life will be determined by the inward inclination of his mind.” — Erich Sauer
I’ve been reminiscing this holiday season about a cartoon strip I enjoyed I was growing up in Highlights for Children magazine that featured a couple of fictitious boys in a regular feature named after them: Goofus and Gallant. These boys served to illustrate examples of what happens when we live according to our highest ideals… or our basest, most selfish interests. While Gallant helps set the table for his family before dinner and takes a small first serving before passing a dish to the person next to him, Goofus demands to know when dinner will be ready… and takes the biggest servings for himself.
I loved reading about Goofus and Gallant, because they demonstrated behavioral extremes I seldom saw in real life. Most people fall somewhere in the middle between perfectly groomed and well-mannered Gallant, and disheveled Goofus constantly doing the wrong thing. The Goofus and Gallant stories have no stated morals, but the implied point in each drawing is clear: striving to help others and be one’s best is it’s own reward.
One of the things I love best about Goofus and Gallant is the way they remind us of the importance of the little things… of being thoughtful in ways that good manners require, yet that we often find challenging, due to personal limitations and the stresses and strains of life. My imagination soared with the possibilities implicit in many real-life situations, as I wondered, “What would Goofus and Gallant do?” Thanks to Goofus and Gallant, I more readily recognized opportunities to be considerate, helpful, kind, and caring… even though my shyness and occasional feelings of social awkwardness sometimes prevented me from reaching out to volunteer assistance every time.
While Goofus and Gallant demonstrate good and bad behavior, it’s clear that what motivates their behaviors is something internal… two very different mindsets operating quietly inside each boy. The interesting thing about these supposedly invisible mindsets is that actually, they aren’t invisible at all. Whereas Gallant’s world view is considerate of others around him, Goofus’s perspective is based on thinking of himself. While Gallant considers long-term consequences and demonstrates ability to postpone gratification, Goofus feels compelled to immediately satisfy any of his perceived needs.
Anyone meeting these two boys could immediately discern the difference in their behaviors, and therefore the difference in their internal mindsets… and their views of the external world will subsequently be profoundly different. Gallant will be met by friendly helpful people who are happy to share their time, energy, and resources… while Goofus will likely find people in general tending to be irritated, annoyed, and uncooperative.
Stressful times often bring out more Goofus-like behaviors in people, when tempers run short… and holiday-related stresses and strains having to do with dealing with crowds, shopping, social gatherings, and family tensions can challenge our good intentions to be kind, compassionate, and gallant.
Do you wonder just how good this holiday season could be if you improved your mindset? Please watch me talk about Goofus, Gallant, and defusing holiday stress in this short video about how to better maintain a positive mindset:
You can feel successful in all areas of your life, gaining a sense that you’re on your way to your best possible future life. Keep imagining how good it can get, knowing you’ve got tremendous support and love as you are perfect doing and being what only you can do and be!