New Year’s Resolutions: Beyond the Book Cover

Yesterday’s post was a celebration of the best book covers of the year.  The graphic designers who create such works of art deserve recognition for their work.

As the year winds down, I’m struck by these cover images and the metaphor that they offer.  With a quick glance at a book cover, we judge the content and the author.  What the world sees of us is like that jacket, covering the real person inside.  And just like a book cover, we are judged.  Many times, it is before anyone ever took time to read our story.

We work hard to improve our external image.  Whether through fashion, diet, exercise or even plastic surgery, we spend billions on physical improvements.  It’s not just physical appearance either.  We want our presence to be positive online.  There are now various “reputation defender” services to combat unwanted reviews on the Internet.  How we look to the outside world is important to most of us.

Some may quote scripture in Samuel: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  I like what Jim Rohn said about that thought.  Paraphrasing Jim, he said it means to work on the outside for people and work on the inside for God.  I like that because we should work on both.

If you were publishing a book this year, you would want to be sure that both the book cover and the story were compelling.  Why not design your year the same way?

Each year, like millions around the world, I contemplate my goals for the next year.  Looking back at past years’ goals, I realize how often those goals are external.  Getting or staying in shape is always on my list and will stay on my list.  As I look to the year ahead, I want to be sure that my list also includes a good measure of internal goals.

Going a bit beyond the goal-setting basics, here are my suggestions:

1. Divide your goals into two lists:  the cover and the story.

A cover goal is anything that is external.  This list could include such things as quitting smoking, getting a better job or obtaining your ideal weight.  Anything that is seen by the outside world goes in this column.

A story goal is what’s on the inside and goes into the second column.  Do you want to be a better friend?  How about being less critical and more positive?  What are your spiritual goals?

2. Execution is always the key to achieving a goal.

That’s why the story goals tend to be harder to achieve.  It’s easier to say my goal is to go to the gym three times a week, but how can I measure whether I am more encouraging and thankful?  For these types of goals, write down in the third column the activity you will engage in to further the goal.  For instance, if I want to be more thankful, maybe I get a stack of thank you cards and determine to write one a week.  If I want to remember more birthdays, maybe I put reminders in my calendar.  Think of tangible activities to help you develop the characteristic you are seeking.

3.  Write down WHY the goal is important to achieve.

In the final column, write down why you want to achieve the goal.  When I review my list of goals, the ones that always succeed are the ones with the clearest answers in this column.  It may not seem like it, but to me, this is the most important part of the entire process.  There’s an old saying if the “why” is big enough, the “how” is automatic.  There’s a lot of truth to that.

Setting goals is something that I do every year.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to start fresh and determine what you want out of the year.  This year, my goal is to fill up the story goal side of the equation and deliberately cultivate the qualities I want to achieve.  After all, a few pounds gained or lost is temporary, but if I can make a difference in someone’s life, that is permanent.

Here’s to your success in achieving your goals.  Remember Lao Tzu’s quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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