Imagine that just for today your life is a book — you are a book.
A book’s cover is typically the first thing a person sees. Since our brains are wired to process images quicker than words, the design on the cover will help a potential reader decide if they want to look inside. It is not much different with people.
What does your cover say to the outside world? Does your body language say, “Don’t come close to me”? Do you greet people with an inviting smile?
We can’t all wear designer clothes and have GQ looks — in other words have a flashy cover — but we can show people on the outside what they can expect on the inside. Wear love and gratitude on your face and the way you move through life, and people will be more inclined to spend time with you. Wear an angry or irritated scowl, and people may put you back on the shelf.
What’s your book called? Does it always contain the same old story?
We all know people who are stuck in the same place. It’s as if their life is perennially bookmarked to the time someone did them wrong, or they lost everything, or they just didn’t get the same break as everyone else. It’s possible to shift the trajectory of our life by changing our story.
Instead of your book being called I Never Win Anything, you might consider calling it The Riches of the World Are Mine for the Taking. Instead of your story focusing on how your marriage didn’t work out, try writing a few chapters that explore how you have learned that you are stronger and more resilient than you think.
Are you a speed reader? Do you race through the pages? Read every third word? Skip to the ending?
If that sounds like you, consider slowing down. Focus on every word and also the white space in between. Pay attention to the punctuation. Make your life an exclamation mark. Know when it is appropriate and maybe even useful to keep being a question mark — and when it’s time to take a break and insert a period.
What is your genre? If you are the kind of person who hates to ask for help and does everything yourself, you might be found on the “Self-Help” shelf. Maybe you are a diehard romantic in the “Romance” section, or a vagabond in the “Travel” area. Perhaps your life story reads and feels more like “Poetry.”
How truthful are you about your life — and how much do you make up to impress others? It could just decide where you fall between “Fiction” and “Memoir.”
How much do you care about the kind of reviews you receive? It can be very empowering to not care at all what others think about you.
That being said, we are human, and the opinions of others can make a difference. Just as a book can sink or swim based on the number and quality of reviews it receives, the way we present ourselves to the world can determine the kind of job we land, the mate we meet, and so much more. Live your life well and the people who matter will notice and reward you for it.
What if you are not living well mentally, spiritually or physically? I’m a big proponent of reinventing ourselves.
Be honest. If something isn’t working, it’s time to change, no matter what it takes. In keeping with our book analogy, this is when we may have to do some serious editing: eliminate negative habits, write out toxic people, streamline the superfluous. Your life is worth it.
Is your book thick, or thin? Neither is better than the other.
You can have an 800-page book in which every page is necessary, or one that is 750 pages too long. Some of the books that have most impacted me haven’t been padded or embellished with self-importance: They just say what is needed in a straightforward and simple way. The Magic Path of Intuition by Florence Scovel Shinn is that kind of book. Tao Te Ching: The Book of the Way is a short text with 81 very brief chapters — yet it is filled with all the wisdom of the world.
How do you see your book ending?
If you want to die happy, live happy. If you want to leave this world with as little baggage as possible, include a little forgiveness in your chapters. If you want to feel less alone, sprinkle as much love as you can between your pages.
It isn’t always easy — but it could turn your book into a bestseller.