Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Art of Creating Goals You'll Stick To

Photo from Flickr by Neeta Lind

 Every year, right around the winter holidays, people all over the world set New Year's Day resolutions for themselves. The combination of an individual's deepest desires, hopes and dreams, forge into an idea, or a resolution and commitment to a particular goal. "This is the year that I'll finally..."

The beginning days of January start promisingly for most goals. Gym memberships go on the rise, new routines are formed and the search for the perfect job begins with great optimism. Then for most people, life gets in the way and very few goals make it past the Super Bowl in February.

Because the beginning of a year is such an epic event for us, the goals we set are usually huge. The bigger the goal, the more we celebrate the coming of the new year. After all, it is hard to get excited about small changes that aren't that noticeable. If you are overweight, you become so sick of being that way that you don't just want to lose weight, you want to be thin! What is the motivation in losing just ten pounds if you'll still be overweight?

A difficult part of changing habits is that often the payoff doesn't come quick enough and for those goals that are more accomplishment oriented (travel to Italy, sky diving, quit smoking, etc), the timing is never right. The problem with New Year resolutions that go unfulfilled however isn't that the goals are unrealistic, it's that very little thought was even put into the creation of the goal itself. Sure, in the back of your head you may have been telling yourself all year long that you need to accomplish this goal. Once the goal becomes a reality though, somewhere is the process, life gets busy and suddenly the goal doesn't seem that important anymore.

Most goals are set at impulsive moments in our lives. Whether it be a New Year's resolution, an unattractive glimpse at your body shape in the mirror or the moment your boss really ticks you off, a goal created in haste is certain to go to waste (no pun intended). If you aren't thinking clearly at the time the goal is created, eventually the rational part of your brain will catch up and say, "Hey, what exactly are we doing all this for again?" Impulsive goals give you an immediate high and aren't all that bad if they help you quickly get over pinned up anger. Once the impulse wears off though, and life returns to normal, it is amazing how insignificant that goal can become.

So how then do you create goals that you'll stick to? Goals created through hard work and by using your whole brain, not just that impulsive amygdala portion of it, are much more likely to stick. Goals that are set impulsively may be fun at the time, but you need to spend just as much time figuring out and reinforcing why it is that you are setting a certain goal for yourself as you will in actually working to achieve that goal. The more energy you put into the creation of the goal, the more loyal and connected you are to it. When you constantly feed yourself information about why the goal is important and how you'll accomplish it, the easier it becomes to trust yourself. If you stop trusting yourself though about why you set the goal in the first place, the resolution is doomed.

To put it in perspective on how your brain gets in the way of accomplishing your goals and why trusting yourself is such a critical component to achieving goals, imagine if you were in a plane about to sky dive. When you step to the edge, how could you not think about how insanely crazy it is to jump out of a plane thousands of feet in the air? You tell yourself that you don't have to do this, and you know what, you're right. So how do you actually come to the decision to make the leap?

There are risks to sky diving, ones that can get you killed, but you also choose to sky dive partly because of these risks. If there was no risk, it wouldn't appeal to thrill seekers. Before you sky dive though, you go through in depth training and learn everything you can about the real risks that are associated with it. This pre-goal training enables you to trust and believe that the knowledge and skill you have acquired to put yourself in this position, will mitigate the risks associated with the extreme situation. It also enables you to clearly, and not impulsively, decide if sky diving is really that important to you. The methodical process of learning about sky diving in a non-impulsive way, help to ensure that you won't lose your wits at jump time. As with sky diving or any other goal, the information that you acquire and the energy that you put into understanding the goal, are the key components that enable you to follow through to completion.

To see a goal to completion you need to set up reinforcements and constant reminders that help trigger the importance of your goal. If you don't set the right goal though, the one you truly want and clearly need to accomplish, all the reinforcements and reminders in the world won't prevent you from inevitably giving up on that goal. In fact, they'll be more apt to make you feel even worse about yourself.

The biggest goal setting irony is that the impulsive amygdala part of your brain that created the goal in the first place, is exactly the same part that makes you give up. This is why impulsive goals don't stick. They can't stick because you didn't create them, the reactive, fight or flight part of your brain did. Instead create goals systematically, methodically and creatively. Do the hard work necessary to create goals and go through a process. Knowledge, certainty and a clear understanding of the goal creates focus. Focus is achieved by using your whole brain and focus pushes you through because you've eliminated all fear and doubt.

Setting goals doesn't have to be as intense as sky diving. If you realistically want to achieve your goals though, spend some quality time thinking about why they are so important to you. Goals demand that you sacrifice your time and energy so figure out exactly what this commitment of energy will look like. Learn everything you can about the goal in advance, and spend the necessary time required connecting to the often difficult process that you'll have to go through to accomplish it. Having a clear picture of why your life will be better once this goal is achieved, makes it easier to push on through after the initial high has worn off.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why Upscale Restaurants Don't Have Pictures on the Menu

Selecting a meal at a fine dining establishment is often an arduous task that requires a great deal of food knowledge. The menu never contains pictures and you have to interpret the meal through the written language of food. This is no easy task either as these restaurants are less likely to use descriptors such as tender or juicy, instead opting for a basic collection of ingredients to identify the food.

The simple fact that the menu isn't designed for all to comprehend or understand creates exclusivity not found on picture menus, not to mention that many view pictures as tacky. An upscale restaurant needs that exclusive quality as that is exactly what makes it appeal to someone who is willing to pay a lot of money for their food and services.

By taking a seat, an unspoken agreement is created between the customer and the restaurant. The customer trusts the restaurant to deliver a quality meal and the restaurant trusts that the customer has the know how to order something they want.

A similar unspoken agreement is formed every time an offset printer proofs a job for press. Unless you're printing digitally, seldom do you receive a proof that is printed on the exact same type of paper that your final product will print on. While you might see a collection of unprinted paper samples, there is no way to know for sure how something will look and feel on a particular type of paper until the job is actually printed.

If you specify a particular type of paper, the printer will usually assume you know what you want and that you have the knowledge and understanding to imagine how the finished product will turn out. You are indicating your professional expertise and acknowledging that you don't have to see the final product to order it. If you are unsure though ask the printer, never guess. Just as a waiter in a restaurant is there to clarify menu items, a sales rep at a printing company is there to help you make sense of paper options.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Top Six Greeting Card Apps for the iPad & iPhone

The holidays are the perfect time to express your love for family and friends. Many people do this through the simple act of a greeting card. Whether you send a card in the mail or digitally through an e-card, greeting cards are an excellent and affordable way to solidify and strengthen bonds.

For those iPad and iPhone users, I have assembled this list of the top greeting card apps. I included both apps that integrate traditional direct mail and apps that are strictly e-card focused. Feel free to agree or disagree with this list as the biggest criteria I looked for was the apps wow factor or something truly unique that distinguished it from all other similar apps.

1. Lifecards - Postcards
Developer: Vivid Apps
File Size: 39.9 MB, Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Developer Website:
Overview: Lifecards is excellent if you want access to a wide range of templates. With over 350 templates in Lifecards - Postcards and over 50 templates in their Christmas Lifecards version, these apps offer easy customization, a professional look and quick email or submitting options for Facebook, Twitter or Flickr.  Lifecards enables you to apply filters to your photos and finish off each card with your own finger written signature.

2. Postcards From Santa
Developer: Camera Shoot Photo Postcards LLC
File Size: 1.5 MB, Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Developer Website:
Overview: As a printer, I have to give this app praise. Postcards From Santa successfully merges digital technology with printed direct mail. This app does exactly what you think, sends your child a postcard from Santa straight from the north pole. After you customize and order your postcard for $2.99, the postcard is printed on a high-gloss cardstock and mailed straight to your recipient.  If you have multiple children you want to send a postcard to, each additional postcard only costs $0.99.

3. Simply Postcards
Developer: Simply Postcards
File Size: 4.1 MB, Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Developer Website:
Overview: There isn't anything flashy about this app except it is another great option if you want to digitally create postcards from your phone or iPad and have them printed, stamped and mailed the old fashion way. This is an easy to use and free to download app. Considering the low cost and high quality of the printed postcards, this is a must have app for any fan of postcards sent through the USPS.

4. Jubilee - Birthday Cards
Developer: Vemedio & Marfil
File Size: 9.6 MB, Compatible with iPad
Developer Website:
Overview: While this app would not make the list for the most customizable template options, it does make it on account of it's integrated calendar feature. Simply keep a list in your calendar of important contact birthdays to remember and never forget to show your congratulations again. This is ideal for the sales rep who has multiple birthdays logged into CRM software or just for the person who wants to be a better friend!

5. Build-a-Card (Holiday Edition)
Developer: ISBX
Files Size: 6.5 MB, Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Developer Website:
Overview: This is a great app if you want to have a little fun with your cards. The "Picturizr" tool allows you to add a variety of items to your photo such as a Rudolph nose or an elf hat. Another great feature of this app is the ability to easily pull photos straight from your Facebook account.

6. Card Shop
Developer: miSoft, LLC
File Size: 10.0 MB, Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Developer Website:
Overview: Card Shop enables you to create and send an array of cards for all seasons. The app features a custom stamp and postmark creator as well as a Clip Art gallery that you can use to enhance your card with a variety of graphical elements. This is also one of the only apps that enables you to add an audio voice message attachment to your card.

Others to check out:
Vintage Holiday Cards

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Press Checks #2: Florence, Italy

On the steps of the Duomo in Florence, Italy

In late September, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Italy for the first time and see Rome, Florence and Venice. For foodies like us, this was the trip of a lifetime. I can still vividly recount almost every hour of the week long journey and I'm currently working on a Blurb photo book to help capture the memory.

Between all three cities, Florence was my absolute favorite. From the Tuscan food and wine to the overall city vibe, I have never been happier from simply being somewhere.

While Florence is most commonly known for leather markets, great food and amazing renaissance art, a lesser known fact is Florence's association with printing and paper. Back in the 17th century, Florentines invented a marbleizing technique to create hand-decorated paper goods. This same technique is used today and the skilled craftsmanship used in this creation of highly customized paper products, makes Florence the stationary capital of the world.

Many specialty stores throughout the city specialize in these high-quality paper products. The hand-decorated paper isn't just made for common stationary items either as you can find an assortment of custom books, journals, photo albums, notepads, leather-bound diaries, calendars and other paper products.

To give you a printer's taste of Italy, I have listed below a few of the specialty paper stores found in Florence. I have left many off this list, including some of the most noteworthy (Johnsons & Relatives Stamperia Toscana), as I only included shops that I was able to find a website for. Ciao!

Giulio Giannini e Figlio
Il Torchio
Il Papiro