What’s your sentence?

I read Daniel Pink’s Drive this weekend because I have felt for a long time that goal-setting doesn’t work well for certain types of creative work but I couldn’t figure out what does work. I still haven’t quite figured that out, but at least I have learned I am not insane for thinking that sometimes goal-setting does not get you where you want to go.

In the end, it comes down to focusing on your purpose, and that is summed up in the marvelous question that Pink poses towards the end of the book: “What’s your sentence?”

That is, what is the thing you’re about? The local farmer might say, “We nourish our community with healthy food.” My daughter’s dance teacher might say, “I teach children how to express the joy in their souls through dance.”

So, I pondered what my sentence would look like. “She never grew too old for Greek sailors” was my first shot. But much as I would like it to be, that’s not really a life purpose.

Then I remembered a conversation I had with a colleague way back before the earth cooled. We agreed that if we heard, “She did good work,” we would be completely satisfied in our efforts. But that doesn’t seem specific enough to sum up what I’m trying to do.

So I came up with, “She told the truth, even when it was very hard.” But that seemed a little smug, and also, I lie a lot. But I like it, and I’m keeping it.

What about you?


  1. Okay, now I have to read Pink.

    Somewhere along the way, I realized that if I was helping people (especially myself!) discover that they were more than they thought they were, and that the world was more than they thought it was, then I would satisfied that I was doing what I was meant to do. Way bigger than a goal, but if I start from there when I'm deciding how to invest my time and energy, I am always satisfied with the decision. (Or, maybe it's just broad enough that I can rationalize anything and feel like I'm pursuing a lofty ideal . . . lol. Either way, it works for me.)

  2. I always thought I'd be content with "She lived and loved with her whole heart," though it doesn't really qualify as a life purpose.

    I must say, "She never grew too old for Greek sailors" absolutely cracked me up. Perhaps you could also use "She made people laugh out loud in front of their computers from many miles away" if you're looking for a backup.

  3. "He's almost as good as he thinks he is." Of course, I think I'm pretty bad at a lot of things, so this isn't quite as arrogant as it seems.

    My first sentence was in the past tense, and I thought to myself, "Hey, what are you, as has-been?" It made me think about what I've done, am doing, and hope to do, as well as how I measure myself by those goals I have or haven't achieved. It's a good reset button. Thanks!

    By the way, I love your writing. I find it both moving and wonderfully irreverent.

  4. Mine would be similar to yours, I think, but I feel pretty unoriginal saying that. Maybe more like 'She tells a personal truth that somehow manages to be universal.' That applies to some of what I do, but it's always what gets the biggest response.

    You keep coming up these things that seem to be helpful; getting down-to-earth about lofty stuff, but in the end its lack of bum glue that torpedoes everything. In my case, anyway. But still, I feel hopeful having read this.

    You're funny. That's part of your truth-telling magic.

  5. "dava is a good person." It seems pretty lame to have life's purpose of just being good, but when you try to get right down to it and actually BE good (to others, at what you do, as a parent, etc.) it's pretty dang hard.

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