What is Your Sentence?

Posted by | 1 comment

Below is a video excerpt from the book Drive by Daniel Pink. Take out 2 minutes to watch it.

I first saw this video when it came out a couple years ago. I really like this video and the two questions it proposes. The first one is all about finding your purpose. Think about how you want to be remembered by others. When people are at your funeral, what is that one sentence they will all say about you? What is your sentence?

It’s a tough question to answer. Let it sink in for some time. To be honest, it took me over two years to come up my sentence. However, once you figure it out it forms the foundation of your intrinsic motivation and it becomes so much easier to make decisions.

The second question is an essential one for your journal. I actually have a TextExpander snippet for my journal questions. I’ll paste it here:

1. What did I enjoy?
2. What did I learn?
3. Was I better today than yesterday? 
4. How can I do things better tomorrow?

When you ask yourself “was I better today than yesterday?” you force yourself to think whether you were in alignment or not. Whenever I answer it with a “no”, I immediately analyze what I can do better and I make an extra effort to answer the last question. As long as I’m making progress each day, I know I’m getting closer to where I want to be. It’s all about making progress, no matter how big or small, each and every day. Start early and let it compound over time to extraordinary results.

I invite you to start journaling and think about the two questions mentioned in video. Let’s discuss this in the comments below.

Print Friendly

About

I grew up in The Netherlands, went to university in Los Angeles and now I'm living in different places every couple months. When I'm not writing about personal productivity or time management, I'm probably trying out a new restaurant in the city I'm in (I love food!). One of my specialties is time management for organizations, executives and employees. The reason I started this blog with Aaron is that I love sharing my knowledge with people and helping them become a better person. This blog is a footprint I want to leave behind and I hope you get a lot of value out of my articles. Feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

1 Comment

Posted by Michelle  | December 9, 2012 at 12:33AM | Reply

I do not agree that “every man is a sentence” – I think that the concept is simplistic, false, and even potentially harmful. Every person is complex, and even the most streamlined, uni-directional life is going to have many strands in it.
Additionally, the little video indicates that Claire Booth Luce was concerned about how people would remember Kennedy (and I don’t know the story myself, so that may or may not have been her main concern). However, I think it’s not a good use of time to style one’s life around how one *imagines* that people in the future may remember oneself: if they are remembered at all, some people are mainly remembered for things that they didn’t mean to do, didn’t even know they were involved in, didn’t want to do, didn’t care about, had happen to them completely by accident, and so on. It’s pointless to worry about how people will remember you, especially when the vast majority of us will be forgotten about a couple of decades, if not a couple of years, after death.
It’s fine to decide on one’s main goals, to have a focus, to be clear on values and top priorities. But you really can do more than two things in your life/career, as did Lincoln and FDR and everyone else who ever lived, and moment-by-moment, you never know what strand is going to turn out to have had the biggest impact or achievement or daring or charity or beauty (or whatever you, your family, your society, the next civilization, etc., values).
The idea that most people need to specialize and compartmentalize to the nth degree is a new concept in the history of humanity, and it’s generally a western 20th Century concept. It suits some people, but it constrains others and makes them most unhappy. You can be a “renaissance” man/woman with a lot of interests and careers and experiences, and contribute just as much or more to yourself and society as someone who narrows his efforts to only one or two big themes.
Additionally, the second point of the video, that the ONLY way to live is to constantly strive to improve and that it’s good to rate one’s efforts daily on that score, is nuts. Sometimes, barely staying alive is all one can do. Sometimes, slowly (or quickly) declining is the only direction one can go in. It’s good to want to improve in some ways and to reach goals and so forth, but life is not so black-and-white. It is not necessarily like a climb up a mountain, it’s not a race to the top (even only against oneself).
Geez, these notions of what is most important in life are so American / western, male, bourgeois…. I’m not trying to name-call because I’m western, American, lower-bourgeois (as it were) myself. People have inherent value, even when they aren’t achieving (or busting a gut trying to achieve) anything. Some really great and amazing and effective and influential and helpful and talented people have been completely forgotten by history – but that doesn’t take away one bit from the lives that they lived. Many boring, plodding, obsessive, publicity-seeking egomaniacs have concentrated on just one or two goals and pushed their interests in every way conceivable – and may even have met their aims before they died – but still were confined to the dustbins of history.
It may be just my view that the important thing is to stay true to yourself, act with integrity, try to learn, seek truth, try to gain wisdom and compassion, give yourself a break, realize that life is not a competition or a reality tv show, and accept that there are hills and valleys – and some life journeys are one-way descents (like succumbing to an illness or losing one’s family in a car accident or whatever) that never get better and cannot be improved or given a daily efficiency/achievement grade, and that is just the way it is.

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *