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What's Your Sentence?
Posted: Fri 02/24/2012 03:30 PM
Is there a sentence that sums up your life? Read this excerpt from Daniel Pink's book, Drive, to learn how to create your own. Then, tune in this Sunday to watch Oprah's conversation with Daniel on "Super Soul Sunday" at 11/10c!
By Daniel Pink
FIRST, ASK A BIG QUESTION . . .
In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. “A great man,” she told him, “is one sentence.” Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin Roosevelt’s was: “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.” Luce feared that Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph.
You don’t have to be a president— of the United States or of your local gardening club— to learn from this tale. One way to orient your life toward greater purpose is to think about your sentence. Maybe it’s: “He raised four kids who became happy and healthy adults.” Or “She invented a device that made people’s lives easier.” Or “He cared for every person who walked into his office regardless of whether that person could pay.” Or “She taught two generations of children how to read.”
As you contemplate your purpose, begin with the big question: What’s your sentence? . . .
THEN KEEP ASKING A SMALL QUESTION
The big question is necessary, but not sufficient. That’s where the small question comes in. Real achievement doesn’t happen overnight. As anyone who’s trained for a marathon, learned a new language, or run a successful division can attest, you spend a lot more time grinding through tough tasks than you do basking in applause.
Here’s something you can do to keep yourself motivated. At the end of each day, ask yourself whether you were better today than you were yesterday. Did you do more? Did you do it well? Or to get specific, did you learn your ten vocabulary words, make your eight sales calls, eat your five servings of fruits and vegetables, write your four pages? You don’t have to be flawless each day. Instead, look for small measures of improvement such as how long you practiced your saxophone or whether you held off on checking e-mail until you finished that report you needed to write. Reminding yourself that you don’t need to be a master by day 3 is the best way of ensuring you will be one by day 3,000.
So before you go to sleep each night, ask yourself the small question: Was I better today than yesterday?
Reprinted from DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2009 by Daniel H. Pink