What is Your Life Sentence?

Several days ago, I was listening to Daniel H. Pink, on the radio. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I’m lucky enough to have an autographed copy, given to me by my husband after he attended a convention where Pink spoke. It was signed:

Good luck on your book!

I was thrilled to see his good wishes for Broken Dolls. Heaven knows, I’m always looking for new sources of motivation!

The part of his discussion that most grabbed my attention was his question, “What’s your sentence?” He told the story of a conversation Clare Boothe Luce once had with John F. Kennedy:


“A great man is one sentence. Abraham Lincoln’s was ‘He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.’ Franklin D. Roosevelt’s was, ‘He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.’ What’s yours?”


In Drive, Mr. Pink states that Luce feared Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph. How many of us are living “muddled paragraph” lives?



I was so intrigued with the concept of a “life” sentence that I hardly heard the rest of Pink’s discussion as I began to ponder my own life sentence. It was tough, but here’s the sentence I came up with:

I seek understanding–of others, between others and by others.



Once I came up with my sentence, I found it interesting that much of my writing reflects my sentence. I’ve found it very interesting how the simple act of defining my “life” sentence sentence has added focus to my life and to my writing.


What is your “life” sentence?



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12 Responses to What is Your Life Sentence?

  1. Palooski65 says:

    I really thought about this hard and long. I finally decided that my life sentence is this: I'm the little burr in life's saddle or the little bedbug in the bedroll that motivates people to move! :-)Then, I follow suit.

  2. mgmillerbooks says:

    Sheesh, that's a tough one, but very intriguing. Hmmm…how about: "He took a licking, but kept on ticking…then wrote about it."

  3. That's a very tough question in this very scattered time in history. We are wives, mothers, writers, so many things. To distill it all into one sentence would certainly calm the storms around us…

  4. madisonwoods says:

    Hard question, Jan! I'm going to have to think about mine a while and come back later to answer.

  5. Russell says:

    I've always tried to live by the philosophy that the best is yet to come. It's easy to do a sentence about someone who is dead–that book is closed. My sentence is, "He may amount to something someday."If you get a chance, read my interview with Ben Franklin at http://russellgayer.blogspot.com/

  6. Jan Morrill says:

    @Palooski65 – I love your sentence! I can tell you put some thought into it!@mgmillerbooks – You're not the only one who has said it's a tough one. But what a great sentence you came up with, and perfect for us writers.@Lecia Cornwall – I've been told that to live by "a sentence" is too limiting. Maybe it is, and maybe I'll change mine. But the interesting thing is, I have found that it has given me some focus, even if it does change sometime down the road. Thanks for your comment!@Madisonwoods – I know, it's hard. But I know you'll come up with one, and I can't wait to hear it! 🙂

  7. Man, I wish I had written this! ood work.

  8. My mom used to tell me, "For God's sake Pamela. The least you can do is ACT normal."I have revised that to form my own 'life sentence.'"Forget normal. If it ain't fun, screw it."

  9. madisonwoods says:

    I think my one sentence would say: Once she recognized her calling as her Truth, she never looked back.

  10. Ruth says:

    Wow, this is a toughie. Mikeylo, I loved your sentence. And Star Wizard, love your name. Ok, let's see here is my sentenace:"This little light of mine, let it shine, let it shine!"

  11. Jan Morrill says:

    @Russell – I do believe you have amounted to something. You'd better think of another sentence. 🙂 And, GREAT interview with Ben Franklin!@The Star Wizard – thanks for your comment! I liked what you said on Facebook – "I always want to know more." That's a good one!@Pamela Foster – YOUR mom said that to you, too? There are some eerie similarities with our moms. :)@Madison Woods – excellent! You did it, and I love it!@Ruth – Your sentence is you, all right. You do shine!

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