The "What's Your Sentence" Life Purpose Challenge

Can you sum up your life's purpose in one sentence? I challenge you and your teenagers to try it!

“What’s your sentence?”

There are many gems of wisdoms in Daniel H. Pink’s book, “Drive”. However, one story that really stands out to me can be summed up in those three simple words printed above:  What’s. Your. Sentence. 

Pink’s book recalls an anecdote from 1962 when President John F. Kennedy was offered some advice from U.S. Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce. She told him that, “A great man is a 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 told Kennedy that his attention seemed to be divided among so many priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph.

You don’t have to be President of the United States to have an awesome sentence. The lesson from this tale is that anybody can shift their life towards a greater purpose that they want to serve by thinking about their sentence. Perhaps it’s: “She invented an appliance to allow parents to spend more time with their children.” Or maybe it can be: “He raised three happy and healthy children who became compassionate adults.” Or “She  encouraged everybody that she met to discover their passions and live their lives without regrets.”

I call this a “challenge” because it’s hard work. It’s very thought provoking, but the reward of increased self-awareness is well worth it. I’m still working on my sentence, but I think it goes something like this: “He helped empower young adults with the self-awareness and life skills to find fulfillment in their academic and personal lives.”

It’s okay if it takes an extremely long time to decide on a sentence or if our sentence changes. The focus is on the process of getting to that sentence, but not necessarily the sentence itself as an end result.

Some may be thinking that this challenge may be too difficult or “advanced” for teenagers. In fact, one parent I spoke to about this said, “This wouldn’t work because my son doesn’t think about things like this.” Well, in my opinion, having teens think about things that they have never thought about before is a beautiful thing. Let’s encourage our youth to think about their purpose in the world. Shouldn’t we insist that young adults start using critical thinking skills about topics that they have never thought about before? Isn’t that what learning is all about?

Before I go into a tirade about how teens today need more critical thinking and problem solving life skills (I will save that for another article), let me end by asking you one question…

“What’s your sentence?”


Hayden Lee is an Academic Life Coach for teens in Brentwood. Email him: hayden@haydenleealc.com

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