Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's Your (Wellness) Sentence?

I was recently intrigued by a professional newsletter that challenged me to create my sentence. In short, it was an assignment to craft a sentence that defines what your life is about and why you're here. In our twitterized culture, it also designated that the sentence be limited to ten to twenty words. On a good day I am a very organized person and on a bad day a perfectionist. In turn, the challenge to define my purpose with such rigid parameters was painful. After much though I arrived at a sentence and I must say that the process was helpful. With attention to detail (a "high-C" for those familiar with the DISC personality profile), I came in at exactly twenty words, each one carefully considered.

The challenge to form your motivational sentence originated from Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Drive. According to the trailer on Pink's website, there are two questions that if carefully considered might change your career, your work, or your life. They are, "What's your sentence?" And, "Was I better today than I was yesterday?" Using these two sentences to navigate your life, Pink theorizes, provides focus and purpose.

The history of the question traces back to Clare Booth Luce who was one of the first women to serve in the US Congress. In the 1960's she approached President Kennedy with the statement that "a great man is a sentence." Lincoln's sentence was that he preserved the union and freed the slaves. She was concerned that Kennedy was trying to do too much and that his sentence was in jeopardy of becoming a rambling paragraph. (

Too often, in terms of health and wellness our desire and motivation is rooted in purposeful goals (wellness sentences perhaps), but quickly dissolve into rambling paragraphs. We want to eat healthier, drink more water, eat less fast food, reduce our salt intake, walk more, increase our cardio, mix in weight training, practice mindful exercise like yoga, skip the dessert, and on and on... Ultimately, the list becomes too daunting and consequently we scrap it (typically around January 15, a few short weeks after our resolutions). What if we could define our wellness goals in terms of a sentence? Perhaps we could start with something like, "He exercised regularly" or "She ate a well balanced diet" or "They made time for daily activity and exercise together as a family." If we start with a simple, clearly defined purpose and measure it daily against "how was I better today than yesterday," Pink's theory says that our drive, our motivation, and ultimately our success will be positioned to increase.

Of course, the practice of crafting your sentence can transcend fitness to encompass holistic wellness, defining all parts of our lives. The professional newsletter that offered this challenge to me was from the YMCA of the USA and I was inspired by some of the responses that they received.

“He accepted me as I was, saw the potential that lied beneath and helped me to become it.” - Joe Lopez, Jefferson City Area YMCA

“She was the best mother two kids could ever wish for, the best wife a husband could hope for and the best friend and family member to everyone she cared about.” - Teresa Mowry,Blocker Norfolk Family YMCA

“I don’t just work with individuals, I influence self discovery and celebrate their purpose.” - Jenna Grossman, Triunfo YMCA

“She led others to find more joy from the simple things in life, not sweat the small stuff, be thankful for what we have and to follow the golden rule.” - Terri Falkenberg, Marinette-Menominee YMCA

After much thought and over-analyzing, I crafted my sentence. It's much more simple than it would have been had I crafted it a year ago. It's much less career and me centric and more about what I believe matters most. It relates to health and wellness in terms of if I'm not paying attention to my personal health, I'm unable to effectively move toward my purpose daily. Each area represents a priority where I seek to focus. Some days I pursue these areas well. Other days I fail. Ultimately, I'd hope the legacy of my life to be reflective of this sentence:

"He loved God, loved people, deeply valued time with his wife and kids, and ultimately found life to be enough." Matt Tuckey, Carlisle Family YMCA

What's your sentence? I'd love to hear from you and be inspired by your sentences. You can email your responses to and I'll explore them in a follow up post (article).