Milestone Counting Misses Life Itself

Patti Coertze

Patti Coertze (right) with Elly Frankl

Reaching Milestones or just Marking Time

In talking about achievement the other day, I remembered something a wise, wise woman once told me, and I would like to share the thought with you.

Dr. Patti Havenga Coertze is her name, bright eyed, curious, and always thinking – differently. The first day I met her, she took me into her sunny dining room for tea and delicious cake that she had baked herself.

As she poured the tea, she asked me to tell her a little about myself. I told her where I was born, how I had lived in several countries as a young child, that I was a middle child, where I had gone to high school and when and where I got my degree, that I had married, had 2 children, got divorced…

Then she sat down opposite me, took my hands in hers and said that I had told her nothing about my life yet, and she now wanted to know about me.

Seeing my baffled face, she pointed out that I had only given her a few milestones out of my 30-something years. “You measure your life only by the milestones you set and see, but what about every moment in-between?”

The conversation that followed was first of many incredible conversations I had with Patti. She showed me that in telling her what I did about my life, I had told her about all the doing and none of the being.

In that distinction, I learned that we“do what must be done” between “being what we must be”, and it is the being, not the doing that matters most.

One’s life, she taught is like a stalactite you find in a cave, a giant record of our being: a long, tall column made up of tiny drips that evaporate, leaving only the minerals in them. Events and milestones are like the water in the stalactite, they evaporate, they are not the mark that remains on our souls.

You have heard people saying that it is not the events that happen in your life that count, but what you do with them. Well, Patti had a way of making you think about what you are doing with those events.

Like the time she asked me what I do with my unused time. “What happens to it?”

When we are not living for our being we find all kinds of ways not to seize the day, but to lose the day. We wish away today in our wanting of something tomorrow. We work away today, aiming for the goal that will be ours tomorrow.

I invite you to reclaim your unused time – before you spend it. Think about what you are doing today, right now, that will be deposited in the column of your soul once the time and task have evaporated.

That, my friend, is the core of who you are. It is the soul of your brand and it is your legacy.

If you are not sure where to begin, try THIS LINK.

Or call me on 805-910-0754 or email me
Author: Sue Hines

  1. dobra nowinadobra nowina07-16-2014

    Some really choice content on this website , saved to favorites .

  2. MeredithMeredith06-05-2014

    Your friend Patti sounds like an amazing lady. We should all have someone in our lives who thinks…differently. I had a mentor in college who would ask me questions like that. She never TOLD me anything. Just asked a lot of great questions. As a mom of two young kids, I don’t have a lot of unused time, but that means I need to be all the more careful of using it well. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Laurie S HurleyLaurie S Hurley06-03-2014

    I love this! And I think I would love Patti. I go through a similar exercise with my clients entitled Who Am I? Very revealing about one’s viewpoint of themselves. I enjoy being around people that think deeply. Wonderful story to share! Thanks for doing so.

  4. The problem is that most of us have filled all our time with checking emails, trolling the internet and otherwise wasting our precious free time. It is difficult to just “be.”

  5. jacquiegumjacquiegum06-03-2014

    This really gives a person pause…although events tend to be a yardstick they certainly aren’t a measure of one’s life.

    • Sue HinesSue Hines06-03-2014

      So right, Jacquie. The best measure is the quality of the moment.

  6. Lisa VoncinoLisa Voncino06-03-2014

    I think that it is very true that often our lives are often measured by what culture dictates as being important rather than the in-between moments of our lives. To have someone truly interested in you and the jagged path you have taken, is truly a gift. Great food for thought in your article,

    • Sue HinesSue Hines06-03-2014

      That’s a great point, Lisa. Having someone interested in you makes you focus on what is good and right about you and what you do.

  7. Paul GrahamPaul Graham06-03-2014

    Hi Sue, I agree the importance of what takes place between the milestones though they do serve as a type of code for initial introductions. A related issue is the question “what do you do ?” which is generally intended to elicit ones “occupation”. People are often surprised by an answer that encompasses more than the way one makes a living though that is invariably more fascinating !

    • Sue HinesSue Hines06-03-2014

      Yes, Paul. Foreigners are often intrigued by the American tendency to dive straight into one’s occupation without first finding out a little about the person themselves first.

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