What a Graveyard (And those Buried in It) Can Teach You About Motivation, Procrastination and Achieving Your Goals

Fugit Hora: “The Hour Flies”

HAPPY 2017 to all my friends and clients.

Even though we likely never met, you and I still have an interesting “connection.”

Did you know that?

Of all the years that planet Earth has existed–4.5 billion years–and of all the of years that man has roamed the earth–200,000 years–you and I just happen to be living in the same average 71-year window of life. It’s amazing when you think about it. The odds are mind boggling.

And it’s as if we’re on some kind of special living team … a Life Team, if you will. And as with any kind of team, when we as members play in harmony, we win as a team. When we do otherwise, we all lose … in little ways that are always felt, at some level. I think you know what I mean.

So let me use this “link” that we share to rally us all together to make a commitment…

… that 2017 will be the happiest, most exciting and prosperous and productive year of your life. Not by default. No. But by your committing to make it so.

… to lend a little helping hand–no matter how small and seemingly insignificant–to another fellow human being who shares this window of life with you. (To another person, your offer to help is more significant than you realize.)

Could you open a door for a stranger? Just because you CAN.

Could you pay the toll once a month for the unknown “team member” in the car behind you? Just because you CAN.

Could you let the “team member” behind you in the supermarket line get in front–whether or not he or she has fewer items than you? Just because you CAN.

Could you pay the fifty cents for the chocolate bar for the child who’s digging in his pockets, frantically searching for that extra nickel demanded by the cashier? Would you do it… just because you CAN?

Could you … no, WOULD you … do these kinds of things simply because you can?

(Did you know that a person helped in such a way is more likely to help someone else that very same day? It’s an incredible domino effect that can be put into motion by… YOU.)

Will you commit to take a moment each day, week or month to stop and be thankful for all that you have?

For every functioning organ and system in your body … for the freedoms you enjoy and too often take for granted (or never really think about) … for the love and support of your friends and family and all those others experiencing this same *short* 71-year average life window with you?

Will you commit to slow down and even stop just to breathe … relax … walk through the woods … sit by a stream … admire some flowers and just think about the gift of life that has been granted you … think about what you’ve done with it so far … and most importantly, think about how much time you have left to do all that you want … and then commit to doing it? Will you?

Before you know it, your days will run out. It may be in several decades … years … months … or the day after tomorrow.

Every minute-hand sweep on your watch shows more than simply 60 seconds gone by. It shows a deduction of 60 seconds from the bank account of your life, where the currency is neither coin nor bills, but TIME. Every sweep of the HOUR-hand shows a deduction even more serious.

The mismanagement of your life funds — your time — can’t ever be “fixed.” You cannot declare bankruptcy and regain the time you squandered. It can never be recovered. It is gone forever.

But you CAN begin fresh … you can “start over”… you can make the decisions RIGHT NOW, TODAY that will affect your life from this day forward.

The question is: “WILL you?”

I like to think about setting goals and planning my life like this:

I imagine that I’m able to stretch my arms into the future and, like a model maker building a ship in a shiny glass bottle, create the circumstances that will occur in my life AS A RESULT OF THE ACTIONS I TAKE TODAY.

I imagine my arms stretching through the months of an imaginary calendar to the month or year of my accomplishment.

Then here’s what I do: I SET UP MY FUTURE. I build it. I construct it. My *ACTIONS* are the building materials of my future. My actions … not simply the plans … my ACTIONS are the lumber, the nails, the cement. If I don’t ACT or take ACTION in my present, I have sent no “life construction worker” working on my future.

What happens then?

It’s not good.

Because when I arrive in that future time, NO HOUSE IS BUILT. I stare puzzled at an empty lot. I have spent my life money by living up to that future time, but the money spent was not invested, it was only SPENT, squandered. And now I am without that life money. And I am without anything of value built upon that empty lot.

My hands hold the returns of a man who slept.

Another way I like to look at planning my life is imagining myself in the future and with those same rubbery, stretchy arms, I reach BACK in time to my present.

With knowledge of where I am in that future time, I pretend that my future, goal-achieved self is controlling the actions of my present. The future Drew has already accomplished. He is shouting back in time, “DO THIS! DO THAT! YOU’LL BE HERE SOON! GET ON WITH IT AND I’LL SEE YOU IN THIS SUCCESSFUL PLACE BEFORE YOU KNOW IT! I know what needs to be done … and I’m telling you what to do!”

The graveyards of this country are filled with millions of wonderful people who never strived to make their lives into anything more than one of a common existence. Handed the gift of life, they never untied the ribbon… never peeled off the wrapping… never lifted the lid… never peeked inside to see what could be.

Take an hour to walk among them.

But don’t just read their headstones, the markers of gifts unclaimed, but closely listen as well. You’ll hear them speak words that can inspire, motivate and set you on fire for living your own life.

They speak of opportunities missed and risks not taken. Relationships not cultivated. Fears never confronted.

Theirs is council not whispered or gently spoken. It is shouted to you through tears of sadness. It is yelled to you through thunderous storms of fruitless rage. “My life is over!” mourns one, from his earthen bed. “I lived so long, but accomplished so little.”

Behind you lies another counselor.

Meet Cindy.

She tells you of a life cut down by the sharp scythe of tragedy. In tear-filled words, she tells you about dreams unrealized. Goals set too far in the future. Mindless expectations of another dawn.

“That morning I had no idea,” she says, her soft voice breaking with emotion. “Not once did I think, ‘Today I die.'”

Beside her is Paul.

Warm and compassionate, he was a loving father of three. Once a marvelous and faithful husband, now angry–no, BURNING with fury.

One otherwise typical Thursday afternoon, cancer knocked, smiling at Paul’s door. When his doctor smiled benignly and said, “Well, Paul… unfortunately…”

The remaining words could have been anything at all. The doctor could have completed that sentence talking about car problems… a bad upcoming weekend weather report… or that great play in last night’s hockey game.

Yet the words seemingly never left the doctor’s moving lips. Paul’s brain completed the sentence just fine, thank you.

“Well Paul… unfortunately… CANCER. Good-bye Paul.”

Can you hear Paul voice struggling to reach you?

Can you feel the vibrations in the soles of your shoes that touch the earth that is now Paul’s eternal home?


I hear Paul.

I hear him loud and clear.

I hear him while walking the halls of hospitals, glancing in room after room of those praying that THEY were the ones walking and peering at the bedridden, sickly and dying.

I hear Paul every time an ambulance screams by, the workers inside frantically clutching the delicate thread of life.

I hear Paul every time I see a funeral procession… the creeping black line of earthly finality.

“Remember man as you walk by,as you are now so once was I,as I am now so you shall be, prepare for death and follow me.”

So says the inscription on the headstone of a man buried in the William Penn Cemetery on Bristol Road in Warminster, Pennsylvania who lived nearly two centuries ago.

These words haunted me as they caught my eye as I walked by.

“This man,”I said to myself, “is talking to ME. He is telling me–from his grave–to GET ON WITH MY LIFE. He’s saying that I too–unquestionably–will end up no differently, and that the only time to do anything is NOW.”

How silly I am to think that tomorrow will most certainly come.

How foolish I am to keep thinking, “There’s plenty of time…”

But how fortunate I am to realize just how WRONG is my thinking.

I must go now.

I am too far behind on my goals.

Too far behind on my dreams.

My days, just like yours, are numbered.

My future, your future, begins… exactly… NOW.

Fugit Hora.

(C) 2017 Drew Eric Whitman. All rights reserved.

Publishers: Would you like to reprint? Contact Drew for permissions.

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