Dave's retirement journey

No bucket list for me!

By Dave Dineen, BrighterLife.ca

”The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

Every time I think of that saying, I give myself a little nudge to get on with achieving what I want from life. Like most people, I need these motivational nudges, or I’ll likely fall short of achieving key dreams or goals.

Image of Dave Dineen on Mt. Vesuvius.A relative once told me, “I’m retiring in one week and I never did figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up!” Though that’s an extreme case of procrastination, I know he’s not alone in failing to set goals or planning how to achieve them.

A few years back, the movie “The Bucket List” captured many people’s imaginations, with its story of two terminally ill men (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who set out to fulfill their wish list of to-dos before they die. It got lots of people talking about what would be on their personal bucket lists. My friend Kim saw the movie and was so inspired she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her son, ran a half-marathon, changed careers and vigorously achieved a bunch of other things on her bucket list. Whew!

Right idea, wrong deadline

I don’t want a bucket list because I think it focuses on the wrong deadline.

I’m not waiting till I’m near death to do a hasty course-correction and refocus my life.

You have a best-before date

Maybe it’s because I’ve already put in more than half a century on the planet, but I’m amazed at how few people seem to recognize — and plan for — the fact that good health doesn’t last forever. Except in rare cases, your life expectancy (how long you’ll live) and your health expectancy (how long your general good health will last) are not the same thing.

Instead, either slowly or suddenly, your health will fade. That sore knee might never fully heal. Your muscles won’t do what they used to. Some parts of your body will wear out. Or you’ll tire more easily.

You may not recognize it, but your body has a best-before date. Maybe your mind does, too. You just don’t know when that date is.

How I created my best-before-date list

I don’t know my best-before date either. But I know that some things I’d like to do in life won’t get done if I leave them until I become frail or my health falters.

So I’ve prioritized my list of things to do so that I tackle the most physically and mentally challenging stuff while I have the best chance of success.  For example, I’d like to visit New York someday. I’d also like to visit Machu Picchu in Peru. Thinking of my best-before date, this morning I booked our trip to Machu Picchu and several other physically challenging destinations in South America. We’re going this fall.

As for New York, I’ll get there someday. My health, and my wife’s, would have to falter significantly before we’d have to give up on enjoying the charms of New York. In that sense, it’s easier to go to New York, so we’ll go to Machu Picchu this year and leave New York for later.

Other highlights from my best-before-date list:

  • Run a marathon in 2013
  • Hike up an active volcano this year (I’ve already hiked to the tops of two: Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna)
  • Write a publishable book in the next three years
  • Travel to Hong Kong, China and Australia in the next five years
  • Coax a smile or a giggle out of our first grandchild. (Someday, I hope, such a kid will appear and I can cross this one off the list. But not yet.)

If I still have health and vitality after those accomplishments, great! Then I’ll draft a new best-before-date-list. My wife showed me an article today about a remarkable guy in India who is 100 and runs marathons. Maybe that’ll be me someday!

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Travel Tips! | donvangalen on

[…] our China trip — one of my best-before-date adventures — a fellow-traveller asked those questions so often, I started to cringe. The world isn’t flat, […]

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com on

Great advice Dave. My husband and I have been doing this for some time now but I’m always amazed at people who get to the place where they are physically unable to do certain things and act surprised about it! While sometimes certain health things can take us by surprise…it’s ALWAYS wise to do what we dream of doing while we know we can! Thanks for the reminders.

gord smith on


Great article …

If you haven’t already decided on a marathon choice you could do a lot worse the the Honolulu Marathon.

Its held every year around December 9th. The great thing about it that the finish line stays open until everyone has

finished and your running with 23000 of your best friends.

I am 58 years old and finished it in 2011.

It was one on the greatest experiences of my life and I managed to pass 11000 other runners before finishing.

Good luck;

Gord Smith

    DaveDineen on

    Honolulu, eh? That sounds really exciting. We’ve been talking about going to Hawaii someday and the marathon would make quite a day of it! You’re an inspiration, Gord, but I don’t imagine I’d do as remarkably well as you.
    Congrats on the impressive achievement!

DaveDineen on

And I just crossed a visit to Machu Picchu (in Peru) off my list. i visited it twice this week, including a nice stimulating hike up to the Sun Gate, for the best view of this unique place!

davedineen on

Well, I’ve just crossed off visiting China and Hong Kong from my best-before-date list! Just got home yesterday from 17 days over there. We loved clambering up the Great Wall of China, seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors and sailing down the Yangtze River. A couple of Canadian ex-pats also showed us around their adopted home towns: thanks to my dear friend Kathy (in Hong Kong) and our new friend Ruth (Shanghai)!

Leah Ludwig on

This is a great article, Dave! I really like the concept of the ‘best-before’ date. Cheers! …Leah

    DaveDineen on

    Thanks, Leah! Yes, I really believe that creating a best-before list can result in a richer, brighter life!

Poor Student on

I am investing for early retirement and financial independence so that my best before date is long after I have the chance to work on the best before list. I like this idea of making the physically tough things more urgent.

    davedineen on

    Ah, there’s no substitute for planning for/working toward your big, long-term goals. It sounds like you’re on the right track — good luck, Poor Student!

Susan levine on

Well put. Gets me thinking that I mustn’t wait to do the things I’ve always dreamed about. Thanks.

Michelle Smyth on

You are SO right! I’ve watched the health of many loved ones suddenly falter as they grew older. I love the idea of focusing on a ‘best before date’ and taking whatever you get after that as a bonus.

    davedineen on

    Janine – I’m glad this struck a chord with you!

John @ Married (with Debt) on

Great story here. I know what you mean – I developed a mild vision problem this year that really crystallized the fact that you could wake up one day and everything you took for granted has changed. Health is the best reason to pursue early retirement.

    davedineen on

    Thanks, John. I hope you’re able to manage well with your vision problem. Thanks for driving home the importance of getting to actually doing the things that are important in your life.

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