I've read “middle age” is when you begin considering the number of years you have left. I've also read men in their 50s are more conscious of — and worry more about — their remaining time than men in their 60s and beyond.

It's as though an internal mechanism is triggered in our 50s to remind us we've put off some important personal goals, and it's time to get started.

In coaching farm and ranch folks, I've found they invariably have a dream of what they'd like to do someday. It might be a trip, a community project, learning a skill or helping in a third-world country.

Most, however, don't have a plan to realize it. They put it off until they “get time” or “can afford it,” not realizing most dreams are far easier to achieve than they think. All that's needed is a plan.

Europe on a shoestring

One couple's dream was to visit Europe and tour some organic farms. They'd switched to organic production six years before I met them, and they wanted to see how others did it.

They'd put off any planning because they assumed it was too expensive. I challenged them and within eight months they took the trip by getting creative and devising a couple of ways to save a lot of money:

  • A business executive they knew traveled a lot. They traded some grass-finished organic beef for enough of his air miles to get round-trip tickets.

  • They connected with some organic farms in Europe through World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoof.org) and volunteered their time on a number of organic farms in exchange for room and board. They toured a lot of country, learned more about organic farming and met some very interesting people on a budget less than half what they expected.

Some people I talk to gave up their dreams so long ago they don't think about them anymore. They say they're too old, it's too expensive, or any number of other excuses.

When I challenge their assumptions, they often realize they've simply been telling themselves the same stories their parents told them long ago. Maybe the stories weren't true.

The time is now

If you're starting to feel a bit anxious about your remaining time and have dreams or goals yet to achieve, this might be a good time to make a plan. If you don't know what your dreams are, here's a simple exercise to help you find what really matters to you:

Write down the answers to these three questions. Don't ponder them. Just write down what comes to you. Devote about two minutes per question.

  1. If you knew you were to die in five years, how would you live until then?

  2. If you knew you were to die in six months, how would you live until then?

  3. If you learned you were to drop dead in 24 hours, what would be your regret?

Once you answer these questions, start planning to do the important things that showed up.

I saw a direct marketing ad long ago with a tagline that said something like: “Six months from now, you could be on your way to living the life you have always dreamed of, or you could just be six months older. You decide.”

That edgy feeling you have about getting to the end of your journey might be trying to tell you something. Pretty soon you'll be six months older anyway.

Edmonton-based Noel McNaughton lectures to groups on “Farming/Ranching at Midlife — Strategies for a Successful Second Age.” To learn more, call 780/432-5492, e-mail noel@midlife-men.com, or visit www.midlife-men.com.

Another useful exercise:

It's five years from today. Answer these questions in the present tense: (for example, it is 2009, I am 58 years old.)

  1. Your age (I am _ years old.)

  2. The ages of your spouse and children.

  3. What you are doing for a living?

  4. In which recreational/social activities do you participate?

  5. Where you are living? What kind of accommodations you have?

  6. Who are the most important people in your life?

  7. What lifetime dreams/objectives have you have achieved in the previous five years?

  8. What did you do in the previous five years to realize those dreams/objectives?

  9. What obstacles did you overcome to achieve your dreams?

  10. What attitudes/beliefs did you have to change to achieve your dreams?