Here’s to striving for our best. (Photo: Jenn Turner)

When I started practicing mindfulness, I hoped it would help transform my life, but I had no idea what that would look like.

I’ve been writing about the topic for three years this month and practicing for a little more time than that.

When I started, I was grasping for a solution to the mishaps of my mad mind. I wanted an antidote for anxiety. I wanted to improve my mental health and endurance.

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All those things have come to fruition, although there’s always more to learn.

I’ve learned countless valuable lessons, and one thing I didn’t assume is that the mindfulness/meditation practices would become a lifestyle and shape my habits.

Of course, in hindsight, it makes complete sense that changing my relationship with my thoughts would affect how I live.

One of the biggest changes that has slowly grown out of meditation and mindfulness practices is that I’m more intentional with my actions.

I aim to respond, not react. I often catch myself in the middle of an emotional reaction and remember to not get carried away on a random thought or feeling.

I took this screenshot after the Polar Plunge. Even though I was freezing, the smile on my face captures the joy that comes with overcoming something scary. (Screenshot: Staff)

The practices have also led me to seek my best self and prompted me to get uncomfortable for the sake of growth.

I rediscovered my love of an adrenaline rush when I went hang gliding and did the Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day.

I want to continue building on these positive changes, so I’m taking on a new, intimidating venture inspired by Chattanooga professional Amy Donahue, who recently told me about her experiences with a 30 before 30 bucket list.

After the story about Donahue ran—as with almost any article—there were some unenthusiastic comments, such as, “Boujie [sic] BS.”

Someone else commented that these sorts of lists set people up for failure or disappointment.

I absolutely recognize the privilege involved in the ability to travel to Iceland like Donahue did, but it’s shortsighted and its own sort of snobbiness to dismiss the entire concept.

Everyone’s list will be as different as their life experiences. The point is about personal growth, and, for me, it’s a deliberate way to become a better person.

As for the worry that this sets me up for disappointment if I don’t complete the entire list, this is where mindfulness/meditation can help.

The practices help create a resilience against this way of thinking. It guards against comparison and judgment.

If I don’t finish the list by the deadline, I will still be better off for the experiences I did accomplish. I won’t beat myself up for not being perfect in my attempt. The urge will likely be there. I mean, I’m not a freaking Zen master, but I am collecting the tools I need to better control my thinking and reactions.

I’m pretty terrified to document this so publicly, but my fear is what makes me know I should do it.

I won’t be writing about the list every column, but I’ll update periodically. My goal is to complete all these tasks within one year of this article’s publication date of Jan. 26.

I’m hopeful that this approach will provide motivation and organization so I can achieve my goals.

My generalized anxiety disorder sometimes makes simple tasks feel overwhelming and paralyzing.

Setting the goals, writing them down and creating a deadline are intentional efforts aimed at refusing to be held back by fear or anxiety.

So here’s the list:

  • Make a public speech
  • Go climbing at High Point Climbing 
  • Go on a police ride-along
  • Write at least one sentence of poetry every day (already in the works, started Dec. 31)
  • Visit the Isha Institute of Inner Sciences
  • Visit a state I’ve never been to before
  • Try water aerobics
  • Give blood
  • Take voice lessons and perform one song in public
  • Create a succulent garden
  • Do yoga or run every day for one month straight
  • Go to Sunset Rock
  • Revamp my bed/sleeping area
  • Watch 10 movies I haven’t seen from the American Film Institute’s top 100 list
  • Dye the tips of my hair a bold color
  • Paddleboard on the Tennessee River
  • Create at least three new paintings
  • Take a handgun 101 class
  • Watch a full sunrise from a scenic location
  • Learn to read a crochet pattern
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Take an archery class
  • Go sailing
  • Create a minimalist wardrobe (AKA have a ruthless spring cleaning situation and give away items I don’t wear)
  • Visit the Bell Witch Cave
  • Go noncar camping
  • Build with Habitat for Humanity
  • Lose at least 10 pounds
  • Attend at least three networking events
  • Create a parody video

Many of these may seem simple, but they are tasks I’ve wanted to do for a long time, yet haven’t made it happen. But they aren’t necessarily all activities that I’ve never done.

For example, I’ve watched the sun rise and given blood in the past. But I haven’t donated blood since high school and I don’t regularly watch the sun rise, even though I think it’d be good for me.

There are a couple on here that will be challenging. Swimming with dolphins will mean saving up money for a trip and the experience. It will also require taking time off work, likely. The time and money will be an obstacle, but I’m going for it, anyway.

We take life for granted and too easily get stuck in habits, and practicing mindfulness has made me aware of the beauty in just about everything.

Small actions can have significant impacts.

Each day is too precious to simply drive on autopilot.

Each moment is a chance to live the good life, whatever that is to you.

What might your list look like?

Let’s do this.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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