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Journal a Challenge in the New Year
17 · 12 · 2019

Journal a Challenge in the New Year

Written by Gavin Humphreys

This New Year make a resolution that you will love!

Give yourself a year-long challenge, which will motivate you to do something amazing.

Make the goal ambitious - and keep a record of the journey: a written journal.

The journal will help you when you look ahead, so that you won’t lose focus. In the moment you are completing the challenge, it will help you be fully conscious, and intensify the experience. When you are looking back, it will be a permanent record.

I have several suggestions to get you thinking, but you can make the challenge as personal as you want.

The Journal

Get a nice notebook or an agenda. This is the first step, and the one essential for all the challenges.

If you have an attractive book to journal in, and a nice pen, then it will be all the more pleasurable when you get writing (and when you look back afterward, to see your memories and your achievements).

If you get a yearly agenda - try to find one which is a day per page, or at least week-to-view (but watch out for journals which only give you a half space on the weekends, it’s fairly likely those are the days when you’ll be wanting to write most!).

You can also use it to scribble ideas and plans for the year. Your first entry should map out your challenge, the incentives, what you want to achieve in the coming year, and how you plan to do it.

Would you like to travel? Who else would you like to get involved - Your friends? Your partner? Your kids? Your parents?

Think about whether you are only going to write, or whether you would like to draw sketches, or maybe stick in photos, brochures, and souvenirs as you go? You could include ‘guest columns’ from people who get involved with you.

There’s a new tendency called a bullet journal. The idea is to start with a blank notebook, onto which you can release your creative juices. You can create attractive layouts, perhaps with bullet points, diagrams, colors, mind-maps, sketches, anything you want. A bullet journal functions as a planner, a journal, and a written meditation.

Or it could be a more 'old-fashioned' field journal. In the Victorian age of discovery, botanists, scientists, and explorers of all types took detailed notes and made beautiful sketches of their day-to-day.

The form of your journal will all depend on what you decide as your challenge. So it’s time to get thinking! Here are some ideas to kindle the fire:

Bird journal challenge

How many birds can you see in a year?

That is the starting point of an adventure. A friend of mine did this challenge, and he had an amazing year with his young family - traveling, learning, bonding.

Most people’s knowledge starts from zero because we know very little about birds, so it’s a journey of discovery. It will get you out and about, and appreciating the nature around you.

If you are already a bird fan, then this will be the perfect excuse to take your passion to the next level.

There are more than 2000 bird species in North America. It might not be realistic to see all of them in a year... To be totally honest, if you see 200 that would be a year you will remember for the rest of your life!

It doesn’t have to be birds. It could be animals, flowers, or fish (if you are into diving or fishing). Let your imagination work.

What you need

As well as your journal, if you don’t already have them, I’d advise you to invest in some binoculars with a good range.

A nice DSLR camera with a long-range lens (while not necessary) will allow you to record your memories. Print out the images of the birds that you have snapped, no matter how fuzzy, and stick them into the journal.

Photos could be part of most ideas, but try not to lose the moment. Read my blog about finding happiness through the lens of your phone camera to think about the role of taking photos. Remember, sketching or painting the birds can be done when you are there - or afterward from a photo.

Journal birds

Running challenge

There are lots of ways that you can use running or jogging (or cycling) to get out and about, and seeing new things.

How many new and unusual places you can go jogging? The beach in Miami, Central Park, the desert, Barcelona, the mountains, through a marketplace, just jog and see where it takes you!

If you’re an international businessperson, or avid traveler, then you might challenge yourself to see how many countries you go running in.

Sketch a little map of each route in the journal, perhaps.

If you take running seriously, or just enjoy pushing yourself, perhaps your challenge is to take part in races and journal the experience.

You might try a mix of road races, hill races, orienteering, and maybe a marathon or a half-marathon. Why not try a mud run, a night race, or an ultra-run? There are so many options.

The objective doesn’t have to be to win, or even beat a personal best (although always satisfying), you should be thinking about enjoying the race itself. Your journal should bring this into focus.

For example, write about the views you saw, the adrenaline moments, the funny things that happened, and the people you met along the way.

What you need

Not too much, just your shorts and t-shirt and some proper running shoes. Make sure your ankles and knees are happy, and consult your doctor or physio if you have doubts.

For hill and mud running, you will want some proper hill running shoes.

I like a light watch to keep a record of my times.

Why not search out a mini mud-proof journal which you can take with you and whip out to record some of those special moments before they fleet away from the memory?

New food journal challenge

How many new foods can you try in one year?

This is a great one for travelers - wherever you go, try to try as many interesting and unusual foods or drinks as you can. Even across the US there is a wonderful variety of cuisines.

Keep a note of the flavors, how they made you feel, and the place where you tried them. Perhaps even the people you shared the meal with, or the cook.

It doesn’t have to only be for those who are wandering the world though! If you like to cook, this is for you.

Get exploring for new recipes from different cultures. Make sushi, beef bourguignon, roll your own pasta - have fun, record the recipes and methods, and all your memories.

Or if you have a favorite food or drink, focus in… How about journaling tasting as many beers as you can in one year?

What you need

Not much more than that journal and pen, and to get those tastebuds active!

Photojournal challenge

I love this idea: how many people in your family can you take a photo of in one year?

In other words, photojournal your family - take individual portraits of as many members of your family as you can.

Write down everything about your experience, what they said, any anecdotes they told you, how you felt. And leave space to paste in those photos at the top.

There are several reasons why this challenge is magical.

First of all, it means you will make an effort to meet up with family (something we all-too-often wait until it’s too late to do). You might even meet new members of the family you haven’t met yet (young and old).

It will mean you will have a record of people in your family, which you will treasure in years to come. The photographs might also be something you can share with the family, bringing them closer together.

Potentially, you will travel to new places - and maybe take your partner or family with you.

You could make the same journey in ten, twenty, forty, years’ time.. and see how the people have changed, in appearance, but also their lifestyle and personality.

Of course, there are other options for photojournal challenges.. if you are a pistonhead, for example, how many types of car can you shoot?

What you need

It need be no more than a basic phone pic. If you have an amazing phone camera, you can take your time to make the photos look good.

If you have a nice DSLR, or want to invest, it means you will have even more options.

To really go for it, some lighting will illuminate the faces and give you options.

Mountain challenge

How many mountain peaks can you ‘bag’ in a year?

Lots of mountains are accessible for the day-tripper. To start off, why not that local hill you’ve always wanted to sit atop?

For the more serious mountaineers in the US, you could try to bag as many 14ers as you can (they are the 96 US mountains over 14000 feet). I can guarantee some fantastic experiences and stunning views, as well as great motivation to write, write, write in that journal.

Your ‘mountain’ challenge doesn’t need to be about climbing mountains.

It could be how many spots can you dive in a year? How many cities or countries can you bag in a year? How many skyscrapers can you climb? On how many lakes can you paddle in a canoe? How many mountains can you ski down?

What you need

Wrap up warm and take lots of layers, because when you stop walking you will cool down quickly. Good hiking boots and backpack are essential. Take lots of water. Also, food to snack on the way (include some kind of a sugar/energy food boost).

Always tell somebody your route before setting off. Even on the most basic of routes, it can be easy to slip and break a bone.

If you are going for a more ambitious climb, do the research. Try to go with experienced climbers or a guide.

And take your journal with you! You never know what might cross your mind, or what view you might want to sketch, as you walk along.

Why this will change your life

What benefits will a journal challenge bring to you?

  • You will get out and about, explore new places
  • Learn more about your chosen journal topic
  • Develop new skills, such as photography or cooking
  • Develop your writing skills
  • Be taken away from the stresses of life and work
  • Become more conscious of the present moment
  • Learn more about yourself, and become more aware of your inner thoughts
  • Spend quality time with friends or family
  • Create memories of unique and amazing moments

One last thing to note
- the action of journaling, rather than the number of achievements, is just as important. The idea of ‘X number of things’ gives an impetus. It’s to push yourself further and motivate. The actual number at the end of the year doesn’t matter to anybody other than yourself.

It’s all about the journey. It’s all about doing something to make this a phenomenal year - and keeping a beautiful record, to help you think about the special moments as they happen, and to have an annal to keep for posterity.

Take on a journal challenge and you will arrive at the following December 31st with a lot of stories to tell!

Please leave me a comment below if you decide to take on a challenge this year. I would love to find out what you are going to journal.


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