Everyday projects: The rise of 12-month missions

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Setting yourself a new challenge? Why not do it for a year and get a blog – or even a book deal – out of it?

Henrik Dahle was cycling home one night when he suddenly decided to climb a tree. The next day he did it again. And again. A year later and the 36-year-old film writer and environmental activist from Southampton had climbed 365 trees, from ash to pine, even conducting interviews while in the branches. Now he hopes to publish a book, aptly named Uptrees, on his unusual endeavour.

"I just decided on a personal challenge," he explains. "A year is a long-haul project and there's discipline involved. There's a scale to it – you have to persevere."

He wouldn't be the first person to embark on a year-long challenge of a curious nature. As Dahle's admits, "it's becoming a bit of a thing".

Take the woman who baked a Victoria sponge every day for a year. Dubbed the "sponge-cake Samaritan", Cath Webb made, then gave away, a daily cake after a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nicer yet (if that was even possible) is the woman who did a good deed for every day of 2012. Judith O'Reilly, whose book A Year of Doing Good was published last December, took on the challenge in the hope of changing herself and the world "one deed at a time".

However, not everyone sets themselves such outwardly utilitarian tasks to complete. Writer Paul Miller just completed a punishing year without the internet. He thought it was corrupting his soul, but after his daily routine settled into new offline vices he was forced to admit in an essay for The Verge: "I was wrong." Equally self-flagellating (depending on your choice of fashion) is musician Amanda Schmidt's effort to wear Abercrombie & Fitch clothing for an entire annum. Her Tumblr account (abercrombieandfitchfierce.tumblr.com) is an endless stream of Schmidt looking artfully miserable.

Others use the year-long challenge format as a protest. Journalist Hattie Garlick decided that 2013 would be the year that she doesn't spend a penny on her son, to demonstrate that parents don't need to be dependent on flashy toys and the products of big corporations to keep their offspring happy. Her blog freeourkids.co.uk is encouraging others to do the same.

But many of these challenges emerge from a similar mindset. "There are some underlying similarities," says Professor Karen Pine, a developmental psychologist behind the "Do Something Different" approach, which helps people replace unwanted behaviour with new ones.

"It might seem a bit obsessive or cranky, but they hope they're going to bring about a life change. Sometimes people are stuck in an environment that keeps on pulling them back to the same habits. They can need an earthquake moment to break out of it."

As for Dahle, the Uptrees challenge has spawned many ideas, from planting trees to offset a lifetime's carbon footprint to coming up with forest-style designs for city streets. "Am I a project junkie…?" he muses. "Maybe, maybe that's what I am."

To sponsor Dahl's book 'The Art of Climbing Trees', click here

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living