By Rabiya Fahma Dawood
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
The blessed month of Ramadan, the sacred month of Hajj, and the month that marks the New Year – Muharram – all gear us towards setting new resolutions. Or it may be just another day when we are pumped to turn a new leaf, to change ourselves for the better.
At the end of it all, though, we need to assess the success rate of these resolutions. Do they last long or do we simply forget about them once our initial eagerness wanes?
Here are seven steps to keeping fool-proof resolutions that would ensure its sustainability:
Step 1: Evaluate yourself
The very first step to keeping any resolution is to evaluate yourself.
Ask yourself what goals you want to achieve, what changes you want to see in yourself, and which habits you wish to improve at or even begin doing.
Scrutinize the ‘you’ from a year back and the ‘you’ you want to be from a year now, whether it is in matters of worship, character, relationship with the Qur’an, or with family and friends. Scan the different aspects of your life and list your goals in each.
Step 2: Set realistic goals
Make sure that your goals are not merely wishes but are achievable in nature. Goals that are out of your league are not realistic goals. Consider all the factors that you would need to consider before setting a goal.
For example, a person with low wages residing in a high-cost country deciding to donate half his salary every month in charity would amount to wishful thinking. He must consider his monthly expenses and savings before setting a monthly target for charity.
Remember that setting unrealistic and impractical goals will only set you up for disappointment.
Step 3: Shortlist
After you’ve written down all your goals, narrow the list down to a couple of short-term and a couple of long-term ones. When you prioritize your goals and moderate its numbers, it helps you stick to your resolutions and you are able to easily accomplish them in bits and chunks.
Consider the hadith describing the state of the Companion who vowed to stick to his short list of goals:
Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: A man questioned the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “Do you think that if I perform the obligatory prayers, fast in Ramadan, treat as lawful what is halal, and treat as forbidden what is haram, and do not increase upon that [in voluntary good deeds], then shall I enter paradise?” He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied: “Yes.”
If your list is jam-packed, you may start off your list with a lot of vigour but end up not mastering any of them.
Step 4: Set your intention
Once you have your concise list of achievable tasks at hand, set your intention.
Before you begin working on your goals, fix your intention. Remind yourself why you are going to do what you’re going to do; what is the main reason behind you doing it in the first place; what will you get if you achieve it; and whom are you doing it for?
For example, if you resolve to fast every Monday and Thursday, remind yourself of the rewards it entails, of following the way of the Prophet (sa), of pleasing Allah alone, and the added self-discipline and willpower you will achieve with fasting.
Step 5: Choose an accountability buddy
One of the ways to fool-proof your resolution is to choose an accountability buddy. Pick out a person:
- whom you have regular contact with
- whom you trust
- whose words have an impact on you
And let them know of your resolutions.
Ask them to follow up with you on a regular basis as to whether you achieved your daily/weekly/monthly targets. Having a second person check on you helps you keep track of your progress. That way you’d know you’d have to answer someone (if not your own self) when you fail to complete a task.
Step 6: Take one day at a time
There may be times when you find achieving each goal to be a daunting task. At such times, along with a deep breath, take one day at a time. When it seems like monumental work to you, stop seeing the bigger picture and instead focus on completing the current target.
Taking small steps every day will help you reach your final destination.
Step 7: Resilience is the key
Resilience is an absolute must for successful resolutions.
Failure at several attempts on your journey is bound to happen. You are human and failure is inevitable. There is no need to despair if you miss a day or two of your targets. In fact, feeling disappointed after a failure is nothing but the devil’s trick. If we were to feel hopeless at every failure, we would never accomplish anything.
The best solution in this case would be to:
- consciously rid oneself of Satan’s whisperings,
- seek Allah’s help, and
- bounce back into your goal-achieving routine.
Rabiya Dawood is a freelance writer, editor, counsellor and teacher. She has taught at Islamic weekend schools based in the UAE, is counsellor at ArRajaa The Hope Counselling Service as well as Solace Islamic Assistance, and staff editor and writer at Islam-based magazines such as Muslimaat Magazine and previously at IOU Insights. She also acts as freelance editor for independent writers.
© IIPH 2016