By: Safina Shaukat
Source: Productive Muslim
“Judge yourselves before you are judged, evaluate yourselves before you are evaluated and be ready for the greatest investigation (the Day of Judgement).”Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allāh be pleased with him)
Every new year kicks off with a whole lot of New Year’s resolutions which sound like:
- “2019 is going to be a fresh start.” That’s the spirit!
- “No being quiet and shy; this time I’m going to get my voice heard.” Good for you!
- “From now on, I shall stop writing in text language- coz u no dats jus soo unprofessional.” Maybe leave that for next year?
New Year’s resolutions are a worldwide practice for people to critically evaluate themselves, pinpoint something specific that they would like to change, and then try their level best to implement that change. While it all sounds so easy and awesome, every year there is probably only a handful of people who, a few months down the line, are still actively trying to stick to their resolution. Why? Because our approach to what our resolutions should be is rooted in far- fetched and broad ideas which are impossible to work towards.
Furthermore, while New Year’s resolutions are an excellent way to make a positive change, should we as Muslims really wait a whole year before we think about renewing our lives and character? Shouldn’t we make time now to look deep within ourselves and see how our character compares to that of the pure and compassionate, the best of creation, our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)?
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.”[Muslim]
This is why I have come up with 5 golden rules which, if followed strictly, will help you set practical, realistic and achievable life-changing resolutions TODAY in sha Allah:
Golden Rule #1: Identification
“Wise is the one who continually assesses himself and performs good deeds for the life after death. Foolish is the one who follows his desires and entertains very high hopes from Allah.” [Tirmidhi].
This is the first step of your New Year’s resolution journey – it might be the most time consuming but, if done properly, will make the remaining 4 steps quick and easy: identify something about yourself which needs improving. This could be something as straightforward as “time management” or something as specific as “mastering the art of making biryani”.
If you’re really stuck, maybe this short activity will trigger something: think of a time in 2012 when you were in a difficult situation. From hindsight, what would you advise someone to do if they were in that difficult situation? Now, the killer question: how close were your actions to the advice you just gave above? Close or far from it? If they were far, then we might be getting onto something here! Remember, identifying things you need to change is the basis of your New Year’s resolution. If you don’t think about this carefully, you risk laying a weak foundation that will not withstand the following 4 rules. In other words, mess this up and you risk messing up the entire thing.
Golden Rule #2: Be Realistic
The difficult bit is done, now all you need to do is take your findings from part 1 and come up with a realistic target. For instance, it’s futile to say that you’ll do ten hours of school/university work a day when you know that when you come back from school, you only have 5 hours before bedtime. It just doesn’t make sense. No one knows you better than yourself, so don’t set yourself up for something that you know you’re not going to be able to carry out. It’s good to be optimistic but don’t kid yourself.
Golden Rule #3: Practical Measures
“The World is three days: As for yesterday, it has vanished, along with all that was in it. As for tomorrow, you may never see it. As for today, it is yours, so work in it.” Hassan al-Basri (may Allāh be pleased with him)
Think of the practical measures you can take to help you implement that change. This is the “make or break” stage, as it is these little steps which will slowly, but eventually, lead to your New Year’s resolution coming to fruition. For example, the keen chef could try brainstorming ideas on how to realistically master the art of making biryani. Watching online tutorials; reading recipe books; watching mum while she makes it; or even attempt to make it themselves. Whatever these measures are, ensure they are practical in helping you get closer to fulfilling your resolution.
Golden Rule #4: Deadline
As much as we all hate deadlines, New Year’s resolutions are incomplete without them. This is the part that a lot of people overlook, but by setting yourself a deadline, you boost your chances of actually fulfilling the resolution in the first place. Set yourself a reasonable deadline and a penalty in case you go over – sounds like an extreme idea but if you really want to implement that change, you’ll be prepared to go that extra mile.
Golden Rule #5: The Checker
Lastly, assign someone the role of being “The Checker”. This could be a sibling, parent friend etc. The Checker is someone who will keep a track of your progress, tell you when your deadline is approaching and celebrate with you when you’ve achieved that resolution.
If we made it a habit every night to run through our actions of the day, identify something to improve, set a realistic target with practical measures and a deadline and get someone to check that we stick to it, imagine the effect this would have on us!
Will you really wait another year to begin purifying your heart, mind and character or will you start today? I will! Who’s with me?