So you counted down the seconds to January 1st 2017. You have a list ready of all the new amazing things that you’re planning to do this year.
You’re excited, motivated, thrilled and just overjoyed that you’re starting the year with so much enthusiasm. The first day starts off with a bang; you’ve joined a gym, you’re beginning a new business venture. You feel confident, fulfilled and just a better person. But a few days after, all that motivation comes crashing down. Why?
It all begins with intention
Research shows that only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolution, were able to achieve their goals. Only 8%! I’m guessing 92% of the people who failed to achieve their goals started with the wrong intention.
As Muslims, we begin most things with Bismillah (In the Name of Allah), and we aim to always renew our intention before beginning an action.
The Prophet said;
Verily actions are judged by their intentions (Bukhari and Muslim).
So when you joined that gym as soon as the clock struck midnight; was it on a whim? Was it just to check the box on your ‘to do list’? What was the real motive behind joining a gym?
When you break down your intention you really get to the focal point of why you do certain things, rather than making a meaningless list, that you’ll probably throw away after a couple of days.
So why did you join a gym? Of course to lose weight (unless you only joined to use the steam room). Try this; before going to the gym ask yourself why? Remind yourself that you’re doing it to become fit and healthy, or to stay in shape. If you renew your intention before any action, you are more than likely to stick with it.
Right from the start ‘resolutions’ have failure and procrastination built into it. Although we start with good intentions, part of the problem is that we set unrealistic goals, with the assumption that we will be a completely new and different person every year. To top it off, the problem is further exacerbated when we hear about the flamboyant goals of our friends. It thus becomes a competition rather than an actual chance for self-development.
However, despite these connotations it’s never too late to start now. In reality, change happens in small steps over time.
With New Year resolutions we expect ourselves to change as soon as it hits midnight. Like Cinderella at the ball, we race against time instead of taking our time. After a few unsuccessful attempts at achieving our goals, we are struck with a heightened feeling of failure and thus discouraged from setting goals, later on in life.
So if you want to do something, I urge you to do it now. Start now. Don’t wait. Even if it’s something as small as making sure you wash the dishes before you go to bed, do it. And then celebrate it. Be proud of that achievement no matter how small it is.
Goals vs values
This is an area which is often misconstrued and causes further anxiety in people. When we say ‘goal’ our subconscious mind quickly tries to find something that is attainable. It looks for something tangible, specific and achievable. So if you say ‘my goal is to become a millionaire’, your subconscious automatically goes into one of your filing cabinets, at the back of your brain, and pulls out a picture of you rolling around in lots of money whilst screaming in joy.
There’s nothing wrong with having that picture in mind. The problem arises when you can’t achieve that goal, and be that happy person rolling around in money. When you experience failure you are more than likely to feel unfulfilled, undervalued or simply not worthy of being that person you imagined.
However if you simply change the way you value something then your outlook on your future, seems that much more attainable. So instead of saying you want to become a millionaire you can rephrase and state you want to live a life without financial worries. Instead of a having a fixed goal, you change what you value. In this case, money.
Values are broader and imply moment to moment decisions. Therefore you’re not stressing over a time frame and schedules, because values are much deeper than that.
Secrets of success
People naturally do more of what makes them feel good, which I like to call good habits. Good habits are what make you successful. If you’re not doing something over and over again, then chances are you don’t take it seriously and will just revert to feelings of failure and back to dreaming of your goals. Dreaming about goals is one thing, but acting upon them is what makes you successful.
This reminds me of the following hadith;
“The Prophet was asked, “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, “Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability” [Sahih Al-Bukhari].
SubhanAllah (Glory Be to God). Two things we can learn from this hadith are to keep at it and to never give up!
I would also like to highlight the point of doing things within your ability. This is so important because I’ve seen people setting goals/tasks that are completely out of their ability. For example setting up a brand new business and wanting to become a millionaire overnight (honestly people have told me this).
I really admire their ambition and that kind of ambition is amazing to have. But the problem is the goal that’s been set. Unless you know another millionaire than can lend you a million pounds (dollars for my American readers), then it’s nearly impossible to set up a business and become a millionaire overnight (If you’ve made a million pounds/dollars overnight then please comment below with how you did it).
One book that really helped me develop good habits is 7 habits of highly successful people. I highly recommend this book! Stephen Convey teaches you how to be proactive instead of reactive to your circumstances and really makes you think outside the box of your comfort zone. (If you enjoy listening then you can downloaded them here).
Do it for yourself
This is probably the most important part of change; doing it for yourself. A lot of people set goals to compete, or to be praised or envied. They announce on social media that they are going to do something, hoping for people’s approval and likes. And when things don’t go the way as planned, guess what happens? Feelings of shame and embarrassment ensue.
If your confidence is already low then having these feelings are most likely to make self-esteem issues even worse. You become paranoid thinking people are talking about you and then start feeling jealous or resentful over other people’s success.
I like this quote;
Set some goals. Stay quiet about them Smash the hell out of them. Clap for your damn self!