It’s that time of the year again, where we set goals and resolutions and make plans for the coming months. I for one can’t even remember the goals I set myself at the beginning of 2020. The past year was such a whirlwind of emotions, trials, and obstacles.
I remember starting the year, like most people, thinking;
“2020 is going to be my year”. We were filled with enthusiasm and energy as we set ourselves goals to eat healthier, travel, and exercise.
And then the pandemic hit. And the ‘unprecedented’ months of 2020 threw us off course. My ‘healthy’ diet was completely obliterated, as I looked towards junk food and my warm sofa for comfort during the lockdown. Our travel plans were replaced with travel bans and gyms were converted into home workouts and skipping ropes.
As we look forward to 2021, some may say that there is no point in setting goals as the virus might mess up our plans once more. But I believe that we should walk with faith and begin the year, how we intend to continue. With purpose and direction.
I thought I would share 5 words of wisdom from our faith that may help us to structure our goal setting for the coming months.
1. Small deeds and actions help us to build long term and beneficial habits.
There is the well-known hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) says;
“Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little” [Sahih Bukhari]
When we set goals, it’s always great to reach for the sky. But also remember that the smaller, more achievable goals, once completed regularly, can have a huge impact.
For example, one of the goals we could set for 2021 is to build a relationship with the beautiful book of Allah. Some people are capable of memorizing the Quran in one year.
But there is also value in the smaller actions that are done regularly. Maybe set yourself the target of memorizing or reciting one ayat of the Quran every day and also read the translation to fully internalize the beauty of the holy book. This will make the Quran a daily part of your life. And then you could even build on it, by increasing your daily amount slowly.
2. Plan your day around your Salah
There are two reasons why I feel that it is important to remind us of this.
The first is that our goals and plans for the day should revolve around our prayer. Some of us have set the goals of praying regularly and on time in 2021. The best way to prioritize our prayer is by planning around it.
The second is that 2020 was the destroyer of sleeping patterns, with lockdown changing our sense of time. The Prophet (SAW) was the wisest man to walk the earth and we can find benefit in looking at how he made use of his time during the day.
The Prophetic Sleeping Pattern:
Sleeping early: ‘Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged his companions not to be involved in any activity after Isha prayer (darkness prayer, which is around 1.5-2 hours after sunset). The Prophet (PBUH) said, “One should not sleep before the night prayer, nor have discussions after it”’
Waking up early: ‘Additionally, Muslims are required to wake up for Fajr prayer, which is about one hour before sunrise. The Prophet did not sleep after Fajr prayer. In addition, the Prophet (PBUH) told his companions that early morning work is blessed by Allāh.’
Taking a nap between Dhuhr and Asr: “Sleeping early in the day betrays ignorance, in the middle of the day is right, and at the end of the day is stupid” (Fath Al-Bari).
3. Set your intentions right at the start
“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
We set our goals for many reasons. To get healthy, to be more successful, to be more productive.
But in Islam, we believe that the intention is almost more important than the action or goal itself. We believe that the root of our intention should be grounded in wanting to please and obey Allah alone.
So take a moment to reflect and renew your intentions. You can still want to be healthy and successful, but ensure that you intend to work towards these things for the sake of Allah. That you want to be healthy so that you can worship Allah better. You want to be successful so that you can give even more to charity.
4. Surround yourself with good people who hold you accountable.
One of the best ways to push yourself towards your goal is to surround yourself with positive people who are either working towards similar goals or can simply help to hold you accountable.
It’s super easy to lose track or fall behind so it is always beneficial to have friends or family that can remind you of your intention and goals.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first, you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof. (Bukhari)
In 2021, we only want to be surrounded by musk sellers!
5. As long as you’re breathing, there’s time to start again!
In Sunan al-Tirmidhi, a Hadith is narrated: Allah’s Apostle said, “Every son of Adam sins, the best of the sinners are those who repent.”
During the year, you are bound to make a mistake. We are imperfect beings and if Allah knows how imperfect we are, do not always expect perfection from yourself.
When you stray from your goals, forgive yourself and restart again, as if it’s the 1st of January all over again.
I pray that we are all able to remain consistently growing and bettering ourselves in 2021 and that Allah (SWT) grants us the ease and ability to achieve our goals.