Make the Shift: Instill the Real Habits, Weed out the Guilty

Make the Shift: Instill the Real Habits, Weed out the Guilty

sunrise and sunset

The beginning of a dramatically new habit comes with the burden of overcoming existing mental and physical programming.

Ever attend the talk on maintaining your Ramadan momentum? Seems to be everywhere at the end of Ramadan, but in my experience few, if any, are impacted because Ramadan time is treated as a time of binge worship rather than an occasion for strategic habit development. I believe our speaking capital is better invested in teaching habits of worship that are practically integrated in the life of the typical Muslim.

By doing so, Ramadan stops acting as a time of crash-and-burn binge worship and turns into a framework for building habits that should be at the core of every Muslim’s daily life. The first habit we look to develop is teaching the reader one method that has been successful in developing the ability to wake at 4 am daily – this is how I did it, but it’s not the only way to get the job done.

Real Goals vs. Guilty Goals

At the heart of every Muslim’s life priorities should be an aspiration to place in the highest level of Paradise. You’ll know the strength of that conviction by the conscious strategies you create to get there, and the active steps you take to making those strategies successful. You’ll likely fail many times, but oftentimes the intent and effort is just as important as attaining the goal itself. This is a ‘real goal’.

In contrast, when one says, “I should change”, but no real effort takes place, either in planning or doing, it’s what I like to call a ‘guilty goal’. Guilty goals are not true goals – they’re simply lip service placeholders in our minds, that allow us to acknowledge the virtue of some action while simultaneously making us feel guilty because, either we don’t really want to do them (lip service), or we don’t see a viable path forward to complete them.

For example, when asked, “Do you want to memorize the Qur’an?” in a lecture, all hands shoot up. Who wouldn’t want to? But were we to ask, “Who has a one-, two-, five-, or ten- year plan to get it done,” the number of raised hands would disappear faster than a palatable dish at an iftar (meal to break the fast).

Daily Habits

They are bridge from ‘guilty’ to ‘real’ goals. I’m often asked about my eating and training strategies because of the shape I maintain, especially since I’m not a fitness professional, but a 9–to-5 software engineer with a wife and three kids. The most important strategy for getting into shape is the same as for waking at 4 a.m. – it’s hardwiring neural pathways in your brain that converts new, frequent actions into lifelong habits.

Once those habits are firmly established, it becomes difficult to leave aside performing those habits. If you’d like to test it out, see how you feel when you don’t brush your teeth in the morning. Beyond avoiding close quarters in conversation and the gross feeling in your mouth, your subconscious mind will continually bang away at the walls of your mind letting you know something is wrong. There is so much negative reinforcement, you can’t help but go back and brush your teeth (at least, I hope so).

What if the pain of leaving a good action was more than the pleasure of leaving it? What if your mind rebelled and compelled you to go back and perform the action? Now you have a good habit established. We’ll discuss how to go about doing this, using the 4 a.m. wake-up as our example.

How to Establish Daily Habits

When you begin any new activity, be it waking at 4 a.m. or turning your health around, you’re both attempting to establish many new habits while breaking away from other established habits. That’s a tall order, and it’s why most people fail to change – it’s too much too soon.

It’s the same reason why almost no one maintains their Ramadan momentum, and why they crash and burn come `Eid day. The following strategy outlines how I bring about change in my daily habits with the 4 a.m. wake-up as the example.

1- What’s in It for Me? (Find Your Motivation)

Before changing your habits, you need one or more compelling reasons to change. In the case of waking at 4 a.m., one habit I wanted to establish was praying at least 2 rak`ahs of Qiyam Al-Layl (Night Vigil Prayer) every night. I chose 4 a.m. because when the winter months hit, I would still be within a half-hour time frame before Fajr, so no matter what time of year I was in, I could perform it.

But this isn’t the only reason I wanted to establish this habit. By waking early, I could also better prepare myself for the day, spend more time on other acts of worship (more dhikr, memorizing Qur’an), more learning (preparing for certifications related to my job), getting more work done (I could get more done in an hour in the morning than during normal office hours), and if my wife woke with me, spend quality time with her while the kids slept, and we would both be bright and fresh during that time.

Sure, there are some days when I oversleep and wake up at 6:30 a.m., and there are days when I wake up and just want to stand in the shower and veg out for more time since I have more time. It’s all fine because I have that time for myself to do just that.

For me, waking at 4 a.m. is the foundation for success in all other areas of life. In particular, during the brief periods of time I consistently performed Qiyam Al-Layl, I found my du`a’s (supplications) often answered with overnight delivery. All-in-all, this habit means a lot to me, and I believe very strongly in the benefit of establishing this habit and maintaining it for life.

a clock, time management

When you begin any new activity, be it waking at 4 a.m. or turning your health around, you’re both attempting to establish many new habits while breaking away from other established habits.

2- Anticipate the Unintended Consequences of the Habit

Changing oneself isn’t simply a matter of deciding you’ll act differently and then doing so. A number of areas of life should be addressed:

Relationships: If I wake and sleep earlier, what effects will that have on my family’s routine? If this causes me to go to the office earlier, how will that affect my team’s established routine? If you see the potential for conflict, you should speak with the affected parties and ensure they understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If they anticipate problems, work out those problems to the satisfaction of both yourself and the other person.

Energy Levels: Your own energy levels will be impacted by this change. On a daily basis, you’ll wake and want to go right back to sleep. If you stay awake, you may find performance deteriorates due to mind fog. I dealt with this by taking an energy drink first thing in the morning upon waking. I’m now at a point where I wake early without an alarm clock and don’t need the energy drink immediately.

Daily Schedule: When my day started and ended later, I spent more time relaxing in the evenings because rest was all I wanted after a long day at work. By flipping my hours around, I was working on all those ‘important’ priorities first thing daily, but I was no longer taking the time to relax and have fun. It was leading to a different type of mental burnout, and I didn’t anticipate that. If there are important activities in your life coming later in the day, make sure to find other times in your schedule to handle them.

3- Persevere through Initial Launch, Occasional Failure

The beginning of a dramatically new habit comes with the burden of overcoming existing mental and physical programming. If the change is too dramatic, then you’ll likely last anywhere between one day and one week before crashing.

To preserve through the initial launch, the change should be a challenge without being overpowering. If you’re already waking at 8am, then you would start at 7am in your first week, not 4 am. Your focus during this time is not Qiyam Al-Layl, studying, working out, or anything else.

The goal is simple: wake up and stay up. If you want to take a long shower, walk around the neighborhood, or veg out on Facebook, go for it. If you woke at 7 a.m. and stayed up all day, congratulations, you succeeded.

The last point cannot be overstated enough. The goal is simply waking and staying up, no more. Even if you sleep late, it doesn’t matter – your goal is consistently waking up at the same time and staying up. The next week, you’ll move to 6 a.m., the week after 5 a.m., and the week after that, you can push to 4 a.m. If one hour increments are too much for you, wake earlier in half-hour increments. If even that becomes too much, aim for 15 minute increments.

Once you’ve established the habit, you’ll find that your wake up time may fluctuate. Sometimes I wake at 3 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep, and other times I wake at 4:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. This range is acceptable for me, based on my own goals. If I were to wake up at 6am and beyond, I would consider that ‘oversleeping’.

In this case, I consciously attempt to discern what may have caused the problem (in one instance, I worked out late in the evening and then slept late), and make sure to focus myself on not repeating the mistake, or if I repeat the mistake, setting up other means of waking (like my alarm). The key is that occasional failure is ok (and expected), just determine that a failure doesn’t mean the end of the habit, it’s just a part of our human imperfection, and strive again to maintain better consistency.

Another point to keep in mind, sometimes I intentionally ‘fail’, meaning, I realize I’ve awakened too many early mornings in a row while sleeping an average of 5 hours. When this occurs, I allow myself a recovery day (usually on a Saturday or Sunday) to knock out until 9 a.m. (that’s just my time, others may have their own).

Exceptions

I know many of you are excited to get started and running on this, but there are some exceptions such as if you’re:

Pregnant or within 2 years of delivering a baby: Your schedule and hormones are far too upside down. Focus on a healthy delivery, and don’t try to force a sleep schedule with a new baby. In fact, set your expectations and don’t guilt yourself over not being able to achieve more during this time unless you have an awesome spouse who will help out and give you your own time.

You work the graveyard shift; you probably hit Qiyam every night, but really, the point is that you don’t wake up simply to get up and get ready for work. Use the techniques outlined above to wake up 2 hours earlier to get other types of work done.

People with medical sleep disorders: Seek the help of a competent professional. Let them know what you want to do and see how they can help you get it done.

Wrap Up

Becoming a consistent early-morning person isn’t about being a super duper tajweed (rules of Qur’anic recitation) master sheikh floating on a magic carpet. It’s all about focusing on the goal, keeping it simple, making conscious, gradual improvements, and moving forward until you hit the target.

Don’t worry about the days you fail, just keep trying until you get to enjoy the sweetness of front loading your day with all the most important things in your life. The gradual success that comes from it will snowball into this amazing feeling of accomplishment and happiness that honestly can’t be put into words.

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Source: muslimmatters

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How to Find Allah in Your Life

How to Find Allah in Your Life

Allah tells us to search for Him. Where should we search for Him? What tools and equipment do we need to find Allah?

Allah says in the Qur’an:

Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! You has not created this in vain! Glory be to You; save us then from the chastisement of the fire.

Our Lord! surely whomsoever You make enter the fire, him You has indeed brought to disgrace, and there shall be no helpers for the unjust

Our Lord! surely we have heard a preacher calling to the faith, saying: Believe in your Lord, so we did believe; Our Lord! forgive us therefore our faults, and cover our evil deeds and make us die with the righteous. (Aal `Imran 3:191-193)

So, there’s search, and that search begins with knowledge. And whatever knowledge one has, they never know enough. In your search for God one always feel thirst.

The enlightening video below explores the issue of finding Allah in our life and how not to lose our way to Him…

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Source:  TheProphetsPath  Youtube Channel

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Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam

Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam

Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam..

Islam does not recognize any kind of separation between soul and body, spirit and matter, religion and life.

Faith without action and practice is a dead end, as far as Islam is concerned. Faith by nature is very sensitive and can be most effective.

When it is out of practice or out of use, it quickly loses its liveliness and motivating power. The only way to enliven faith and make it serve its purpose is practice.

Meaningfulness

Practice provides faith with nourishment, survival and effectiveness. In return, faith inspires man to be constant in his devotion, and persistent in his practice. This is because the interrelationship between faith and practice is very strong, and their interdependence is readily understandable.

A person without faith has no real source of inspiration and, consequently, has no worthy objectives to attain or even aspire to. The life of such a person is meaningless, and he lives from day to day, which is no life at all.

On the other hand, the person who confesses faith but does not practice it is self-deceiving person, and in fact has no faith, in which case he is no more than a helpless straying wanderer

The interrelationship between faith and practice in Islam has vivid reflections on the entire setup of the religion and manifests the deep philosophy of its teachings.

Islam does not recognize any kind of separation between soul and body, spirit and matter, religion and life. It accepts man the way God has created him and recognizes his nature as composed of soul and body. It does not neglect his spiritual nature; else he would be like any animal. Nor does it underestimate his physical needs; else he would be an angel, which he is not and cannot be.

According to Islam, man stands in center of the stream of creation. He is not purely spiritual because the purely spiritual beings are the angels, nor is he beyond that, because the Only Being beyond that is God alone. He is not entirely material or physical, because the only beings of this class are the animals and other irrational creatures.

So being of such a complementary nature, man has parallel demands and parallel needs: spiritual and material, moral and physical.

The religion which can help man and bring him close to God is the religion which takes into consideration all these demands and needs, the religion which elevates the spiritual status and disciplines the physical desires. And this is the religion of Islam. To oppress either side of human nature, or upset the balance, or lean to one direction only, would be an abusive contradiction to human nature as well as an irresponsible defiance of the very nature in which God has created man.

Because Islam grants complete recognition of human nature as it is, and takes deep interest in the spiritual as well as the material well-being of man, it does not consider religion a personal affair or a separate entity from the current general course of life.

In other words, religion has no value unless its teachings have effective imprints on the personal and public course of life. On the other hand, life is meaningless, if it is not organized and conducted according to the divine law.

Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam..

Islam penetrates into all walks of life to conduct all human activities in a sound and wholesome manner.

This explains why Islam extends its sense of organization to all walks of life: individual and social behavior, labor and industry, economics and politics, national and international relations, and so on. It also demonstrates why Islam does not recognize “secularism” or separation of religion from man’ s daily transactions.

Wholeness

The interaction between true religion and meaningful life is vital. And this is why Islam penetrates into all walks of life to conduct all human activities in a sound and wholesome manner, acceptable to God and benevolent to man

As a result of this necessary correspondence between true religion and daily life, Islam does not attend to the doctrine of “six days for me or the world and one day for the Lord” . This doctrine amounts to nothing in the long run, and makes the liveliness of religion turn pale and faint.

Besides, it shows serious injustice to God on man’s part and afflicts detrimental injuries on the latter’ s soul. It is a serious negligence of the spiritual and moral needs which are as important as, if not greater than, the material desires. It is a dangerous disruption of the nature of man, and any such imbalance is a symptom of degeneration.

Similarly, if man earmarks six days for monkery (monastic practices) or exclusive meditation and one day for himself, he would be better in no way. The balance would still be upset. The natural and logical course, then, is the course which Islam has offered.

Being of a complementary nature and standing in the center of the stream of creation, man will plunge into serious troubles, if he neglects either his soul or his body, or if he lets either one outweigh the other.

To nourish both, to foster both in a well-balanced and sound manner is the hardest test of man’ s sense of justice and integrity as well as of his willpower and truthfulness. And to help man to pass this test, Islam has come to his rescue with the regular exercises of faith.

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Source: The article is excerpted from the author’s Islam in Focus.

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