By Sayeda Habib
Salam alaikum brothers and sisters! I hope that the blessed month of Ramadan has gone well for you. The month of Ramadan is centered on personal growth, not only for our own benefit, but also for the pleasure of Allah swt. This month is soon to end, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to create changes that will last? Making a change for a short while can be easy, but turning it into a habit will take consistent action over a period of time. If you revert to old habits, then the change will dissolve and there’s a danger that you may feel more de-motivated than before. All this can happen if we take on changes in a haphazard way. Let me give you sister Farwa’s* example. Farwa used to hold on to things from her past- hanging onto old clothes, papers, shoes, and everything else. She wanted to learn to let go of things, and wanted to organize and de-clutter her life. She would get very excited, take everything out, and then feel completely overwhelmed and stop. This had happened a few times before she came to coaching. Through coaching, Farwa learned to set smaller targets and organize herself over time.
Choosing what habit you want to develop is the first step. Once you are clear about that, then comes the process of taking regular action in order to develop that behavior into a habit in your daily life. Each of us has a unique goal, so we won’t be focusing on the habit itself, instead we will focus on how you go about creating the habit once you know what you want. So let’s explore some ways in which you can build a new habit successfully.
Create your motivation
One of the biggest traps we can fall into is to aim for a change that someone else wants, or creating one from fear. For example, if you set a target to lose weight because your spouse or parent wants you to, but you don’t really want it yourself, then the chances for your success will be limited. You may achieve some short-term success, but to create a new lifestyle for healthy eating will be much harder if you aren’t motivated to do so for yourself. The most important aspect of creating change is having a powerful motivation to make the change. Once you have an idea of what you want, sit down and ask yourself the following questions:
• Why do I want to make this change?
• What will this new habit give me in my life?
• Who will this change impact, and in what way?
• Do I see myself implementing this new habit in the next six months? Five years? Ten years? Do I still want to make this change?
The last question should make things clear for you. However, if you are still unsure then you may wish to reconsider taking on the goal. Ask yourself what it is that you really, really want, and then create a new goal from that awareness. Your chances of success will increase dramatically if you really want what you’re aiming for.
Take it on piece by piece
Have you ever taken on multiple things and then found it difficult to follow through? You may be excited and inclined to take on several different behaviors at once, but changes are more sustainable when taken on one at a time. Also, Ramadan is a time when we feel inspired to do more- but remember that you will go back to your normal routine very soon. Ensure that you break your plan down into manageable steps. Make notes of what you need to do. Sit down with your diary and plan them in. Ensure that you keep your other commitments in mind and give them priority as well. When you take on things in a manageable way, you will have room to grow, and the change will feel like a pleasure and not a burden.
Take actions consistently!
It takes a minimum of 28 days at of action to begin turning a behavior into a habit. You will need to do the same behavior each day until your mind-body system gets used to the idea that you really want to have this habit. Plan out your actions, and then ensure that it can be carried out either daily, or as regularly as you need. If you find it difficult to add it into your schedule, then break the habit down into smaller chunks. For example, if you want to exercise 5 times a week, but it will be challenging to carve out that time, then commit to 2 or 3 times a week for the first month. Each time you are successful in exercising for example, this will be a message to your mind that you intend on continuing this behavior. Each time you do it will also build your confidence. Remember that you are not stuck here; there is always room to build more in. However, do it in a sustainable way so that it fits in to your lifestyle. If you find that you are unable to be consistent, then reduce your commitment till you find a level that is sustainable and build from there.
Be kind to yourself
Being consistent is important, however, we may go off track now and again. How you handle this will make all the difference to your self-confidence and to your success. If you are accustomed to being hard on yourself, then stop. Being hard on yourself will encourage feelings of failure and lead to discouragement. If things go off plan, then ask yourself the following questions:
• What happened that caused me to get off track?
• What can I be accountable for here?
• What lesson do I need to learn?
• What will I now do differently?
Once you can identify what caused the issue, then you can do something about it. Figure out what you need to do differently, and then get back on your new plan. Being compassionate with yourself will allow you to keep your confidence and motivation in place.
Get the support you need
Making changes can be challenging- and we all need support from time to time. Enlist the support you need to succeed. Tell family members or a close friend about what you are up to. Request their co-operation and support. What you do naturally impacts those close to you, so request them for their help in ensuring you succeed. Insha’Allah those who are close to you will become a valuable asset to you.
Insha’Allah we will all succeed in creating productive changes for our lives after this holy month. Give these strategies a go and they will assist you in doing so with ease, insha-Allah. My very best wishes for you on the journey.
Editor’s note: Sayeda Habib guides Muslims to empower them to change habits, enhance their self-confidence, and to find fulfilment in their lives. For further information on coaching, or to get in touch with Sayeda, log on to www.makelifehappen.com, or email her at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com. The views in her article are solely her own.