Photo: Sherien Fathy, a blind 32-year-old mother of two, uses her special headphones as she works on her computer at the General Petroleum Corporation in Cairo March 3, 2014. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dal. Photo for illustrative purpose only.
Every year, millions of people from around the world set new year’s resolutions to help them achieve their goals and live their best lives. Studies have shown that few stick to their resolutions beyond the first couple of months, but many of those who do so go on to achieve their goals.
Goal-setting is an art as well as a science, and through all my research on a faith-based approach to productivity, I have discovered seven principles that can help anyone set the right goals and achieve them.
1. TURN YOUR GOALS INTO ACTS OF WORSHIP
When you set goals not for yourself but to serve God and to show Him the best version of you, you’re more likely to stick to it and set ambitious goals that you’ll commit to. These do not have to be spiritual goals; they can be physical or social goals as well. For example, instead of setting a goal to lose weight so you can look good in your new clothes, you can set a goal to lose weight so you can be in good health, the better to worship God and serve those around you.
2. MAKE DEATH YOUR ULTIMATE DEADLINE
You’ve probably heard that you should set goals that are SMART, where the T stands for ‘time-bound’ (i.e., you’ll achieve that goal within a specific time frame). But what if the time frame for a goal is unknown? What if our time could be up any second?
This is exactly what religious teachings seek to answer when they remind us of death. Death is not meant to be a gloomy subject but a reminder of our impending deadline: one should try to be their best to their last breath.
3. YOUR ENVIRONMENT SHAPES YOU, SO CHOOSE IT CAREFULLY
If you’re trying to lose weight and five of your friends are foodies, then it’s less likely that you’ll be able to lose weight in a hurry. Our environment, from the places we live to the people we hang out with, have an immense impact on us and our goals. Hence, religious teachings have always reminded us to be aware of where we spend our time and “to be where God wants to see us, and not be where God doesn’t want to see us”.
4. FOCUS ON SMALL BUT CONSISTENT ACTIONS
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught us that the deeds most beloved to God are those which are consistent even if they are small. This is about focusing on the process rather than the goal. For example, if you want to be a great parent, concentrate on the process of being one: make time for your children, listen to them, give them emotional love and support, etc.
5. PLAN AS IF EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON YOU
When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) planned his journey from Makkah to Medina, he went to great lengths to prepare, leaving nothing to chance. Though his journey was divinely inspired and he could have relied on a miracle to carry him through the whole way, he planned and prepared as if everything depended on him alone.
6. BUT HAVE FAITH AS IF YOU’RE NOT PREPARED AT ALL
During that same trip from Makkah to Medina, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companion took refuge in a cave. Lo and behold, a group of enemy fighters were able to track their steps and came all the way up to the mouth of the cave. His companion became anxious, but the Prophet had faith in God, and he gave an answer that became part of a verse in the Quran: “Do not grieve; indeed, Allah is with us.” (9:40). When you've done all that you can to prepare for your goals, have faith.
7. BE PATIENT
We love quick fixes and instant gratification, but anything good in life takes time. This is why a lot of verses in the Quran and sayings of the Prophet encourage patience and perseverance as the basic characteristics that a believer should possess.
Setting goals and striving to achieve them is an excellent trait of highly productive individuals. Faith provides us with the right mindset to set the right goals and achieve them.
Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs rebalance their lives spiritually, physically and socially to achieve peak performance and live meaningful lives. He’s the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com and author of The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.
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