As the month of Muharram signifies the beginning of the Islamic New Year. As Muslims, it is important for us to constantly check ourselves for areas of improvement. The new year provides us with an opportunity to assess our past year and ways in which we can improve our spirituality, work/life balance, relationships, etc. for the year ahead.
What Should My Resolution Be?
A resolution is essentially a goal you set for yourself. Often, we find ourselves setting broad goals with no specific plan. For instance, “My resolution for this year is to improve my eman.” That is a worthy goal, but how are you going to do that? What steps are you going to take to improve your eman? What does “improving eman” mean to you? Where do you currently think your eman is vs. where you want it to be? Asking yourself questions like this will help you narrow your focus towards and help you take concrete steps towards your goal.
Remember to be S.M.A.R.T
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym used in goal setting. S.M.A.R.T Goals are those which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound.
For example: Taking the above example of improving eman. We can do this with S.M.A.R.T goals:
The goal should be specific and not broad or general. Be as specific as you can here.
My goal is to improve my eman by ensuring I perform all my voluntary prayers
Measurable: It is a good idea to track your progress. You can do this using pen and paper or an app. Being able to visually see your progress improves the likelihood of continuing it.
I will track the performance of these prayers using a tracking sheet/app
Ensure that your goal is possible to complete within the time frame. Ask yourself if your current work/life enables you to complete this goal. If it doesn’t, it may be wise to alter the goal so that it is possible.
My current work/life schedule provides me with the time to perform these prayers
Similar to attainable, ask yourself if it is possible to complete this goal
I am physically and mentally able to perform these prayers without it causing a burden on my current work/life balance
Time bound: new year resolution
We are more likely to complete a goal if there is a deadline. Setting a deadline allows you to track your progress and for some goals, it provides a level of comfort knowing that there is an end date. It takes about 21 days to develop a habit.
I plan to perform and track my voluntary prayers for this whole month and then continue without the need to track.
Now that you have an idea on how to create S.M.A.R.T Goals, here are some suggestions for new year resolutions:
-Performing the voluntary prayers
-Voluntary fasting on Ashura, Mondays, Thursdays, the Three White Days, etc.
-Reading and contemplating the Quran
-Taking an Islamic studies or Arabic course
-Abstaining from listening to music
-Increasing supplication (dhikr and dua)
Improving Work/Life Balance
-Taking time off work if able to for self-care/spending time with family
-Leaving work at the office (i.e., shutting off your phone/email when at home)
-Planning activities for the weekend
-Investing time and energy in activities that you enjoy
-Being present in the moment when spending time with friends/family
-Abstaining from thinking about work when at home and on the weekends
Self-Care is recognizing that you are only able to help others or be your best self when you take the time to care for your own needs. It is realizing that we can only take care of others once we take care of ourselves. It is choosing to engage in an activity without feeling guilty for doing so. It is recognizing that you have the right to take some time off and enjoy whatever activity you choose. Examples include:
-Taking a bath
-Reading a novel/magazine
-Going for a walk or to the gym/playing sports
-Spending time with friends/family
-Arts and crafts
New Year resolutions exist so that we can improve our lives. They should not serve as reminders of failure causing us to be upset. If you set a goal and are feeling a sense of dread, alter the goal so that it meets your needs. Remember to also think about priorities and values. Sometimes we choose goals that considered a value to society but are not in line with our priorities and values. A common example of such a goal is weight loss. Is losing x number of pounds in line with your values, or is it merely an expectation placed upon you by society? Asking ourselves these questions helps us build self awareness which contributes to a healthier sense of being. Lastly, remember that it may not be smooth sailing towards achieving your goal. The most important thing is to continue trying and to have sincere intentions, especially with the spiritual goals. Always ask Allah (SWT) for help and support through dua. There is nothing Allah (SWT) cannot make easier.
May Allah make our new year resolutions easy for us to achieve. Ameen.