Goals can be very difficult to attain, especially if you feel like your life isn’t as organised as it should be. But I’ve been reading a book which has, so far, taught me a lot about setting goals and, more importantly, achieving them.
In order to make your goals come true, you need to follow a six-step plan:
1. Have a clear vision of your outcome.
Imagine the person you want to be in future, and let the gap between you now and who you want to be fire you up. Don’t lose hope if the gap seems big and there seems to be many obstacles – think of it that God will never put you in a situation that you can’t handle. Look at all the qualities and experience that your ideal person has, and note them down. What does their daily routine look like? What do thy eat/drink? Do they exercise? Do they pray all five prayers on time? Do they actively contribute to their community? These are the qualities you wish to acquire within the future, so knowing what you want to achieve is a vital step. Do you ever go on journeys without knowing where the destination is? Well this is the biggest journey – so know your destination.
2. Create a positive pressure to keep you inspired.
For example, make a public pledge. Tell everyone you know that you will do so and so, and then you will be more motivated to do it so you don’t look like a failure. Or, another way is, for example, going through a ritual as a ‘punishment’ for not following up on something. You ate 3 pieces of cake whilst supposedly trying to lose a kilo by the end of the month? Workout 3 times as harder as a ‘punishment’.
3. Never set a goal without attaching a timeline to it.
Just like a lawyer preparing cases for court, they tend to prepare and work for the closer court dates. When you revise for your final exams, you revise for the closest ones first, right? Goals without a deadline are most likely to fail.
4. WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS.
All of your goals. Short-term, long-term. Spiritual, emotional, physical, social and intellectual. Small or big – write them down! I’ll tell you why.
When you write them and read them frequently, you tap into your subconscious mind. Do you ever focus on a specific name or word and then suddenly start seeing it pop up everywhere? Or when you concentrate mostly on a certain topic in the news, let’s say politics, your mind tends to notice everything politics-related wherever you may be. Your mind works the exact same way with goals. The more you have clearly defined goals that you write and read regularly, the more your mind reminds you of things that may help you get there.
Buy yourself a notepad and call it your Dream Book (or #Goals, or anything really) and split it into different sections, either the ones I mentioned above (emotional, physical, intellectual, social and spiritual) or anything you personally wish to focus on.
Make collages of anything that inspire you towards those goals. For example, if one of my goals was to lose an extra kg or two, I would paste pictures of athletes or people with my ideal figure. If I wanted to gain more knowledge in a specific field, I would put pictures of people who I look to for motivation and knowledge – and even use quotes or passages . Anything YOU feel you will benefit from, slap it on there. Just fill your Dream Book with ideas of inspiration, and write down your goals with their deadlines.
But the trick is to read it frequently, as much as daily even – so that you accustom your mind to filter the things related to achieving your goals.
5. Replace your bad habits.
Did you know that it takes about 21 days to make or break a habit? Because that’s the time it takes humans to create a neural pathway. Bad habits can never be simply forgotten or stopped, they need to be replaced. Identify the times you would tend to do a bad habit, e.g. smoking at midday, and instead do something else in that time. Now, although scientists say to maintain this for three weeks or a month in order to give up the old habit, I truly believe that there is wisdom in pursuing it for 40 days. I feel that 40 days gives it the time required to fully solidify as an everyday part of your life. Besides, it is by no coincidence that many ahadith and narrations are based on doing something for 40 days straight.
6. Enjoy the process!
Don’t get too seriously worked up about the achievements that you forget to live the moment! Understand that every moment in life is a gift, and so we should be thankful for it and appreciate the exquisite beauty of its mere existence. Reflect on the small things, on the people you may come across on your journey, on the different things you learn each day. And don’t forget to smile.
If you follow these 6 steps, you will see that your life will eventually start to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. I’m currently in the process (Dream Book part to be precise), so I’m still not who I wish to be, but as long as we stay moving towards our goal, there is no loss.
Stay focused on your lifework and on giving selfless service to others. Live to give, and the universe will take care of everything else. That is just one of nature’s laws.