We’ve all read the productivity articles, heard the hadith about ‘taking advantage of five before five’ and yet most of us live every day exactly like the one before it. Our routine varies a little, but for the most part it’s all the same. Fast forward a little and you’ll find yourself living your life a month, a year, a decade from today exactly the same as you do today. As an Ummah told to constantly strive for Jannah and nearness to Allah, standing still for a decade doesn’t quite sit right.
But change is hard, I hear you cry. Sure is. Here are some of the best excuses I made for myself – and the solutions, which became so in-my-face-undeniable that I had to finally do something about it:*
- Its too hard
It’d be like a scene in a movie: Mount Everest loomed before me with my goals at the summit, complete with shining halo and choir music belting out, ‘you did it’. Only in this movie, I was an ant. An ant against Mount Everest. I was a very determined ant though so at the beginning I’d start of gamely enough but at the end of the day I’d realise I was kidding myself and it was a nice idea but not realistic for someone like me. The thing was, by allowing myself to only consider myself successful if I reached the top, I had already set myself up for failure; nothing short of the summit was good enough.
I never had a chance.
A’isha RA narrates: “Once the Prophet (ﷺ) came while a woman was sitting with me. He said, “Who is she?” I replied, “She is so and so,” and told him about her (excessive) praying. He said disapprovingly, “Do good deeds which is within your capacity as Allah does not get tired of giving rewards, but (surely) you will get tired, and the best deed in the sight of Allah is that which is done regularly.” Sahih Al-Bukhari 43
Allah knows us so well.
Say you want to memorise the Quran but know you can only do a line a day, your goal is now to do that one line. Allah is more pleased with the small regular deeds, so who are we to say the big gesture is more important? The reality is, some days you’ll manage the line a day, other days you won’t. Even if you only manage 3 days out of 7 that’s 3 more lines than you would have if you gave up after your day 1 flop because the routine was new and hard and you weren’t used to it yet.
So focus on the little things: keeping an eye on the prize doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the little victories, Be realistic, be forgiving and give yourself a chance.
- I don’t have the time
We’ve all got things that eat at our time: uni, work, household chores, a long commute, kids – the list goes on and on. The turning point for me was when I realised that life doesn’t get any less busy; the older you get the more responsibilities get piled on. I finally stopped seeing myself as a poor, over-worked, constantly exhausted student and started looking at mothers instead lol (I kid, but seriously, major respect to mothers tabarakallah).
The trick is to make it a routine. It will feel awkward at clumsy at first. It’ll feel forced and you might even hate it. Push through it. Don’t let yourself make excuses, just tell yourself its one of those things you have to do. Like brushing your teeth. You don’t get a choice. Your less grumpy, closer-to-your-goal-self several days later will thank you for it and eventually it’ll stop feeling like a chore.
- Its too late
Unless you’re six-feet under, its not too late.
If you feel bad about not having achieved it at 20, imagine how you’ll feel at 30, 40, 50 and so on. When the time comes that you’re wishing for even one more second, then it will be too late. For now, we’ve still got those seconds alhamdulilah.
- Do I really need to change? I’m fine where I am…right?
Now only you can answer this question. What this is really asking is: how important is this to you?
The changes I wanted to make were always important to me- rationally I knew that, and I’d feel immense guilt whenever I was reminded that I wasn’t actively working towards them. What finally pushed me was looking at people who were where I wanted to be – not too closely, mind you, but enough to remind me where the goal was. I used them for inspiration, not comparison. ‘They’re, super cool *feels inspired* Ok, cool story, now back to me.’
I’d get there some day bi’ithnillah, but only if I started now.
Those were the biggies. It’s by no means a comprehensive list but if I made this article any longer you’d fall asleep. Here are some other tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Everything is easier with a friend: have someone checking in on you and your progress; we’re not as calm about disappointing other people. A friend you’re not super close to/can’t make excuses to is better.
- Get advice from someone who’s already done it: sometimes it’s hard to even know what the baby steps are.
- Change takes time and setbacks. Anticipate it, accept it, let it go.
- Dua: I left it last so it’s the one you remember. If you are sincerely hoping to make good, positive, God-seeking change in your life make dua and Allah will answer.
Change isn’t easy or quick but it is almost always worth it. I pray Allah helps us all reach- and then surpass- our goals, in this dunia and the akhira.
*MASSIVE DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert on change in any way shape or form.
 The Prophet said: ”Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” (Narrated by Ibn Abbas in the Mustadrak of Hakim & Musnad Imam Ahmad. Sahih)