Another year, another Ramadan. It’s Allah’s greatest blessings that He made the month of Ramadan as the greatest of months and a catalyst for our spiritual change. In this article, we discuss how scientifically proven steps can help us cultivate a lasting change that continues even long after Ramadan.
Allah subuhanawuta’ala’s Mercy and Magnanimity are beyond any measures. He didn’t just make Ramadan the greatest and the most magnificent Month of the year for us to achieve Eternal Success, but He also chains up all the whispering troublemakers (i.e., shayateen – devils) so that we can fully focus and successfully graduate from this yearly training camp.
“When the first night of the month of Ramadan comes, the devils and rebellious Jinn are chained up and the gates of Hell are closed, and not one gate of it is opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and not one gate of it is closed. A caller cries out, ‘O seeker of good, proceed; O seeker of evil, desist.’ Allah saves some people from Hell – and that happens every night.” (Saheeh, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Maajah)
So, Ramadan becomes an ideal month for any who aspires to change his spiritual condition and to become a better person. Without the whispering troublemakers, Allah subuhanawuta’ala makes change easier for us.
Being a slave of Allah and a lover of science, I want to combine the best of both worlds to help you get rid of those bad qualities you’ve always been wanting to shed off. Whether that is gossip, jealousy, anger or any other heart-related sins that you want to get rid of for good, this piece of article may be a great help, bi’idnillah!
As a Nutrition and Exercise coach, I work with 100s of clients to help them change their lifestyle. However, getting rid of our own sins and replacing them with good qualities isn’t as easy as changing our lifestyle.
Before we discuss the 6 scientifically proven steps, you need to understand that this change is hard and requires 100% commitment from you. If you aren’t serious, you won’t see any changes. But if you are serious, this will be Insha Allah truly a game changer. Besides commitment, here are the two most important ingredients you need to succeed!
- Du’a– It’s the month of du’a, so make sure you make as many du’as as possible for the desired change. With Allah’s help, even the hardest thing becomes super easy!
- Consistency – While traversing on this journey of change, you’ll inevitably fail. But that shouldn’t be an excuse to give up. For every attempt you make after failure, you’ll be rewarded by Allah if you are doing it for His Sake.
There’s an old Japanese saying that explains the concept of commitment and consistency in just four words: “Fall seven, rise eight,” i.e. no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up again. Even if you should fall one thousand times, you must keep getting up and trying again.
If you want to achieve anything meaningful and of real worth, you need to struggle and persevere. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick fixes for real success.
#1. Set a Goal
What is the change you aspire to make? What is it exactly? Most of us want to change something, but we are vague about its details. That which you wish to change should be clearly defined with easy to execute steps.
Let’s say you’ve decided to give up the evil habit of gossiping. Now, writing “no gossip” on a piece of paper as your Ramadan goal isn’t going to help you much.
First and foremost, “no gossip” is a negative goal and it’s hard to implement. It’s like me asking you NOT to think of a white elephant. The first thing that will come to your mind will definitely be a white elephant!
Our brain can’t understand such “negative goals,” hence it becomes very difficult to implement. So, if you’ve got a negative goal, make sure you replace it with a positive and actionable goal.
And you can do this by examining the root cause of that “negative goal.” Sticking to our previous example, we mostly gossip, because we think bad about others. So, making it positive would be something like this: “Always think and talk good about others.”
Now, this new positive goal is actionable. Whenever a bad thought comes, you know that you are supposed to think and talk good about others or just be silent.
Before we go to the next step, take some time and define the change you want in a positive light. So “no gossip” becomes “always think and talk good about others!”
#2. Define your Why
You’ve set a goal and defined the change you want to achieve in your life. Now the question is, “Why do you want to achieve it?”
The intention, i.e. the why behind what you want to do, is very important if you are serious about a lasting change.
The stronger your why, the easier becomes the way.
In the famous hadith, “Deeds are based on intention…,” Prophet (SAW) clearly says, “Everyone will get that what was indented,” regardless of what that intention is. So, if your intention is strong, you’ll get what you want.
So, set your why, and the how becomes easy!
There is a beautiful quotation attributed to Niche that basically sums up what I want to say: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
If you want to learn more about setting your why, read this article.
#3. Define your How
Okay, great, you’ve now your goal and defined why you want to do it.
As a third step, define your how, i.e. write down every possible way through which you can achieve this goal. Going back to our “no gossip” example, brainstorm when and where and how you gossip. Write down everything on a piece of paper.
For instance, talking to a certain person leads you to gossip. What can you do to avoid it?
So, it’s time to create your roadmap. When will you do what? Break it down. Map it out. It is crazy how simple plans increase performance by a ton!
And most importantly use the IF… THEN principle. At its basic, the principle is this: You identify the potential obstacle and plan in advance how you’ll tackle that obstacle.
“IF x happens, THEN I will do y”. So, “IF I open my mouth to gossip, THEN I’ll say something good about that person or remain silent.”
Or, “IF I’m in a situation where I hear people gossip, THEN I’ll change the topic or warn them of the consequences of the gossip.”
IF… THEN principle is a very powerful tool that is designed by the famous psychologist Peter Gollwitzer. Use it and you’ll see how simple, yet powerful, it is!
#4. Create an Environment to Flourish
You are a product of your environment. So, if you want to leave a sin or create a change in your life, it’s always worth looking at your environment first. Most probably, your environment is conducive to the sin you currently commit. Unless you change the environment, any lasting change is very difficult.
You may recall the hadith about the man who killed 99 people. What was the fatwa given to him? To change his environment and to go to a far place, as he was living in an evil place.
When you want a plant to grow and flourish, you know that it needs the right environment to do so. Likewise, if you want to grow and flourish, you need an environment that is supporting and helping.
Part of your environment is to create such supportive people.
So, whatever change you are longing to undertake, make sure you’ve got the right people around you who are supportive of what you do.
When you try alone, you’ll most probably not come far in your goal. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
#5. Track your Progress
Here is a little secret. If you want to improve anything in your life, start tracking your progress. As Peter Drucker, a famous management consultant says, “What gets measured gets improved.”
So, decide what you want to track and then track how well you do on a daily basis. Especially for Ramadan, I’ve created a simple tracking sheet you and your family can use. Here is the link to download!
The tracking is pretty straightforward and simple. Every time you gossip (despite your attempt NOT to do it), put an X on the sheet. The more X you’ve on the cell, the worse the day is.
The goal is obviously to have as fewer “X” as possible. Doing this on a daily basis, you can compare whether you are improving or not.
#6. Reward Yourself
Now, it’s time to reward yourself for the progress you make. Small rewards can go a long way towards a lasting change.
The reward can be anything that pleases you. It can be a positive word, money, experience, or a just a material thing. But make sure that you define the reward before you start to track your progress. For instance, you can say, “If I take less than 10 X on the progress chart after a month, I’ll reward myself with $100 (or a trip to somewhere, or whatever that is enticing to you).
Here are two ways through which you can make reward work for you:
Immediate reward: When you catch yourself talking only good about others (and avoiding gossip at any cost), say to yourself silently, “That’s like me!” This way you are creating a positive self-image of yourself. The more you feed your brain with “that’s like me” experience, the better your self-image becomes. This ultimately leads you to the change you want, bi’idnillah!
Short term reward: Every week (or in this case just after Ramadan), see how well you’ve progressed and reward yourself accordingly.
I’ve listed and simplified the six big steps you need to take to make a viable change. Now it’s your turn to follow them.
In his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie said this: “Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. So, if you desire to master the principles you are studying in this book, do something about them. Apply these rules at every opportunity. If you don’t, you will forget them quickly. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.”
So, please go ahead and take action!