In pursuit of excellence

Wasting time

Often, we find that we waste hours and hours of our time on meaningless things that do not really contribute anything significant to our lives. We fritter our precious minutes away on meaningless pursuits without thinking about how we might have better spent that time.

Ibn Abbas reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.” [Bukhari, Sahih]

Being mindful

How many of us take the time to think about what we do and how we do it? How many of us take the time to be mindful of everything we do on a daily basis? How many of us are too busy rushing around getting ready for work, dropping off the kids at school, worrying about what to cook, what to wear or what to watch on tv?

As Muslims, our entire lives should center around a single purpose, serving our creator. This means making sure everything we do has a purpose and an intention. We need to maximize our good deeds and minimize our bad deeds, we need to work on who we are and what we do because this is what we become. We need to seek conscious continuous improvement of ourselves in the pursuit of excellence.

Our daily habits

We all have bad habits that waste our time and take us away from what we are truly meant to be doing. Some of us may be aware of these habits and some of us may not. How many of you have tried to quit smoking, only to pick it up again? How many of you have tried to motivate yourself to get up for Fajr with the best of intentions, but never seem to get yourself onto that musallah? How many of you have tried to eat healthy but somehow always find yourself eating quick and unhealthy meals at home and in the office , at your desk?

People more often than not, take the path of least resistance, a genetic mechanism if you will, to help us conserve energy. It shows us that people try to complete tasks with the least amount of effort it takes to get it done. This is why some people will only read fardh salaat and not the sunnat. They will only do what is necessary and not anything more. That may be okay to begin with, but we should always strive to be better. It’s all about continuous improvement!

“The best thing mankind has been given is excellent character.” [Hakim, Sahih]

Striving for excellence

Excellence is not about satisficing, it is about optimizing. Always strive for excellence, not just meeting the minimum criteria. Excellence is something you have to keep working towards. From an Islamic perspective, there is no demarcation between religious and secular. Everything in our lives can be regarded as Ibaadah, provided they are guided by Allah’s commandments. All of our activities, from the way we eat, sleep, walk, talk, dress and work, can be an act of worship. We are accountable for how we spend our time. and we should strive to maintain excellence in everything we do in that time. It’s the little things we do that add up.

It’s all about starting small. We need to do what is in our power and change who we are in small ways to make them lasting changes. We all make good intentions about how we want to change ourselves and our habits for the better, but what prevents us from following through on our intentions? Some people say it is all about willpower and motivation. They have big life-changing things they aspire to do, but never seem to have the motivation to follow through. Luckily, you don’t have to rely on willpower and motivation to help you change your life.

Aisha(ra) narrated: The Prophet(sa) was asked, “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, ‘Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.” [Bukhari, Sahih]

Creating a vision for yourself

In order to change your behaviour for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. Even though you may not need to rely on willpower or motivation to help change your life, you still need the intention. You need the vision.

For you to become the person you want to become, the optimal version of you is based on how you see yourself and the daily process you follow. Your life as it is right now is basically the sum of your habits thus far and the life you want to create is about the things you need to do on a daily basis to make that happen.

We have already spoken about motivation in our previous posts. This week it’s all about the vision and how you see yourself. Are you ready to transform the way you see yourself and make the necessary changes to create a better you?

These questions will help you get started:

As-is

  1. How do you see yourself? Describe the person you are right now. (E.g. I am a person who is too busy to worry about my health. I never have the time for doing the things I love.)
  2. How in shape or out of shape are you?
  3. How happy or unhappy are you?
  4. How successful or unsuccessful are you?
  5. How religious or spiritual are you?
  6. What are some of your daily habits?
  7. How much of your time is spent on these habits?

To-be

  1. How would you like to see yourself? Describe the person you want to be (E.g. I am a person who takes care of my body)
  2. Pick one of the areas mentioned above that you want to improve. (E.g. My fitness)
  3. What are the habits you currently have in this area that contribute negatively to your progress? (E.g. I skip breakfast every day)
  4. Pick a habit you want to change
  5. Why do you do this habit? Be honest with yourself, you would not do something that does not give you some kind of satisfaction or benefit.
  6. Make your intention

Knowing yourself better is the first step to changing for the better. Stay tuned to find out how to start getting rid of bad habits for good. It’s not about motivation or willpower…