There are a lot of different times throughout the year where we're pressed to set new goals. Whether it's New Years Day or the start of a new school year, these milestones make us excited to set goals that can help us go into this phase as a new person, and come out of it as an even better person.
What makes Ramadan different than any other milestone, though, is that life truly changes. Let's be honest: January 1st looks quite similar to December 31st, and sometimes that shift in the date fuels us for a little while, but often not past the month of January or February. However, Ramadan is unique. Ramadan offers a complete shift in our daily routine that other life events don't, and setting goals during this month might be the perfect way to carry the new habits and accomplishments after the month comes to a close.
Lunch breaks are a thing of the past, your sleep schedule shifts, music and movies come to a stop and get replaced with reading and family time. Your coffee run is not necessary anymore, and your hangouts with your friends in the daytime has to be postponed. Amidst all of these life changes, some people might find it jarring or hard to adjust to.
However, with the right mindset, it's actually very beneficial when we're put into a new routine. Amidst all these changes to your daily life, it's human nature to adapt, not crumble to the circumstances. So instead of sitting around waiting for sunset, we spend time in our attachment to God. Instead of watching the condensation on a glass of cold water trickle down, we spend time with family. During this shift of timely and mental focus, it's actually the perfect time to set some goals. But before we do, let's employ the world famous SMART tactic. Goals need to be SMART:
Specific: Don't just tell yourself to do better. "Better" could really mean anything. Be specific with your goals, even if you're scared of failing. Whether it's reading Qur'an, praying more, spending moe time with family, or donating more, try to be specific with which goals you want to tackle and accomplish.
Measurable: There should be an indicator of progress. Reading "more" Qur'an could be anywhere from one ayah to tens of pages, depending on your past habits. So make sure there's something to measure: a trackable number. Having a measurable goal ensures that you have something to reach, and you don't just call it a day after a verse. Set a specific and measurable goal for the month.
Attainable: If you struggle with prayer, don't overwhelm yourself. Allah loves deeds that are consistent, so make sure that when you set your goal, it's something that you believe is within your reach. A behavioral coach once said that he only lets his clients set goals that they have an 8/10 confidence rating in. If you set a goal, but you are not confident in your ability to do it, perhaps you bit off more than you can chew. It's human nature to want to do big things, but make sure you start small. This is thee key to creating a habit that carries on after the month is over. You can always make adjustments later, if the goal is too difficult or too easy!
Relevant: This step is important, especially in the climate of the COVID outbreak we are all enduring. Making a relevant goal means tackling something that is within your current lifestyle. While we may not be blessed enough to see congregational Taraweeh prayers this year, this is a good time to focus on goals that we may not have given proper time to in previous years. This can include praying more sunnah prayers at home, making extra time for family, memorizing new surahs, and so on. Make sure your goal is relevant to your safe habits of staying home.
Timely: Ramadan makes this part easy. Setting a timetable for your goals not only puts a bit of added pressure to your endeavor, but also allows you enough time to track your progress. Remember: progress is not linear. Some days will be easier than others, and some great days will be followed by subpar ones. So it's important to go after your goals over an extended amount of time, that way a day or two of laziness does not suddenly throw you off your course.
With all of this in mind, it's important to ask yourself if your goals fit within all of these criteria, and then you'll find it much easier to tackle. With more time, more focus, and a drastic lifestyle change already set into motion with the lockdown, we hope you will find it in your nature to want to experience new things, like reading, praying, donating, in an entirely different way. We pray that we all reach this month safely and in good health, and may Allah allow us to be safe in our homes and allow us to set and achieve goals better than any other prior year.
So whether it's reading more Qur'an, spending more time with family, memorizing a chapter by the end of the month, listening to more lectures, learning about hadiths, or donating a certain amount of money, we hope you find a way to execute your goals properly, embrace them in a new way, and efficiently take each day one at a time during this month.
While this may be the most different Ramadan in our entire lives, Allah is the one that can make it the best one we've ever had.