For those of us lucky to still be alive, we’re counting down the days until Ramadan as either Friday, Saturday, or even Sunday depending on who you talk to, will be the first day of Ramadan 2017. As usual, it tends to feel like it sprung up out of nowhere, arriving too fast, too soon, and unstoppable.
If you’re like me, you look forward to it with a mixture of excitement, hope and unvoiced fear. Fear that the hours will be too long, that the hunger will be unbearable and the thirst excruciating. Fortunately the excitement and hope outweigh the fear. I am excited about Tarawih prayers, about family Iftars and about the prospect of Eid. Hopeful that this year, this Ramadan we will all finally become enlightened and shed our baser selves. Hopeful also, that this will be our best Ramadan Ever!
While I can’t make you any promises of the type of Ramadan you will have, I can tell you the one thing you absolutely must do this Ramadan. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to stay up all night reciting the Quran, or to give out Sadaqah every day, though you probably should. Nor will I ask you to do anything particularly hard. All I ask is that you do this one thing:
Pick one thing you want to achieve this Ramadan
Pick one thing you want to achieve this Ramadan, whether it’s a Sura you want to memorize or a Nawafil you want to incorporate into your daily routine. It can be simple, or it can be difficult, but it should be just one thing. Decide whether it’s Shafi’ and Witr prayers that you want to start performing after Salat-ul Isha. Whether you want to finally start reciting Surat-ul Mulk before bed or memorize Surat-ul Yaseen. Maybe it’s the dua to recite before sleeping, before entering the masjid, or when visiting the sick that you want to absorb. Perhaps you have been meaning to learn all the rituals for performing pilgrimage. Or you simply want to become better at connecting with your family. The options are endless and the best part is, no matter what you pick as long as you pick one thing, you can achieve it in thirty days, In Sha Allah.
The most important things are that:
1- You choose something that is important to you;
2- You pick only 1 thing;
3- You create an action plan; and
4- You commit to your choice beyond Ramadan.
- Pick Something That Matters To You
By choosing something that matters to you, you will be more likely to stick with it even when the going gets tough and the hunger strikes.
- Pick Only One Thing
It’s important to keep your choice to one thing and one thing only. Because it’s Ramadan and we’re juggling thirst and hunger with our regular activities like work, school and family, overwhelming ourselves with unrealistic expectations will make us more likely to quit. Instead, by choosing one simple goal, we can find the strength and resolve within ourselves to keep going.
- Create an Action Plan
Break down your goal into achievable steps. For example if you want to memorize Surat-ul Yaseen which has 83 verses if you split that into 30 days you would need to memorize at least 3 verses per day in order to memorize it completely by the end of Ramadan. However, some days you may have visitors, a demanding work day, or unexpected events that prevent you from achieving those 3 verses. So in order to make up for the unforeseen, it would be safer to memorize 5 verses per day so that even if you skip one or two days, you will still make your target.
Use apps where possible; for example, there is a great app called Quran Companion that helps with memorization by keeping track of the verses you’ve memorized and providing you with daily prompts and reminders. The goal is to simplify the steps towards achieving your goal so that all you need do is execute.
- Commit To Your Choice Beyond Ramadan
When you choose your goal, give yourselves all the reasons you want to achieve it. Write those reasons down so that as Ramadan progresses, should you ever feel like you’ve lost your way, look at the reasons again and re-commit to your goal.
The best part is that by focusing your mind on this one goal and taking steps to achieve it every day, within thirty days not only should you complete it, but it should also become a habit. This ensures that your goal stays with you beyond Ramadan and for the rest of your life.
(If you’re having trouble picking a goal, keep an eye out for my next post In Sha Allah where I suggest 15 ideas for your Ramadan goal.)