When it comes to making changes designed to improve the quality of your life, it can sometimes be overwhelming to work on everything at the same time.
You might want to make sure that your health is optimized, that your family is happy, that your career and finances are in order, that your relationship with Almighty Allah is one that sustains you, etc. You see the big picture, but it can seem like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle that sits abandoned on a coffee table because there are over a 1,000 pieces, and no one wants to start putting them together; and because we avoid confronting the situation, our lives can get more and more jumbled as follows:
- The weight keeps piling on.
- The family grows farther and farther apart.
- The work we do is so unfulfilling.
- Maybe our spirituality is suffering too.
In desperation, we can turn to drastic measures that might cost us too much money or be more harmful in the long run. However, if we want the changes we make to be lasting, and truly improve our lives, we are far better-off facing the situation in a moderate, holistic way — after all the middle path is the way of our faith. Consider the characteristic of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as reported by `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her):
“Whenever Allah’s Messenger was given a choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful to do so, but if it was sinful to do so, he would not approach it.” (Al-Bukhari #56, Hadith #760)
So, how to do it? How do we get started on putting together the jumbled pieces of our life? We start by looking at the big picture. Understanding that there is a higher purpose to why you want to lose weight or practice more love in your relationships or find satisfaction in your joy is the first step. Paying attention to bigger issues like loving yourself, honoring your commitments, and not letting negativity (in the form of your own thoughts or the actions of others) stand in your way is important to connect to the higher parts of yourself.
If we can go back to the puzzle analogy, it is like getting the outer edges done, the frame completed, so that all the other pieces are easy to align into place. If the “higher you” is disconnected, then any advancements you make in some area of your life will be disconnected and will not give you the joy that it should.
-How many women have lost weight — but remain unhappy?
-How many people are successful in their careers — but still feel poor?
If you enjoy the process of making changes in your life, the results are sure to flow much easier than if you remain obsessed with what it is you are trying to change. This means that instead of focusing on what to do in order to live the life you want, begin by understanding who you are, and what it will take to make you feel joy, happiness, and contentment?
Consider your answers carefully to the questions below. It is the first step to building the framework of your best life, and your answers are sure to guide you to lasting positive changes and good habits.
What do you see when you look into your mirror?
When was the last time you stood in front of the mirror and appreciated your beauty as a gift from Almighty Allah and said the following du`aa’ (supplication), “O Allah, just as You have made my external features beautiful, make my character beautiful as well.”
Many of us like to beat ourselves up about the way we look, never feeling good about the features that were given to us. Sometimes it is a standard of beauty that was given to us by “society,” and we feel we can never measure up. The negativity makes us feel bad and turns us away from the very things that will make us look healthy and look our best.
In order to feel good about what we see, we have to appreciate our bodies, and think of all the positive benefits that they hold. We have to love ourselves the way we are, care for our bodies the way we would care for a child. We need to be gentle with ourselves and treat our bodies with the reverence of a gift bestowed upon us by the Most Generous of givers. How would you treat a gift from Almighty Allah? That is what is looking at you in the mirror, so follow up by caring for it in the manner that it so richly deserves. Choose the foods that will sustain it and energize it, and turn to exercise to maintain its grace and flexibility. With the right frame of mind, you will not have to beat yourself up about your health, but it will come as a natural result of your attitude.
Do you maintain positivity in your relationship or marriage?
Have you ever noticed how often couples blame each other when they feel hurt, angry, or sad? But what if they could take responsibility for their own feelings and moods or learn to practice patience, and spend quality time with one another as a sort of precursor to the afterlife. Saying something like:
“I want to spend my life loving you, taking walks with you, laughing with you, or sharing mutual interests with one another — I do not want to waste our time fighting or complaining — and when life takes its course and we are no longer together, I am going to look forward to meeting up with you in the highest levels of Paradise. May Allah bestow his mercy upon us.” Imagine what kind of positive effect such an attitude would have on all our relationships, what an enduring legacy that would be.
Are you focused on personal growth?
Though we are all undergoing personal growth, whether we realize it or not, those who take a more conscious approach to their development inevitably achieve a more satisfying, exhilarating, adventurous, and fulfilling life. A good saying to remember is:
“Seize your time before it seizes you!”
In order to kick-start your development; try keeping a regular journal where you can write freely about your dreams and aspirations. Start with five minutes of writing at some quiet point in your day. You do not have to analyze what comes out — maybe the writing will be a way to deal with challenges or give you a message you really need to hear. The fact is that our pens have a funny way of hearing the messages our hearts yearn to tell us:
- Do you want to memorize some Qur’an?
- Volunteer for a charitable organization?
- Take some classes?
What actions will you take to ensure that you are continuously growing?
If anything were possible, what would your work look like?
When deciding on a career path, it is important to begin with a clear vision of what we want to do, and where we want to be in our positions? We need to evaluate what we like to do, where we feel most satisfied, and how to get where we want to go? Though many of us stay in jobs we are dissatisfied with (because we believe it is too difficult to make the change), you would be surprised how many routes are available to improve our situations.
Brainstorming with an open mind and giving yourself a permission to think outside the box will reveal all sorts of possibilities. Only begin to narrow down your focus once you have dreamed up every possible job, career path, or activity you can imagine yourself taking on. Oftentimes, when you allow yourself to open up, you will see that the possibilities are so very possible — they may even be easy changes to make.
Do you have a sense of work-life balance?
It is about clearing the clutter, creating space for quiet time and daily “feel-good” rituals, designed to make you live in the moment, to feel content and rewarded. It is the way to live a fulfilling life, creating a space that helps you move forward, rather than hindering you or making you feel like you are drowning. Not only is it the way to put the pieces of your life puzzle together, but it also helps to make them shine.