I Have Ambitious Dreams, But I Can’t Prioritize

30 September, 2020
Q Assalamu alaikum,

I am a housewife who’s starting college in six months. There’s also a probability that I’ll be taking a certificate-based program soon for a few months that will aid me in getting a job.

My problem is that even when I have things to do, I’m constantly in rumination mode. For example, I would plan out my day as it comes and gives myself flexibility, rather than planning it in advance and committing to my plans. Consequently, I start to feel scattered.

If I plan to watch a movie or read a book, as soon as I do them, I feel like I need more free time. It’s like I crave focused work.

If I start to work on fiction-writing or a blog, I begin to feel like I need to find more impactful and purposeful pursuits. It seems that my anxiety arises from obligatory tasks such as praying, making appointments, studying, etc.

The moment it’s done or eliminated, I immediately feel relieved and can enjoy mindless activities without contemplating whether I’m wasting time.

However, shortly after that, I get back to the same state. Perhaps there is a hidden reason for it, but I don’t know. I often lack the confidence to do things but when I do, I want to broadcast it.

Like if I study, I’d want to vlog/YouTube it. If I build habits, I’d want to write a book about them.

It’s as if I do things just to show that I am productive; I’m basically showing off. I also have agreed to wanting to do so many things. I want to learn the Quran, get a license, lose weight and be healthier, go to the gym, and write more, but I just lack the motivation.

There’s so much I want to do, and this cycle just sends me into an anxious state again and again.

It’s been 3 years and I’m still undecided and stuck. What should I do? Please advise me.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

• You need to be focused and avoid distractions.

• Prioritize; write down your high priority tasks. Weekly tasks. Daily tasks. Hourly tasks.

• If you want to write, read a lot. Plan. Rewrite.

• You need someone who can read your writing and give you valuable feedback.


Assalamualaikum dear sister,

I am very happy to see that you are a very ambitious individual, but you must realize that nothing comes easy.

You need to learn to prioritize, make a realistic schedule, and learn to follow through with what’s important. Most importantly, you need to be focused and avoid distractions. 

Ambition is Not Greed

Dear sister, being ambitious and wanting to accomplish a lot in life is not greed; it’s ambition. It’s coming from a place of wishing for change and making the world a better place. It isn’t selfish, although it may feel that way.

In fact, Allah SWT told us that hard work is a must in life, and that we must always strive to change ourselves.

Clear Your Mind and Prioritize Work

Dear sister, you need to clear your mind to be able to focus on your path properly. When you work on one task, do not think about another. The key to getting most of what you want to accomplish in life is prioritizing. It’s an enviable trait to be ambitious and desire to do a lot!

I Have Ambitious Dreams, But I Can't Prioritize - About Islam

However, at the end of the day, if you can’t prioritize and get focused, you won’t be able to get anything done, and will only distract yourself.

Learn Master Scheduling Your Time

Scheduling and prioritizing will help you avoid unnecessary anxiety, in shaa’ Allah. Take these steps into consideration when planning:

  • Write down high priority tasks at the top of the page. For example, if you have appointments or meetings, or anything as such, write them down at the top of the page and do not forget to schedule them when it is the right time.
  • Weekly tasks: make a list of everything you want to do, with no filter nor category. Simply write down everything that comes to your mind.
  • Daily tasks: filter the weekly task list down to what must be done every single day, or on different days of the week.
  • Hourly tasks: divide the daily tasks to blocks of a few hours in your day.

Below is my planning in progress. It really helps me do what is important. Realize that some of these tasks take a few hours to complete.

Structuring Your Writing Time

I can understand how hard it is to write as I also often struggle with it. Dear sister, these things take a long time and there is a lot of effort involved. There is a lot to read, research, edit, and finalize. It is not an easy feat.

As an aspiring writer myself, I have a few tips which I learned from reading and watching multiple videos.

Read a lot

Dear sister, great writers are great readers. Ken Follet, a writer, said in an interview that to write his New York Times best-selling novel, he read around 200 books. That is no easy task! He read, collected information, and formulated his own story while reading.

Rewrite

It is not going to be a flawless first draft that will give you the best product. You will have to write the same story or same blog entry, multiple times.

Plan

Plan out what you want to write. I believe that writing should come first because many people want to be writers and some fear of writing. Therefore, if you have an idea or a story, start working on it.

Read Your Writing Out Loud and Listen to It from a Text-Speech Software

This is the most important part of writing. When we write, we are usually listening to our brain, however, when we read it out loud or listen to someone else read, we realize that what we hear in our brain is not written precisely, or sometimes the idea is not articulated properly. These gaps can be found when we listen to our writings.


Check out this counseling video:


Have a Trusted Person Read

You need someone who can read your writing and give you valuable feedback. Sometimes, it is not easy to find the right person. Research and connect with those who are willing to guide you.

Learn from the Quran How to Clarify Your Intentions

Dear sister, I can’t quite remember who said this, but it is not enough to simply read and understand the Quran. It is important to live and die practicing the teachings of the Quran. This is sometimes harder than sitting down for hours to read, understand or memorize the Quran.

It was narrated that someone asked Aisha RA about the character of the prophet: “O mother of the believers, tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him.” Aisha said, “Have you not read the Quran?” I said, “O course.” Aisha said, “Verily, the character of the Prophet of Allah was the Quran.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 746)

Dear sister, read the Quran and try to implement it. For example, in Surah ad-Duha, we are told to feed the ones who are orphaned and empathize with those who have no parents. Therefore, you can make your intentions clear by reading the Quran and trying to make your intention to fulfill what we are asked to do by Allah.

It will be hard, but it will give our life a direction. We are using the blessings of Allah to guide others. Dear sister, please do not consider prayer a chore; it is a blessing. It is a gift to us, and it is the direction and peace in this seemingly confusing and complex world.

Don’t Confuse Helping Others with Showing-Off

Dear sister, I believe you are confusing your feelings. I feel that when you accomplish something, you want to share it with others.

You want others to benefit from it and seek motivation and enthusiasm from it. You are not thinking clearly about it when you say you want to show-off.

When you want to write a book about a good habit, realize that others will read it. They can follow it and potentially benefit from it. There is no seeking outward attraction when others are benefiting.

I believe you want to help others but fear to seem ostentatious. Do not fear anything as long as you are not doing anything wrong, or anything that does not confuse your consciousness.

Salam,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Madiha Sadaf
Madiha Sadaf in an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa, enrolled in BSc. with Major in Biology and Psychology with Minor in Health Social Sciences.