Friday, April 18, 2008

Tips for Self-Improvement

Every Muslim strives to seek the pleasure of Almighty Allah through continuous and consistent efforts to improve him or herself. As a young person blessed with so much energy, talent, skills, and time, have you given some thought as to how you will improve yourself for the betterment of yourself and your community? This, of course, requires self-awareness, self-discipline, and selflessness. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Purify your intentions.

Often we become so preoccupied with doing, with action, that we forget to check our intentions. Ask yourself, why am I doing such and such activity? Be sure that you are doing it for the sake of Almighty Allah by renewing your intention.

Prophet Muhammad said, "The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended." (Al-Bukhari).

Similarly, the first step in improving ourselves should be to purify our intentions and ensure that we want to be better for the sake of Allah alone, not for worldly gain, not for pride, not for anything else but for pleasing Almighty Allah.

2. Talk to yourself. Send yourself an e-mail.

That sounds so strange, right? But it is true. You need to talk to yourself to find out what needs improvement about yourself. You know best what aspects of your life need improvement. There are some aspects of your life that only family and trusted, close friends can tell you about that need improvement. But start by talking to yourself, and type out an e-mail that you will send to yourself. List in this e-mail all the ideas you have about improving and changing yourself. Be frank, only you and Allah know what you have in mind!

3. Set manageable, achievable goals.

Once you have explored all the areas in your life that need improvement, you will need to set some manageable and achievable goals. Be sure to remember that you are human and that you have certain limits not only in terms of time, but also in terms of what is achievable and when! Develop a timeline for yourself, set some deadlines, and, most importantly, be patient with yourself. Do not expect the change to occur overnight, and definitely do not be too tough on yourself if you find that you are requiring more effort than you initially expected.

4. Make du`aa' (Arabic for: supplication).

Nothing you wish to change about yourself will be possible except by the will of Allah. Turn to Him and seek His assistance as you set your goals and try to maintain your schedule. We need not guess as to what areas we must focus on because the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) make clear some basic areas that must require continuous and consistent attention. For example, establishing the prayer on time and in the most perfect manner is important; seeking knowledge from the Qur'an, the Hadith, and other trusted sources are important; perfecting our character is important; and improving our speech and conduct are important. With so much to do and being blessed with so much time as a young person, in sha' Allah, your efforts to improve yourself will bear fruit if you plan well and make du`aa' to Allah.

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