Journey to Excellence: The Path of Self-Improvement in IslamDec 30, 2023
In this week's blog, we are going to be talking about self-improvement. It's coming to the end of the year and usually at the end of the year in the last month what I like to do is do a little self-assessment and a review of what I might have achieved in my personal life, what targets I might have had, have I achieved what I wanted to do, and always thinking about how I can better myself for next year, inshallah. I just write down my targets and I review my targets from last year and it's a really good exercise that you can take time out to do. I would highly recommend it!
Now, from an Islamic perspective, let's think about what self-improvement is and why it's important to even do this. Self-improvement refers to the intentional act of bettering yourself and the conscious effort an individual makes to enhance their skills, their well-being, their emotional health, their skills, their abilities, their habits, and how they can improve them.
It's a continuous process of personal development, so it's not just something that you learn and you stop, it's thinking about things that you should be continually learning and developing. And it's this idea that you should believe that you can grow and have the willpower to grow and make yourself better in all different kinds of aspects.
One of the things to think about is your personal growth and your fulfillment. So the idea is if you have active and meaningful goals in your life, which as Muslims you have a generic overall sense of why we are here in the dunya anywhere and we do see this life as a test. But if you have more specific goals for yourself and how you're achieving things then it means that when you're living your day-to-day life you're doing it with purpose and it means that you are then working towards something.
Once you have something written down like a goal, that means that you'll find the skill set to be able to reach the goal as well inshallah. By doing this you'll not only have more purpose in your life but you'll also have a more satisfying life because you can see that you are or aren't reaching your goals and you can also see what you might need to do to change that.
Another really important thing is increasing your self-awareness. Self-awareness is when you can sit down, look at yourself, and you can engage in self-improvement activities. You can look at and understand your strengths, your weaknesses, your values, and your own beliefs. So there are lots of different ways that you can do this, just depending on which model you want to use and how you want to approach it.
But if you can sit down and look at those four key areas, especially at your strengths and weaknesses, then you'll be in a position to improve. Because if you can't be self-critical, you know, you can't accept that you might not be the best at everything or perfect in everything, then there's no way that you can quantify that or make an action plan towards improving it.
The first step is to identify and recognize that there needs to be self-development. When looking at self-improvement, sit down and look at yourself.
I find an easy way to do this just look at what you've achieved in the last 12 months of the calendar year. If you're going by the Gregorian calendar and you don't have to, it's just that it's easy for me because it's the end of the year.
Is there one significant thing you've achieved in certain months or at certain points throughout the year? Was there something you were supposed to do but couldn't do that can be related to studying? It could be related to your family. It could be related to your job. Just whatever is important to you personally.
Another aspect of self-improvement is enhancing your emotional intelligence. I've talked about emotional intelligence before and why it is so important. This is when you can understand and manage your own emotions and also the way you interact with other people when it comes to emotions.
When you can develop and grow your emotional intelligence, this is going to be good in terms of your relationships, and in terms of your social interactions, and this, in turn, will have a significant effect on your life.
If you think you can control your emotions and you can understand your emotions. I'm not saying that you have to be happy all the time. It's about understanding when you are, for example, overwhelmed or stressed or anxious, understanding the triggers behind that, understanding how you can change how you're feeling or what to do in those situations, and how to react. This is all-important for self-improvement because it means that if you can understand these things, you can then change these things if you need to, or you can just be aware of them and that will impact your relationship with other people, inshallah.
Another one is managing your self-control. There's a famous hadith in which the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam said, "The strong man is he who when he gets angry and he says, His face reddens and his hair stands on end, is able to defeat his anger."
This hadith talks about the concept of inner strength and self-control. It suggests that the true might is demonstrated when an individual can overcome their anger and maintain composure. There's another hadith as well in which the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said "The strong man is not the one who can wrestle but the man is in fact the one who controls himself in a fit of rage."
Both of these are important because they talk about inner strength and they talk about self-control and the mastery of your emotions and that is the true strength of character, not the person who's just physically strong and can win in a fight. It's actually a lot harder to hold your tongue, control your emotions, control your anger, and walk away.
Even in the parenting workshops I do, I explain to the parents that the rational part of the brain is not even developed in children until the age of about 25. Therefore, it's never a good idea to start parenting at a time when you're upset and fired up, and they're upset and fired up, and you're thinking irrationally, and they're not using the right part of the brain to do this.
Health & Well-Being
Another aspect of self-improvement is thinking about your health and well-being. Now more than ever we should be thinking about our diet, we should be thinking about our environment, we should be thinking about whether we are physically healthy or not. As you get older this is even more so important, especially if you have other people who depend on you like children, or even if you know you might have elderly parents.
Even for yourself, you want to make sure that you're emotionally, physically, and spiritually fit and healthy. So think about whether there's anything that you need to do to change your diet. We do live in a society where sometimes we do what's easy or sometimes, you know, you might eat what's easy and it might not be the healthiest option.
Also when it comes to exercise you might be neglecting this because it might not be really important for you right now. But it might be something that you regret in your later years and it might be too late for you to do something So really think about whether you are fit and healthy and do what's manageable for you.
It doesn't mean that you necessarily need to go out to go to a gym for example to get physically fit and healthy. It might be something that you can even do at home. It might be that you just start taking more walks as a starting point. Whatever it is that you need to do try and think about this in the bigger picture of self-improving yourself.
As Muslims, we're really lucky because when it comes to self-improvement this isn't separate from the deen.
Rather it's something that's all already ingrained in your daily practice and in what you do. So for example you do the five daily prayers, you offer your salah and when you do this you're already conscious of the time and you're already conscious that you have to do it within a certain time frame throughout the day.
There are specific time frames for you to offer the prayers in. By doing these prayers on time you are already working on your self-control and your self-development because you're making sure that you do something. For Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala at a specific time and you're taking time out of your day whatever it is that you're doing in order to do this. This is something that you control.
There are also rules around fasting. For example, when you fast you refrain from certain things such as food and drink and you have a lot of self-discipline this all helps with your self-improvement because you're quite specific how you keep the fast and everybody follows these rules and this is also helping you to self improve.
You know that you're accountable to Allah for these actions that you're doing. So these are things that Alhamdulillah you already usually do. By self-improving and working on your personal development you can have adaptability and resilience in your daily life. The more you work on it the more you can deal with uncertain situations or challenging situations, things that might upset you in your life.
If you know how to deal with them and you're equipped with how to deal with them, you can have coping mechanisms in place to be able to Deal with life's ups and downs that everybody experiences. So if you think about actually I'm gonna go out and learn this skill of how to do this that will also help you be a better person because remember no matter what happens in situations.
You can't always necessarily or usually control what the other person does, what the other person says, or how the other person reacts. But you can be responsible for your actions, your own emotions, and how you are with people, what you say, what steps you take. So, you know, if you can train yourself to be calm in any situation, we're human beings and sometimes quite dramatic and upsetting things might happen.
But the more you can train yourself to be adaptable and flexible to deal with even certain situations, the better you will become and the more this will improve your life, inshallah. We know that usually by working on self-development and self-improving, you can have better chances at your career and just in life in general, you know, generally.
If you study something and you self-study continuously, you have academic success. But it doesn't just stop when you finish college or university. It might be often later on in life you might want to switch what you're doing or you might want to do something else. And in this case, you might need to learn a new set of skills.
You might need to study specific topics. And if you're open to doing this and putting in the time and the effort and the energy that it takes, this could open up new doors for you.
Sometimes what happens is you have your mind focused on doing one particular career or one particular path and when this doesn't work out, you become obsessed with doing it. Even though it might be difficult and even though it might not be the best thing for you to do. I'm, not saying don't work hard at achieving something if it becomes tough, but sometimes people spend years and years and years pursuing something that might not be the best option for them.
Whereas if you have a more open mindset to think if this doesn't work out, I have a backup plan, I have a plan B that I can also pursue, then that'll be best for you, inshallah. So you should always be open to learning and developing anyway. Another point is the positive impact on relationships.
Those people who can work on self-improvement actively tend to cultivate positive relationships, not only with their spouses but also with their children and people around them. And this means that you know, they're more empathetic, they have more of a relationship, they have more understanding about their interactions with other people.
Sometimes you meet people and you feel like, oh, they're not somebody that can understand me, or they're not somebody that I can have a long or deep conversation with, or you might change how you interact because you might feel like I don't want to upset, I don't want to offend these people.
So if you can become a person where you are empathetic to people and you're quite open and aware of the situation and what people are trying to tell you, if you become a good listener and they can come and approach you and speak to you about things, this will improve your personal character.
The first step towards doing that is being self-aware of your positives and your negatives and how you react to other people.
Finally, I would say that look and think about the next 12 months. Where do you want to inshallah ideally be? In the next 12 months, if possible, it's always good to have a goal to work towards and reverse engineer, go backward, and say, well, it's 12 months from now.
So what do I need to start doing? When do I need to start doing it? If you have realistic expectations and goals in place, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to achieve your targets. might have an ambition a thought, or something we want to do, but we don't have a proper action plan.
Who does it involve? What does it involve, are finances involved? Do you need certain materials and resources to get there? Think about how can I get there.
Focus on what you've already done in the past 12 months and say, you know, what went well, alhamdulillah, and what was challenging? Or have I changed my mind about things? As I've said, sometimes people will be stuck in the same routine for years and years and years just because they don't have the confidence to change or they procrastinate and think I'm not good enough to change.
That kind of thinking won't get you anywhere and I would highly recommend that if you do need to pivot in your life go in a different direction or take some change. And if that's the best thing that you feel is going to work out for you, then just say bismillah, make a plan and go for it. If you don't take action, don't move forward, don't do anything, then of course you're not going to achieve your goals or get there or have this dream of yours come to reality.
Whereas, if you're quite purposeful and think about it and write things down, have good intentions, and work towards it, then, there's no reason why you're not going to have a better chance of achieving it, inshallah.
I hope you're all successful with your goals! If you found this blog useful, why not share it with your family and friends?