It’s that time of the year again. School starts. We go through another rigorous year of all-nighters and finger cramps so that we can get honors on our report card, get a job, raise a family and the whole Canadian dream montage. However, sometimes all of our plans will not work out. Allah says “Do the people think that they will say, ‘We Believe’ and they will not be tried?” (Quran 29:2). 

Thus, know henceforth whatever direction we take, it will not necessarily be an easy one, filled with obstacle and distractions.

We have an even harder time staying in one direction since habitually we are sidetracked by losing focus on what we are doing. I myself am guilty of it. Whenever I am under a pile of homework, I suddenly become the most responsible family member, doing household chores, which I would have never done otherwise.

Clearly, we face many obstacles and distractions, but nonetheless, if the effort is put in, anything can be achieved. Whether we go in the direction of an intellectual, physical, or spiritual pursuit, the destination can always be reached.

Now how do we travel in the direction we have chosen, without being distracted, or held back by obstacles? I have 3 pieces of life advice that have worked for me whenever I embark on a journey of self-improvement, and hopefully, will work for you guys as well. 

  1. Think about the finish line: When we lose momentum in whatever it is that we are doing, think about the finish line. Think about what you are trying to achieve and why you are working so hard for it. Rather than give up what you are doing after putting effort into it, refresh your motivation and get back into the same mindset you started out with. Then you will see that obstacles and distractions are mere inconveniences.
  2. Enjoy the strife: People who workout have a saying called: No pain, no gain. They use this as their motivation to continue working out, even when every part of their body is aching. In fact, because their body is aching, they know that their muscles are getting ripped so that they can grow back stronger. They use the pain as a sign to know that they are going to get the results they wanted. Another saying related to this is: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.’
  3. Anticipate obstacles: You should also be happy as more and more obstacles occur. Why? Because whenever you overcome an obstacle, it becomes easier the next time it blocks your path to success, to the point that whenever that obstacle comes up again, you can just walk over it like the nuisance it is. So don’t be afraid of obstacles. Adversity builds character.

Considering that we are Muslim, you would think that I would have said something more related to Islam on how to succeed in worldly matters. However, I emphasized how to deal with the strife of self-improvement, and how to overcome obstacles and ignore distractions. Well, is that not exactly what Islam is? Islam is the constant strife of improving oneself, overcoming calamities, and ignoring the distraction of the haram. You will see that just as the 3 pieces of advice I gave will help you with any direction of self-improvement you take, it will also help you with your Islam. 

  1. Think about the finish line: Whenever you want to sin, remind yourself about Jannah.
  1. Enjoy the strife: Whenever you avoid the haram and do what is good, do you not feel like the reward of the deed was in the deed itself? Not to mention the countless rewards you will receive in Jannah (heaven). 
  1. Anticipate obstacles: Anas (ra) narrated the Prophet (pbuh) saying: “When Allah wills good for a servant of His, He expedites his punishment in this life; and when He wills retribution for a servant of His, He holds his sins for Him to judge him by them on the Day of Resurrection. ” [Tirmidhi]. The fact that you are being tested is a sign that Allah loves you, and wants your sins expiated so that you die being worthy of Jannah..

And with that, I leave you on your own journeys of self-improvement, and remind you of our end goal as Muslims, which is to attain heaven.

‘The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.’-Carl Rogers