‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.’ -Aristotle
As a high-school student, if I was late to school on Monday, I believed I was going to be late everyday of that week because my mum had said so. Some of you may be familiar with that saying: What you begin your week with, you will end it with.
So in High School, I was such a believer of that saying and would jump through hoops to ensure I wasn’t late. It did not take me long to figure out it was a superstition, but in it still lies a thread of truth.
Some say it takes at least 21 days to develop a habit, so if we persist with a simple pattern of behaviour, it could become automatic in 3 weeks. However, in life we know this could take even longer if not forever. Once a habit is established, it takes Allah’s Grace to break it. Take a look at the drug, alcohol, cigarette, sex addicts.
Little drops of water make an ocean.
Instead of succumbing to bad habits, we should subscribe to healthy habits and good deeds. Allah loves a small deed done consistently. We shouldn’t limit giving alms to only Eid days but we should regularly give some change to that beggar sitting outside the fast-food restaurant we often have lunch; we should strive to pray sunnah rakats before or after salaah; praying in the masjid daily (for men) etc.
Whatever is good that we perform consistently will weigh heavily on our scale while the negative habits we consistently avoid will cause, in sha Allah, a precipitous drop in our bad deeds’ scale.
Let’s kick it up some notches:
1. Define our goals: our goals should be SMARTER. Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Time-bound, Evaluated, Reviewed.
2. Punish yourself and reward yourself accordingly. If you resolve to perform a certain good deed, or avoid a certain behaviour but shirk your duty, instead of despairing of your weak nafs, turn it around for better. Rent to Allah then punish yourself by getting closer to Allah. Here’s an instance, if you decided to pray 2 nafl before Fajr and you defaulted, pay a fine of a certain significant amount as sadaqah. If you made a decision to stop lying but failed today, make a pact to fast tomorrow. And if you do achieve your goals, rewards yourself appropriately. This way, you win both ways.
May Allah strengthen our resolve.