Every year on the last day of December, I take out a piece of paper (or create a new entry on my blog) and list down all my resolutions. My resolutions differed throughout the years, but one thing that binds them together is this: usually, none of them stuck.
Why Resolutions Don’t Work
The thing about new year resolutions, ironically, is that there’s nothing resolute about it. Most people do their resolutions the way I do it: make a list, put it up somewhere, and magically expect that just by looking at the list everyday, our entire lives can change.
Once, the Prophet SAW noticed a bedouin (desert Arab) leaving his camel without tying it, to which he asked the bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” In response, the Prophet Muhammad SAW then advised him, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah.”
When we write down our resolutions and then do nothing about it, we are essentially leaving our camels unattended and hoping that things will turn out as we wish it to be without any effort on our end. The Prophet Muhammad SAW advised the bedouin to tie his camel, and we should thus do the same with our resolutions: tie them down.
Tying Down Resolutions
What I mean by tying down resolutions is that we have to, in one way or another, make ourselves “tied to” or committed to what we hope to achieve. Instead of just leaving our resolutions as they are, we need to make some slight changes in our schedule or in our habits, and most importantly in our minds and hearts.
Resolutions are usually the “what-s” of things. Essentially, it is when you tell yourself: “This is what I want to be.” When you focus only on the “what”, you are in reality looking at the end result that you wish to achieve for yourself, the destination.
To reach your destination, however, would need you to embark on a journey. A successful journey would need you to be guided by two things – the “why” and the “how”.
The “why” is your internal motivation, the driving force that will push you to do the things that needs to be done to achieve your “what”. Because it is the driving force, your “why” – your intention – needs to be firm and solid, such that you can rely on it to ensure your keep on persevering in the journey no matter how tough it gets, or how lazy you get.
There is no specific formula on how to get to the best intentions, for it differs from person to person depending on each person’s beliefs and value systems. What is important to realise, however, is that solid intentions don’t just come up after a few seconds of thought, but with deep introspection and reflection.
A simple way to begin is simply by questioning yourself again and again “why?”, until you have chipped away all the superficial stuff and reached the core of your beliefs and value systems.
Once you know “why” you need to embark on the journey, the next step is to plan the route you are going to take in order to reach your destination. This is the “how” of things, the tying of the camel. This is the most essential step because even if you have a solid “why” (the starting point of your journey) and a clear “what” (the destination of your journey), if you don’t have a “how”, you will end up moving in circles and getting lost.
The “how” question is essentially you asking yourself what you will commit to do in order to get to the destination. These are a few questions you might want to ask yourself in setting the “how”:
- How/what will I need to do to get to Destination X?
- How can I fit this action into my daily/weekly schedule, or, when can I do this?
- Is it a realistic expectation of myself that I know I can commit to?
By plotting out your “how”, what you are doing is making your resolutions an essential part of your day-to-day activities, instead of just a piece of paper containing broken dreams and aspirations ;)
Leaving your Camel
After setting your “what”,”why” and “how”, what’s left to do is to stick to the route you have drawn out and relying on your firm intentions to save you when you start to steer off the path. For me personally, I use the free application (available on normal laptops, iOs and Android) Trello to draw up my strategy.
I first set up a board containing all my different resolutions that touch different aspects of growth in my life, and break down the resolutions into different “hows“. Then, I set up a another board, in which I divide all the “hows” into monthly milestones I know I can achieve. Lastly, I set up a third and final board where I further divide my monthly milestones into weekly and daily tasks to complete. Every month and week, I review my resolutions and plans to ensure that I keep on track.
It’s only the second week of January, but by doing this, I have completed more tasks and stuck to more resolutions than I have in years, alhamdulillah.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment below, and I’ll be more than happy to assist insyaAllah.
P/s. I am contemplating on writing a step-by-step guide on how I use Trello to do what I have described above, so send me an e-mail if you’re interested. If there’s enough people who actually want to read it, I’ll start working on it biiznillah.
EDIT: The FREE 47 Page Guide is up! Click here to download :)