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I love new beginnings. Waking up on Mondays, getting a brand new notebook, trying out a new app. I love the idea of crumpling up an unsuccessful attempt at something, throwing it in the bin, and just having another chance to try again with all the wisdom gained only through experience.

New years, to me, are just that: blank new slates filled with the promise of a second (or third, fourth etc) chance :)

I lived 2013 with the word “Explore!” screaming in my mind, and true to word, 2013 has been one of the most exciting years for me ever. Sometime in the middle of the year, I told myself to stop over thinking things and to just do it, whatever it was. Since then, I’ve been saying yes to this and yes to that, and masyaAllah Allah SWT has been very generous with His rezq!

Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli hal. Here are the 10 lessons I’m thankful Allah SWT has taught me in 2013:

1) Intentions are everything

I’ve written many articles on this topic, both on this site and my letters, but I feel like I can’t stress it enough: intentions are everything. Intentions determine outcomes, intentions bring meaning to your work, and intentions have the ability to make the hardest, most excruciating thing you’ve ever attempted to be easy.

“When the beginning is bright, the end will be bright.” – Shaykh Ninowy

2) Make du’a for everything, anywhere, any time

In 2013, I finally found out that my ex got engaged, got the answer I desperately needed to save my soul after three years of struggling with certain issues, got a free iPad, and even got woken up by Allah SWT from my sleep randomly at 330am one night because a good friend in Morocco made du’a for me to go online.

Allah SWT is much closer to us than we think He is. He listens. He sees. He is more aware of our feelings, thoughts, wants, and struggles than we ourselves are. So make du’a. Always make du’a. He will never turn down the du’a of a believer :)

3) Try new things

Most people stay in their comfort zone and stick to the people or things they have known all their lives. Getting out of that zone and actually trying new things is hard because it requires effort, requires exposure to failure, and it requires certain elements of risks.

But if we don’t try new things and push our own boundaries, we will never truly find out what our limits are, or who we really are. This year, some of the new things I tried were being a deejay (which I really enjoyed), launching my weekly letters (which I enjoyed even more), and enrolling in Karate (which was terrifying).

From trying new things, I picked up so many new skills, and more importantly, discovered more of myself. And I had so much fun along the way to boot!

4) Stop giving in to fear and self-doubt

Many of the new things I tried were things I have had opportunities to try for years but was afraid of doing so. I always doubted that I could ever be good at something, that I would succeed. Hence, I never did start on anything because I was so scared of failing and of being a failure.

Additionally, I was also secretly afraid of success, because with that success comes expectations from myself and from others, expectations which I was afraid I would fail to deliver.

It’s this fear of failure and fear of success that leaves most people average and mediocre. I decided I don’t want to be average. I don’t want to be mediocre.

I stopped giving in to fear and self-doubt. I had my first failure. It was excruciating, but nowhere as terrible as I though it’d be ;)

5) Give my best in everything I do

I realized that I almost always get upset and angry with myself when I failed at something with the knowledge that I didn’t give it my best.

Giving the best I can implies that I put into something all that I have in me, which thus allows me to leave the outcome to Allah SWT. When I’ve done the best I can and still failed in achieving something, I know there was nothing more that I could do on my end, which means that Allah SWT has better things in store for me.

Only then can I say Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli hal.

6) Always bring value to others

My grammar is mediocre at best and my vocabulary is pretty basic (as most of you should have realized by now hehe), but the reason this site bloomed in a few short months is because I always ask myself how I can actually bring value to others through my words?

Shaykh Ebrahim emphasized in his book over and over that the maturation of the self is reflected when a person learns to give unconditionally, when he starts giving benefit to others. When I write, I try to help. And as Shaykh Fredericks reminded me,

“When you help others, Allah SWT will help you.”

7) Be more conscious of how I use my time

I wrote extensively about this in this article, and fast forward today, it’s something I’m still struggling with. However, Habib Omar’s recent comment that planning our day wisely gives barakah to our time makes me more motivated than ever to use 2014 wisely.

The person who obtains the biggest treasures is the one knows how to organise his precious time in the day and the night. He arranges specific tasks for each time and does not give preference to other things over them in that time. Through this his time attains barakah. May Allah place barakah in our time.

I spent a whole day yesterday reviewing 2013 and planning for my 2014, laying down priorities and the big picture. Please make du’a it all works out! (I’ll probably write an extensive article on how to do this – I did my research haha – once my exams are over, insyaAllah!)

8) Relationships > Work

As Shaykh Afeefuddin shared (and I paraphrase), “I know a woman who has three PhDs, and spent years and years of her life devoting herself to her work. When she finally wanted to settle down and have a family, it was hard as she had gotten rather old by that time. She told me that she would give up all her PhDs and work if only she could have a family instead. It is the fitrah of women to have relationships and to have a family – a husband and children.”

9) Everyone is an inspiration

Everyone has their unique backstory, everyone has a wealth of experiences to share, and everyone is thus an inspiration. From taxi drivers to cleaners to random students I come across on campus, I’ve learnt so many new things and humbled myself so many times in listening to their stories.

The world would be a better place if we stop judging others and start listening to them instead. There is always, always, something good and amazing in everyone. It is your choice whether to see it or not.

10) My history does not define me. It is I who define my history

Shaykh Ebrahim mentioned in one of his dars over at his Zawiya that a person can actually choose how his biography looks like.

If I told myself that I am a pathetic failure, I could probably search my memories for incidents that confirm that notion. But if I told myself that I am a successful, happy person, I could just as easily reach into my memory bank and pull out memories that confirm that as well.

For the past three years since I’ve changed, I’ve always beaten myself up for having a “bad” history, for doing all the things I did, for all the bad decisions I once made. I always told myself that because of my history, I could never be as good as my friends who were excellent Muslimahs since they were young.

Shaykh Fredericks, in the personal conversation I had with him after a talk, took all of fifteen minutes to take that same “bad” history and turned it upside down into something awesome.

There were a lot of things he advised me that night that I couldn’t share here, but wallah, that one conversation is worth the entire 2013, Alhamdulillah :)

So that’s my 2013, alhamdulillah. How’s yours?