“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
Developing and improving oneself is a constant process through the life of an individual. This is normally accomplished by developing and inculcating certain behaviors in ones personality. The more you practice these behaviors, the more consistent you become in adopting them and making them a permanent part of your life. There is no time when one is not trying or at least wanting to develop a certain positive habit in them. It could be extra prayers or fasts, it could be reciting the Quran, it could be sleeping early, and it could be giving up smoking or trying to develop the habit of exercising.
Whatever it is, it demands consistency.
As long as we are not consistent in what we do, we will not be able to develop the habit, because habits are developed by repeating behaviors, good or bad. The question here is, how?
How can one start to adopt a habit and be consistent with it?
What is the use if you decide to do something, start practicing and after a few days give up and let go of it? In this way, you go back to square one. Let us take a look at a few ways through which we can be consistent with the habits we adopt and make them a part of our personality and life.
- The 30-day rule:
Start slowly.For example, if you want to make Duha prayer a habit – starting off with 8 rakaat from day 1 may seem like an overwhelming task to keep up. One should try to take things in steps. Start with a shorter period and slowly increase it. It is scientifically proven that it takes approximately 30 days to develop and master a habit.
SubhanAllah, this brings Ramadan to mind which is one mighty good example – the aim of leaving all bad and unwanted habits and trying to accomplish and implement all the good habits in this blessed month helps us in carrying forward so many habits and continuing them for the rest of our lives.
- Do it daily:
Whatever you set out to do, when trying to develop a habit do not skip a day. The key is to keep doing and repeating the behavior each and every day, preferably the same time and in the same way every single day until it is stuck with you and you feel that something is missing when you do not do it.
“Good habits, once established are just as hard to break as are bad habits.” -Robert Puller
- Motivation and Reminders:
Think about the reasons why you want to form a habit. Once you weigh the pros and cons, you will be automatically motivated to repeat the action. Thinking about all the positives and benefits you will gain by doing it and the negatives that will come or remain by not doing it will help a lot. Think this way every time you start to lose motivation. Each reminder will ensure that you stay on track.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” -Jim Rohn
Make the intention that this is Jehad-Ul-Nafs. Control your temptation to do the forbidden or undesired and to go back to the old habits. Fight with your inner self and push yourself to keep going against your own low desires and/or Shaytan/devil.
- Replace a bad habit with a good one
“Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people.” [At-Tirmidhi]
How many times have we heard this teaching, replace bad deeds and habits with good ones? Decrease your bad habits and increase your good habits. Slowly but surely you will succeed in replacing and wiping the bad habits that you possess bi’ithnillah.
- Reward Success:
Another way is to reward yourself for each day and each time you are able to accomplish your task or are able to fight and defeat the inner devil in you. This will motivate you even more to try harder and to accomplish more.
- Ask Allah for Help:
Last but not least, the most important and significant practice a Muslim can do is to ask Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) for His Guidance and Help to let you achieve what you have set out for. You will succeed, insha’Allah.
One day the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it and he (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (At-Tirmidhi).
So along with your du’a, don’t forget to put in the effort on your part!
(PS: ProductiveMuslim Habitator is an effective tool to use when planning your habits, inshaAllah)