If a Muslim continues to display positive changes after Ramadan, this is not only a possible sign that the fasting has been accepted, but also a sign that a new habit has been formed.
During Ramadan, we are continuously doing our best to make positive changes. From the early hours of the morning as dawn breaks until the later hours of the evening, we carefully schedule when we will eat, pray and perform our tasks. We are more conscious of time and of our behavior; some people start to be efficient with time management and know the time of Maghrib down to the minute or second, even though they used to be heedless of that before Ramadan.
Despite the challenges to one’s mood when hungry or thirsty, we display a positive and modest demeanor as best as we can. If you continuously make positive choices during Ramadan and reinforce those positive behaviors until they become habits, this will help us actualize the purpose of Ramadan, which is to transform us as human beings and help us be the best version of ourselves. Ramadan is not just about those 30 days, it is about how those 30 days influence us the rest of the year, and throughout our life journey.
So, here are some ideas that you can try to tap into this Ramadan for lasting changes.
Many of us have Ramadan goals such as reading the Qur’an, performing more prayers in congregation or setting aside specific blocks of time for worship and studying our deen.
But alongside our spiritual goals, this is a time to also modify negative habits in our professional lives.
Start by picking an area of your work life that has room for improvement, and make a clear plan to work on it. For example, if you tend to be late for work, make it a goal this Ramadan to get rid of this habit; prepare your work clothes and workbag the night before- if this will help you be on time. Importantly, remember while reading the Qur’an that Allah says about successful believers:
“And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive” [Qur’an, Chapter 23, Verse 8]
Spirituality is not just about reading the Qur’an, it is about implementing the instructions in it that help us be successful people spiritually, physically and socially.
Working ethically and productively is a form of worship and gratitude to Allah . Even if your career or educational field is considered more secular, it can still be considered an act of worship if you display Islamic manners, have work ethics and outstanding behaviors- provided you remain mindful of Allah with every action.
Understanding the Formation of Habits
Habits are beneficial, it is our brain’s natural way of increasing efficiency. By turning daily actions and behaviors into habits on auto-pilot, we can perform with less thought and concentration, thus freeing up more of our focus for important tasks. Subhanallah, this is a wonderful way our brain operates to keep us at maximum efficiency.
Imagine if you had to ponder over every single action, we would be in a daze.
The first time you do something new, it requires more thought and focus. As you repeatedly perform that same action it seems to become easier and the brain power you are using to perform that task decreases.
So here is how to form new beneficial habits in Ramadan.
3 Steps to Help You Form a New Habit
The trigger that causes us to begin the action, the actual action and the result which either rewards or punishes us.
When this is repeated consistently, our brain can set it into an automated mode, and after time, that action becomes a habit.
This is why breaking bad habits can be so difficult; We train our mind to automatically expect a certain routine.
During Ramadan, we are continuously choosing positive actions and often on a schedule, thus reinforcing the behavior into a habit.
These 30 days of choosing positive habits, such as getting to work on time every day and following a schedule of daily goals, will strengthen the neural pathways associated with those behaviors.
A study on habits showed 43% of our actions are performed daily and usually in the same context, which makes the power of habit really important to our productivity and creativity.
Think about that for a moment, almost half of what you do every day is habitual. That means you have immense potential to alter negative habits into productive and beneficial ones this Ramadan. 30 days is enough time to solidify a new habit and keep it as Ramadan ends.
One simple change held onto consistently can have a large impact.
So, start thinking about the habits you need in your life that will really help you beyond Ramadan and contribute to your self-development, and then start consciously working on building those habits consistently. And remember,
“Take on only as much as you can do of good deeds, for the best of deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little.” [Sunan Ibn Majan]
Persistence, being steadfast and having patience are themes commonly seen in the Qur’an. Consistency throughout Ramadan is what will cause us long-term changes and improvements. It is not enough to go after a goal for two days; you must remain steadfast with your positive changes all throughout Ramadan as best you can for them to truly become habits and stay with you. So remember to be conscious and patient. As Allah says:
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 153]
Remind, Repeat, Reward
Remind. Choose a reminder that will go along with your goal, something that happens on a regular basis for you or a pre-planned alarm. Some examples of reminders would be a phone alarm that goes off midday, or you can teach yourself to associate new changes with already occurring behaviors.
If you want to use the miswak before fajr every day, then put it in the same area as you do wudu. When you see it while doing wudu, it will trigger you to remember this task.
If you want to send out a weekly wrap-up email to your coworkers or employees, set a phone alarm that goes off near the end of the day reminding you to write down something memorable for that workday.
Perhaps you want to read a book about your career field, put the book in the same location where you used to keep the TV remote. Seeing the book will act as a mental reminder.
Repeat. We are always motivated in the beginning when we make changes, but it is consistency over time that will help it become a habit. Don’t ignore the alarms and mental cues. Remain consistent and keep repeating the positive actions.
Remember, the more you repeat an action associated with the trigger, the more it becomes automated in your mind and will become a part of your improved routine. You have to keep repeating the same behavior while remaining patient. If you think about Qur’an memorization, it takes repetition in order for your brain to hold onto that information. Forming a habit requires that same repetition.
Reward. Take the time to feel grateful for the positive changes you are making and smile. Give yourself a pat on the back and if you want to celebrate, do it! Reflect on the blessings of making positive, productive changes during this beautiful month. For example, if you want some new equipment for your business, reward yourself by investing in some of it.
Ramadan gives us a beautiful opportunity to not only deepen our spiritual connection and seek forgiveness but to improve ourselves in all facets of our lives. 30 days of consistent positive changes will turn into more beneficial habits that increase our productivity long after Ramadan. If you are able to control your hunger and thirst, even during a hot summer month, you have the ability to become more disciplined with your work habits and increase your productivity.
Remember that almost half of our daily actions are habitual and we are the ones who created those habits; this shows us how much we can improve if we set our mind to it and remain steadfast. Building habits takes time and consistency, Ramadan is a perfect opportunity to make those positive changes we need in our lives.
What positive change are you trying to turn into a habit this Ramadan? Share with us in the comments.