The RAMADAN Goal-Setting Framework
Posted June 28, 2014on:
The RAMADAN Goal-Setting Framework
Knowing how to properly document your goals is one thing, but knowing what types of goals to set is something completely different! To make this as easy and as simple as possible, I have created a framework to help us formulate the goals that we are targeting. It is fitting that since Ramadan is all about transforming our behavior, that the proper method for setting our goals comes from the word RAMADAN. Your goals must meet these criteria to have the maximum possible impact.
R for Relevant: When setting goals for Ramadan, remember this is the month of getting close to Allah by ibadah, Qur’an, etc. Do not go out of your way to set 20 goals about da’wah. Even the scholars used to close their books of fiqh and hadith during the month of Ramadan and focus exclusively on the Book of Allah . In the same way, make sure the goals you set for yourself this Ramadan are relevant to the month of Ramadan.
Another consideration is the goal must be relevant to YOU. Is this something you genuinely want or is it something being forced upon you? Is your wife hinting that you should lose 10 lbs this Ramadan? Do not agree to it, unless it is something you genuinely want to achieve from the bottom of your heart. Otherwise, you simply will not be successful. And I do not want you to start off in a losing battle!
A for Aspirational: In my corporate training and consulting experience, I commonly hear the expression and acronym “SMART goals” when companies and organizations are trying to create their strategic plans. It is that acronym that forced me to create the RAMADAN goals framework. The A in SMART stands for “achievable”. I don’t believe in setting achievable goals and neither should you!
The point of Ramadan is to expand your capacity and step outside your comfort zone, to aspire to something greater! When setting your goals this Ramadan, pick something that makes you a little nervous. Never prayed taraweeh every day in Ramadan? I challenge you to do it this year! As we discussed last time, Allah has given you a chance to show your potential and has made it so much easier for you by chaining the devils.
This is a chance to set a new standard for yourself and build new habits. Maybe after Ramadan you will continue going to the masjid for Isha throughout the year. Even the Prophet used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work hard) with the start of the last ten days, meaning he would go over and above what was normal for him to do during the rest of the month. If even he could do more, so can we!
M for Measurable: As an engineer, I know all about metrics and they truly do help us improve. By phrasing your goal as something that is quantifiable and measurable, it creates clarity whether or not you have succeeded in achieving your goal. So instead of saying you want to read more Qur’an, how much do you plan on reading? If your goal is to read the whole book in the month once, that is one juz’ or roughly 20 pages per day. Can you divide this into 10 pages before work and 10 pages after? Or maybe 5 before work, 5 during lunch break, and 10 after? Putting numbers on it makes it real, and helps you come up with a plan for how to begin achieving these goals. We will go into this in greater detail in the next article, In sha Allah.
A for Assess: You need to have a system to keep track of how you are doing with your goals from day to day. This assessment goes hand-in-hand with redefining your goals as measurable. The process of reviewing a system to assess your performance is called muhasabah, or holding yourself accountable. Omar said: “Bring yourself to account before you are taken to account and weigh your deeds before your deeds are weighed” [Ibnul-Qayyim, Ighathat al-lahfan].
I believe every Muslim should have his own system to keep track of his deeds on a daily basis. For example, I have created a spreadsheet in Excel I use to track certain daily behaviors like prayers, sunnahs, exercise, sleep, etc. Alternatively, it could be as simple as a special journal you keep next to your bed. Every night before sleeping, you should review your actions of the day and see what corrections you need to make for tomorrow. Then, using that information, every week you should review your progress toward your goals and determine what corrections need to be made for this week. We will discuss this more in the next article, In sha Allah.
D for Definite: When setting goals, you need a clear, unambiguous target. Just like making the goal measurable helps give you a criterion for success, making your goal definite will do the same. “I need to be a better person this Ramadan” just will not work. Be specific. How will you improve? With your parents? With your neighbors? With your salah? Maybe you will be more truthful? How will you know you succeeded? Will a third party be able to verify if you have succeeded? If not, keep trying to make it more definite so anyone else can determine if you have been successful or not.
A for Appointment/Agenda: Having 100 goals is great, but if you do not set the time aside to complete them, they will never be accomplished. That is why you need to set an appointment with yourself in your agenda or your calendar. Let’s go back to the Qur’an example. If you set the goal to read 20 pages a day, how long does it take for you to read a page? If it takes several minutes since Arabic is not your native language, you need to plan accordingly. That might mean it will take you one hour or more every day to read Qur’an. When will you make the time to do that? It may interfere with your other goal of being more charitable and volunteering in the neighborhood soup kitchen. Which of these two noble efforts will get that precious hour of your time? You need to make that decision in advance so you do not feel bad for doing one or the other.
There is also a practical benefit to putting it in your calendar: You can set up automatic reminders on your computer and smart phone. If you prefer a paper solution, you can print out your daily agenda and review it the night before to ensure each appointment gets its due preparation.
N for Novelty: For many years, we set the same goals over and over. “This Ramadan, I want to read the whole Qur’an”, we say, yet sadly we never do. This creates a lot of pressure on you, year after year, and can set you into a downward spiral. You start to believe you can never succeed at this goal, or any goal for that matter.
This Ramadan, try focusing on something new. Maybe do more dhikr and focus less on racing to the last page of the Qur’an. Do not ignore it, but recite it with concentration and pondering as you go along, rather than obsessing over completing it this time. Then when you have achieved your new goals, you will build confidence and momentum that you can bring to your old goals at another date.
Also, make sure to set a goal that is a newer higher standard of excellence for you. If you pray five times a day right now, do not make that your goal for Ramadan! Do something new and exciting! But if you are currently not praying five times per day, you can try increase your target to five times a day this Ramadan.
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