Why Your Islamic Goals Aren’t Really Goals

By Mohammed Moselhy | Personal Growth

Look, I know..

It’s great to have petrol in the tank, but we need to know where we’re going.

Or at very least which direction to start moving towards for now.

This is where goal setting comes in.

If you set your goals properly and you know where you’re going, all that is left is for you to start taking the steps towards your goal.  Even if you take baby steps, as long as they’re in the right direction you’ll get to your destination inshAllah.

Hitting the Bull’s Eye

When it comes to goal setting a great metaphor is archery.

In archery, you aim to hit the middle of the target.  The bull’s-eye, right?  But what if you can’t see the bull’s eye?  Where do you aim?

Do you just shoot anywhere?

Or would that be dangerous?

Taking action without knowing your goal isn’t always dangerous.  Sometimes it’s needed.  But when the stakes are high, not knowing where to aim is dangerous.

Very dangerous.

Very very dangerous.

Now if you can see the bull’s eye, even if you miss it, its’s a good thing.  It’s actually a success.  Do you know why?

In fact, if you constantly and consistently miss the bull’s-eye it’s a big success.

Because missing the target acts as feedback.

There are circles around the bull’s-eye.  So if you didn’t hit the bull’s-eye.  But you kept hitting the red circle, blue circle, black circle, white circle.  Is that a failure?

No it is FEEDBACK.  Because at least you’re missing consistently.  Now you can just adjust based on how far off your goal you are.  Just move an inch down or up or whatever.

That’s kind of how goals work… kind of.

The ULTIMATE Goal

Obviously our ultimate goal is to be with Allah in Jannah.

We can remind ourselves of our goal and live in a state of consciousness through consistent thikr (remembrance of Allah), learning about Allah’s names and attributes, studying Allah’s speech.  As well as, learning about the hereafter.

The Pit Stops on Our Journey

In addition to having our ultimate goal, we have mini goals on the way.  Like pit stops.  These help us stay focused and motivated on our journey.  It’s much easier to keep focused and motivated for these mini goals, than to constantly maintain motivation for something that seems far away.

This article is focused on setting these mini goals on your journey to Jannah.

Actually, even properly looking at goal setting is outside of the scope of this article.  Whenever I’ve delivered courses in the past, goal setting has usually been the biggest module.  But what I do want to do is give you the absolutely necessary essentials.  Without these you’ll be shooting arrows into your own foot!

The Goal Setting Essentials

Basically, your goals, whether they be long, mid or short term absolutely must be actionable and you must know when you need to take action towards them.

What I mean by actionable is it has to be something doable.  In order to take action on or do something, it has to be tangible.  I.e. it can’t be a concept and it can’t be something abstract.

For example: “being good” is not tangible.  Therefore, it is not doable.  You can’t DO being good.  It’s abstract.  Moreover, good means different things to different people.

For one person being good means being good at work.  For another person being good means being good to your family.  Even “being good to your family” isn’t tangible.  It means different things to different people.  But taking your kids to your parents’ house is tangible.

  • “Quran” is not doable. However, “reading Quran” is doable.
  • “Dawah” is not doable. However, “buying a gift for my mom and taking her out for dinner” is doable.
  • “Being healthy” is not doable. However, “going for a walk every day after fajr” is doable.

In addition to being actionable.  The goals have to be specific, measurable and time bound.

Reading Quran is tangible and doable.  But for how long?  How many pages specifically?  What time specifically?  By when? How will you know you’ve hit your daily goal?  You need a bench mark by which to judge whether or not you’ve arrived at your destination.  

Reading 10 pages of Quran after fajr is specific, measurable and time bound.  You know you’ve hit your target when you’ve read 10 pages and you know that the time you have to do it is after fajr.  Whilst you’re doing your goal you can measure how far off your goal you are.

Someone who sets goals that are not specific, measurable and time bound is like someone who decides they want to go on holiday, but doesn’t decide when or where and doesn’t set a budget.

Are Your Islamic Goals Really Goals?

Often people’s Islamic goals in particular are not actually goals.  They aren’t set like goals and they’re very wishy washy.  They’re not tangible, specific, and measureable or time bound!

For example, most people just want to “get better”.  The question is how will you know when you’ve gotten better?  What does better actually mean? Can you take action on that?

Maybe your goal is to “be good”.  But “being good” is not tangible.  It’s just an abstract idea.  Remember “being good” means different things to different people.  So what does it mean to you?

What is often meant is “I want to feel good” or “I want to feel better”.

There is no doubt that submitting to Allah and worshiping Allah does make you feel better.  However, the feeling is a side effect of submission.  Feeling better is not the actual goal.  Moreover, feelings are not very tangible or measurable.  Therefore, being better or feeling better cannot be a goal in and of itself.

Your goal is not a feeling.  Your goal is worship.

An act or many acts of worship.  Therefore, you have to set specific, tangible and measurable worship goals and they have to be time-bound.  Also, if you have any sins that are a part of your life, replacing those sins with good habits and actions that are specific, tangible and measureable is an absolute priority.

So in summary, your goals must be:

  1. Tangible
  2. Specific
  3. Measurable and
  4. Time bound.

These are absolute fundamentals of goal-setting.  “Fasting Mondays and Thursdays” is tangible, specific, measurable and time-bound.  You know exactly what it means and exactly when it happens.

Therefore, it’s easier to take action on that goal than to take action on “being better”.

When you’ve set goals that you can take action on you should

  1. break them down into mini pit stops.

So you should have little baby step goals, which are easy to get started with.  It’s importantly to identify every little baby step (Click here for more on breaking down tasks).

Can You Give Me an Example?

For example, if your goal is to memorize the Quran and you were starting on the first of January 2016 your pit stops can be:

  • To memorize the 30th Juz, by the 1st of February 2016.
  • To memorize the last three juz, by the 1st of April 2016.
  • To memorize Surat al-Baqarah, by the 1st of June 2016.
  • To memorize the first five juz, by the 1st of September 2016.
  • To memorize the first 10 juz, by the 1st of January 2017.
  • To memorize the first 15 juz, by the 1st of May 2017.
  • To memorize the first 20 juz, by the 1st of September 2017.
  • To memorize the first 25 juz, by the 1st of December 2017.
  • To memorize the whole Quran, by the 1st of March 2018.
  • To revise 10 pages a day for 4 months (i.e. till the 1st of June 2018).
  • To revise 20 pages a day for 2 months (i..e till the 1st of August 2018).
  • To register for an ijazah program – a testimony from a teacher that states you have memorised correctly and gives you the permission to teach. (getting an izajah would be a new goal and would be set accordingly).

Then in your diary you can further break up this mini pit stops accordingly.

So the first pit stop which is “to memorize the 30th juz” actually means “to memorize 20 pages, in one month”.  This can be broken down to “memorize 1 page within 1 hour on weekdays after fajr and revise to 5 pages every weekend”.

The process of memorization can also be broken down.

So “to memorize 1 page within 1 hour” actually means

  • To listen to 1 page 4 times, whilst looking at the page, which will take 10 minutes.
  • To read that page by myself 4 times, which will take 10 minutes.
  • To break that page into 3, 5 line segments and read each of those 15 times, which will take 10 minutes per segment.
  • To read all three segments together from my memory 4 times, which till take 10 minutes.

Now of course this is just a random example and the numbers can differ a lot.  Different people memorize differently and will take longer or shorter according to how much practise they’ve had memorizing in the past.

I just wanted to demonstrate what I meant by break down your goal into baby steps and identify those baby steps.

Goal Setting Checklist

This may seem theoretical, but as soon as you start setting your own goals it’ll all make sense.

I recommend that you sit down and set 3 goals based on what you’ve learnt.  Here’s some questions to help you check if you’ve set your goals properly:

  • Is your goal tangible? (I.e. can you take action on it?)
  • Is it specific?
  • Is it measurable? (How will you know you’ve achieved it?)
  • Is it time bound? (When should it be done, or when should it be done by?)
  • Have you broken down your goal into baby steps?
  • Have you identified every baby step? (Click here for more on breaking down tasks)

So, what are you waiting for? START SETTING THEM GOALS ALREADY!!

Oh yeah, please share some of your goals below and help inspire others with their own goals!

About the Author