How to (actually) keep your New Year’s resolutions strong this February and ways to strengthen your will-power

Qamar Ahmed Zafar, London
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New year, new you? Well, everyone hopes so, but then February arrives, and we’re not so sure anymore. I mean, sure, the end of December sees a flood of social media users pledging to bring monumental reform into their new-year lifestyles. Data shows that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are living healthier and saving money.

However, research also sadly shows that it won’t be long before our resoluting-revellers will be hitting the order button on ‘JustEat’. (Statista, Just Eat – statistics & facts)

In fact, according to a New Year’s study, only 9% of pledgers feel like they are successful in keeping their New Year resolutions by the end of the year. (Oscarsson, Martin, Rozental, Alexander, Carlbring, Per, New Year’s resolutions: A large-scale, randomised, controlled trial)

So what’s the crack? Are New Year’s resolutions just short-lived comfort-food for our souls? Perhaps not, in one 2014 study, 35% of pledgers said they had ‘unrealistic goals’ whilst another advises that being successful in our pledges is all about ‘developing the necessary skills and mindset ahead of time’. (Jim Bakken, Readiness to change is a vital facet to committing to New Year’s resolutions, 2014)

Keeping this in mind, we should ask ourselves whether we have set the right goals for the new year. (Discover Happy habits, New Year’s Resolution Statistics 2022 Updated)

So, with that said, here are four realistic goals to adopt and an additional 14 steps to prepare our mindset for 2023:

1. Do not get inspired by negative people.

“They have a problem for every solution.” – Albert Einstein

It is imperative that we surround ourselves with like-minded people who have similar goals and objectives. The Holy Prophetsa has pinned this principle on many occasions:

“A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Adab, Hadith 4833)

1.1 The definition of a True Friend

You should avoid making friends with a fool because he may intend to benefit you but may harm you; you should avoid making friends with a miser because he will run away from you when you need him most; you should avoid making friends with a sinful person because he will sell you for nought; and you should avoid making friends with a liar because he is like a mirage, making you feel far things near and near things far. (Nahj al-Balaghah, English Translation p. 818)

1.2 Your Friends Should Remind You of God

Your best friend is the one who: seeing him reminds you of Allah, speaking to him increases your knowledge, and his actions remind you of the hereafter.

2. Stop Holding Grudges.

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Nelson Mandela

Holding a grudge takes a considerable amount of time and mental energy, which everyone would love to use productively elsewhere. This is why the Prophet Muhammadsa made constant reminders about steering clear of holding grudges:

“I do nothing but what you have seen, but I do not hold grudges against any Muslim and I am not jealous of anyone because of a good thing that has been given to them by Allah.” (Musnad, 3/166; Abdurrazzaq, Musannaf, 11/287)

3. Stop Blaming Others

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” – Robert Anthony

The Holy Prophetsa of Islam has reminded us that in order for us to continue growing and excelling, we must focus on our own faults and shortcomings instead of allowing our minds to push the blame onto others or other factors. (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Book on Cursing, Chapter: The fault-finder)

4. Don’t Take Things Personally

Try not to take things personally. What people say about you is a reflection of them, not you.

People will always talk. However, prophets of God have exhibited an ability to persevere and prosper despite fierce and critical opposition.

The Holy Prophetsa of Islam faced opposition and hatred not only from the inhabitants of his hometown but, in fact, even from his own family, including his uncle, who turned against him in bitterness. This never stopped the Prophetsa of Islam from carrying on his mission and message.

Whatever goal you choose to adopt, make sure you have a firm resolve. If you are unsure about how to have strong willpower and determination, then look no further:

The 14 ‘ingredients’ to strengthen your willpower and have relentless energy

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:

“A person resolves to perform an action but then falters. Therefore, willpower has to be strengthened. For this purpose, I suggest a “tonic” which is composed of as many as fourteen ingredients, which are taken from the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (on him be peace).”  (The Way of the Seekers, p. 106)

1. Remind yourself of your purpose!

God says I have created humankind for the sole purpose that he should worship Me and thus be My true servant. You should, therefore, think along the following lines. God has created me for nearness to Him. His purpose cannot be frustrated. I shall become His true servant; it is not possible that I should fail in this purpose. One should not imagine that one cannot accomplish anything.

“And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.” (Surah adh-Dhariyat, Ch.51: V.57)

2. I can do it!

Reflection the purport of the verse of the Holy Quran: “Surely, We have created man in the best make” (Surah at-Tin, Ch.95: V.5)

You should reflect: God has invested me with the best faculties. Whatever good can be achieved by any other person can also be achieved by me. The attainment of the highest status is possible for me also. Then how can I fall? You should concentrate on this and ponder over it in your mind frequently.

3. Don’t doubt yourself!

You should reflect on the verse: “And assuredly, We have created man and We know what his [physica]l self whispers [to him], and We are nearer to him than [even his] jugular vein.” (Surah Qaf, Ch.50: V.17)

God has comforted humankind in this verse by reassuring you that you have nothing to fear from doubts, as the means of resolving doubts is closer than that which prompts doubts.

4. True Believers Cannot Fail!

You should reflect on the verse: “while [true] honour belongs to Allah and to His Messenger and the believers; but the hypocrites know not.”(Surah al-Munafiqun, Ch.63: V.9)

You should reflect: “I am a believer and a believer cannot possibly be vanquished. How is it possible, then, that my will should not prevail?” You should repeat it over and over until your will overpowers your ego.

5. Satan Cannot Fool God’s Servants!

Surely, thou shalt have no power over My true servants, barring such of the erring ones as choose to follow thee. (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.43)

God says that Satan has no control over God’s servants. I am His servant. How is it possible that evil should hold sway over me?

6. Fear No Man!

You should reflect on the verse: Hearken, the friends of Allah shall certainly have no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Surah Yunus, Ch.10: V.63)

I fear no one except God. I am a believer; and a believer has no fear except the fear of God.

7. I have support!

We are your friends in this life and in the Hereafter. (Surah Ha Mim as-Sajdah, Ch.41: V.32)

You should reflect: Angels descend upon believers and assure them, ‘We are your helpers; then why should you worry?’

8. I Will Not Despair God’s Mercy!

Despair not of the mercy of Allah; for none despairs of Allah’s mercy save the unbelieving people. (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.88)

Thus, you should think: Difficulties cannot make me despair. Despair is death, which I am not prepared to accept. If the will does not obey, I will not rest until it does.

9. The Possibilities are Endless!

O soul at rest, return to thy Lord, thou well pleased with him and He well pleased with thee. So enter among My chosen servants, and enter My Garden. (Surah al-Fajr, Ch.89: V.28-31)

I am at peace and boundless possibilities are open to me. Why should I lose heart when God is with me and directs me to enter His everlasting paradise?

10. I will not be disgraced!

You should reflect on the divine promise that a believer shall be held in honour in the world and that he shall not suffer disgrace. This also fosters willpower.

11. Prepare to avoid failure!

You should reflect on the verse: “And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth: all [this is] from Him. In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect.” (Surah al-Jathiyah, Ch.45: V.14).

You should reflect on the fact that all failures result from greed and avarice. But you have no cause to be greedy, for God has already provided everything for you.

12. I will not be influenced by negativity!

You should reflect on the verse: Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Those who are with him are unyielding towards the disbelievers, compassionate towards one another. (Surah al-Fatah, Ch.48: V.30)

You should reflect: Evil thoughts, designs and stimuli cannot enter my heart. I belong to the people concerning whom God has said that they are not influenced by the disbelievers; they can be influenced only by those who believe.

13. Surround yourself with positivity!

You should remind yourself repeatedly of the verse: O ye who believe, be mindful of your duty to Allah, and keep company with the righteous. (Surah at-Taubah, Ch.9: V.119) And you should reflect on the saying of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him: He who keeps company with the righteous does not encounter ill fortune. (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab az-zaba’ih wa s-sayf, Bab al-misk)

You should reason: Good designs that take shape in my mind influence others. God admonishes us to keep company with the righteous. If I cannot influence anyone for good I cannot be a believer.

14. I won’t live forever!

Finally, you should reflect on the following verse, which relates to the Holy Prophet (on him be peace): We granted not everlasting life to any human being before thee; then if thou shouldst die, will they live on forever. (Surah al-Anbiya’, Ch.21: V.35).

This life being transitory, not a moment of it should be wasted.

This 14-ingredient remedy prescribed by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra is sure to give you the boost you need to continue with your life-goals and resolutions, God-willing. So, if you are feeling the New Year blues, and your motivation to be a ‘new you’ has started to fade, take this practical guide and reignite the flame to see yourself through. Godspeed!

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