By: Shannon Abulnasr
After accepting Islam, new Muslims begin the life-long journey of transforming their life to lead it in accordance to Islam.
They must undertake a massive transformation process that will continue for the rest of their lives.
Finding the best method to approach such changes is important to make the implementation of what is learned easy for the growth process.
While some new Muslims can immediately change things in an instant without hesitation, not all can follow suit, and need to adapt gradually. Each person has a very different situation, environment, and circumstance than the other.
Since there is not a cut-and-dry procedure to follow, we will focus more on suggestions on how to approach the concept of change instead.
Do What Works for You
Everyone and their cousin will tell you how to do everything if you let them, and you will feel overwhelmed and doomed before you even begin.
Onlookers simply shouldn't tell you: “you must do this immediately, this way.” What works for one person, may not work for another. You must avoid allowing such pressure to phase you. You have to do what works for you.
When you look at the changes that you will ultimately need to face, and realize you don't have the means to do some things currently, focus instead on what you can do in the present. This will take pressure off of your shoulders for the first changes to make. Tackle the easy things first.
By shifting to the easy things first, you can be more positive and reach goals more easily. This can be in the form of changing things that don't make a dramatic difference that will affect you too much, and instead are more personal changes. Examples would be to stop drinking, and clubbing, etc. These things are easy to do, and can be done overnight with ease.
When you think of the more complex changes, ponder over the various approaches you can take to change them. Maybe you don't have money to buy a new more modest wardrobe, but you do have some more reserved articles that can be matched up to take you at least one step in the right direction towards dressing more modestly.
Over time, you can add an article to your wardrobe in stages, and eventually will have a modest wardrobe. But, just because you can't change it all at once, shouldn't prevent you from avoiding doing the small changes that you can do, gradually. If you wait for the time to come to do it all at once, you may never see that time approach.
The 5-D's in Approaching Life Changes
Get a journal to take notes and make a plan for yourself, and set timed goals that are reasonable, to keep you focused on your progress and try to stick to it. So, first, make a list of the changes that you know you need to make and follow this process for each item and write your thoughts for each item.
1- Define the Change to Make - Before you can analyze change, you need to define what it is you need to change about your current lifestyle.
2- Discover Options Phase - Here you need to look for the best options/approaches, and what is currently working well and expand on that.
3- Dream about the Possible Outcomes - Think of the “what might be" and how you can take the positives you identified in the Discovery Options phase, and reinforce them to identify strengths and weaknesses that may exist in each. Once you have finished the dream goal for an action, you can then move to designing a plan for it.
4- Design a Plan - Look at the practicalities needed to support the dream, and start to drill down the types of stages, processes, and strategies that will enable the dream to be realized.
5- Deliver - The implementation phase requires a great deal of planning and preparation. Keep the dream as the focal point in your actions taken. Make a commitment to deliver by a particular date if you need to set one for yourself and stick to it!
Overcoming All-or-Nothing Thinking
Perfectionism is a set of self-defeating thoughts that push you to try to achieve unrealistically high expectations for yourself. While we all want to accomplish everything with high expectations, excessive perfectionism can do more harm than good. It can be damaging to your self-esteem if you can't do things at the rate you would like to.
Adaptive perfectionists work on developing themselves with optimism and desire to improve, which is healthy, but others are maladaptive perfectionists that are never satisfied with what they achieve. They face fear of failure, and doubt, and low self-esteem, and lots of negative emotions, and see their mistakes as focal points for others to criticize them as a failure.
Simply avoid the idea that you must be perfect overnight, and don't focus on what others will think of you. Allah is the one that knows your situation, and what you are capable of and not at any particular time.
Don't Let Fear of Change Prevent You from Moving Forward
When you are afraid of failing at something, you may avoid even trying. When you do this, you are subconsciously undermining your own efforts to grow in Islam. You must resist the urge to stay in your comfort zone, and to push for goals in practicing better.
Everyone has different benchmarks for values and belief systems. Everyone is afraid of failing at something, but we must not allow that fear to stop us from moving forward to achieve our goals.
There are numerous causes that instill fear in people, such as non-supportive parents, friends, or lack of friends holding the same values and beliefs, or past traumatic events such as a failed marriage. These things are leading factors that prevent us from picking ourselves up and starting fresh.
Are you afraid of failing in becoming a good Muslim?
If you self-sabotage by being a procrastinator, have excess anxiety, or lack of motivation, low self-esteem, or low self-confidence, or reluctance to try new things, you are most probably afraid to move forward out of fear of failure.
Failure is not always a bad thing. It's entirely up to us to decide how to look at it though. You can either view it as an “end of the world” matter leaving you feeling inadequate, or you can look at it as an amazing learning experience, which is usually the case. Remain positive thinking!
Five Tips to Reducing Fear of Change:
1- Analyze Potential Outcomes- Acknowledge what can happen, and not happen. It will reduce any chance of a surprise.
2- Think More Positive- This will help reduce your tendency to self-sabotage your efforts.
3- Worst Case Scenario- Know what could happen, and mentally prepare yourself. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
4- Have a Back-Up Plan- Always have a plan B if your first plan fails.
5- Set Small Goals- Set goals that are small, but not overwhelmingly challenging. Consider them “early accomplishments” to boost your confidence. Smaller goals will lead to larger goals, but don't expect to leap from the start to the final without passing through stages.
Facing Fears of Inadequacy and Self-Doubt
You may sometimes find yourself questioning: “Should I have become Muslim, because I can't seem to do it right?”
You may feel like a fraud, or as if you are just going through the motions. You may worry that others may see you as pretending to be a Muslim because of your own self-doubt or if you can go through with what is expected of you, not because you don't want to, but because you are feeling inadequate or unmotivated.
If you find yourself having these thoughts, you should know that most new Muslims go through this stage of feeling inadequate and having self-doubt about if they can ever become a fully practicing Muslim. Don't let yourself feel down.
As you learn more and more, you will also learn about what you don't know yet that you need to learn. The gaps will appear, and you will know what you need to fill... it just takes time and motivation. If you feel like you are a fraud, don't worry, because it actually means that you are not, you just need time and patience, and a little self-encouragement!
Anytime you start something new, like a job, a hobby, sport, etc. you will always feel inadequate in the beginning, but if you stay focused on what you need to do, you will learn what it takes to reach that desired outcome.
No one is born a success, it is a matter of nurturing and growing oneself! So, don't be your worst enemy!
(Continue reading Parts 2-4 linked below)