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2 ABOUT PRODUCTIVE MUSLIM ACADEMY CLICK HERE TO JOIN PRODUCTIVE MUSLIM ACADEMY Productive Muslim Academy is an academy from ProductiveMuslim.com dedicated to help the Ummah achieve productivity Fisabilillah (for the sake of Allah SWT) by providing free online tutorials and paid premium classes that are designed in accordance with the Qur an & Sunnah. To contact the Academy, send an to ABOUT BR. THUREIN WIN Thurein Win is a guest author at ProductiveMuslim.com and an invited expert at Productive Muslim Academy as a Productivity Instructor. He is the author of the articles in this e-book, which was originally published on ProductiveMuslim.com. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce specialising in Accounting and is a personal leadership and success coach, an NLP Master practitioner and an accredited Consultant and Trainer of Extended DISC (Behaviour Profiling). His vision is to empower Muslim organisations and professionals with cutting edge behaviour change technologies to serve the greater good of humanity. He is passionate about personal leadership, early childhood education and holistic health and healing. He is also working with communities in developing leadership programs for Muslim and non Muslim youths. He can be contacted via his website and Facebook. His latest endeavour is an online support community for productivity-focused Muslims who want to connect, share ideas and support one another on their journey of learning and growing. He can be contacted at Heart Core Success, via his Facebook page, or by at

3 A N A R T I C L E S E R I E S A S O R I G I N A L L Y PUBLISHED ON: PRODUCTIVEMUSLIM.COM Understanding How to Design A Productive Mindset by Thurein Win DO YOU THINK PRODUCTIVELY? INTRODUCTION This 8-part article series on Productive Thinking aims to address the challenges that Muslims face on many different levels when it comes to productivity. These levels include: the mental, emotional and physical levels. This series will tackle thinking and mindset on the mental level; negative emotions like anxiety, stress, low selfesteem, fear, etc., on the emotional level; and habits on the physical level. Let s begin with discussing the important principles to understand and acting on on the thinking and mindset level. I ve drawn up a simple 3-step model for Productive Muslims to follow from the inside out - namely, from thinking to doing and from reasons to results. WHY IS PRODUCTIVE THINKING IMPORTANT? Thinking is a way of being. It s a habit. Most people who struggle with productivity focus on the doing. Of course, doing action is very important. However, if one doesn t start with being, the right way of thinking and operating from the right mindset, it doesn t matter what latest cutting-edge technologies and tools one has, he or she will not be able to effectively apply the tools to be productive. THE HEART, THE HEAD, THE HANDS The head and heart need to be dealt with before the hands. Head for thinking and mindset, heart for the right intention, passion and desire and hands to carry out what the heart desires according to the way thought out by the mind. A Productive Muslim has all three operating effectively, starting with the right mindset. A powerful analogy here is that of a fruit-bearing tree. If you want to change what is visible the fruits, you have to start with the invisible, which is the root. We don t just live in one world, one dimension. We live in four dimensions: the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. The physical world is just a result of how we live in the other three. And vice versa. As Muslims, we believe in the unseen, which is everything else before the physical world. That is why prayer is important, intention is important and good thinking is important before we complain about the physical result (or lack thereof). If our head and heart are not in the right place, our effort won t be as fruitful. If you want to change what is visible the fruits, you have to start with the invisible, which is the root.

4 ! PAGE 4 Photo by Envios: photos/envios/ If we believe that we are not responsible for what happens in our life, we won t be able to do anything about the result that we re experiencing. WHAT IS PRODUCTIVE THINKING? Productive thinking is proactive and responsible thinking: being proactive is the first habit of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by the late leadership expert Stephen Covey. As human beings, we have been blessed with the ability and freedom to choose how to respond to circumstances that happen to us. It is what gives us power and ability to act. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ~Victor Frankl What does it mean to take 100% responsibility for what we do? It starts with recognising that with everything that happens to us, we have something to do with it. Even if at the physical level, we have no idea of how things can be happening to us, recognising that we have something to do with it empowers us to start taking action to move towards change. Of course, it s a given that whatever good that we have is ultimately from the blessing of Allah SWT (glorified and exalted be He). The pain comes when we take responsibility for the good times and take credit for them but when things don t work out, we look for things outside ourselves to blame. What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes of you of evil, [O man], is from yourself. ~Qur an: Chapter 4, Verse 79 And whatever strikes you of disaster it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much. ~Qur an: Chapter 42, Verse 30 Productivity thinking is at-cause thinking: we re either at the cause side of the equation or we re at the effect side. It s our choice. People who are successful and productive in life are at-cause. They believe that they are responsible for everything that happens in their life. Whether that belief is true or not doesn t really matter. What they care about is whether their belief empowers them or not. Regardless of whether our beliefs are true or not, our beliefs act as possibility filters. They determine what we allow ourselves to experience in our lives and what we filter out as not possible. People who go through life on the cause side of the equation have results. Believing this gives them maximum power to create the life that they want. But if we believe that we are not responsible for what happens in our life, we won t be able to do anything about the result that we re experiencing. Such thinking is called at-effect thinking. People who go through life on the effect side of the equation always have reasons or excuses. They have stories that they tell themselves of why things are the way they are. They put the responsibility on everything or everyone else around them but themselves and as a result, they feel like they have no control over what s going on in their life. Ask yourself: are you being at-cause or at-effect? Being at-cause is playing above the line. So, are you playing below or above the line?

5 ! PAGE 5 HOW TO START THINKING PRODUCTIVELY STEP 1: AWARENESS Thinking productively starts with awareness. Remember that space of power, which many people don t even know exists, between stimulus and response. Always being in a state of remembrance of Allah SWT (glorified and exalted be He) allows us to be aware that we ve been blessed with the gift of being able to think, decide and act. STEP 2: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY Take responsibility: Make tawbah. Repent and seek forgiveness for whatever wrong that you ve done whether you re aware of it or not. Remember the prayer of Prophet Yunus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that resulted in him being saved: There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers. ~ Qur an: Chapter 21, Verse 87 STEP 3: BE ABOVE THE LINE The Qur an reminds us that we need to change ourselves first before any changes outside of us can happen. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. ~Qur an: Chapter 13, Verse 11 If you re not getting the results that you want in your personal life, your marriage, your career or business, ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly: Am I taking 100% responsibility for both the results and non-results? If not, why not? The answer usually has to do with ego and fear: the fear of not being enough, fear of rejection and fear of what people might think. Who or what am I blaming as the cause of me not getting the result? What am I in denial of? What sad stories about myself am I indulging in as to why I can t? If there was no such thing as failure, what would I do? STEP 4: TAKE OWNERSHIP & ACTION Then take ownership and take action. As Eldridge Cleaver said: You re either part of the solution or you re part of the problem. Choose what you want to be. So we ve touched upon why Productive Thinking is important, what it is and how you can apply it and make it a part of your reality: by first being in the state of awareness, secondly, turning back to Allah SWT (glorified and exalted be He) and taking responsibility for everything that you did or didn t do and lastly, answering some questions that will put you back above the line. Next, we will explore a model called 3 Levels of Living to gauge the level of your productivity in your day-to-day living for maximum productivity. Always being in a state of remembrance of Allah SWT allows us to be aware that we ve been blessed with the gift of being able to think, decide and act.

6 ! PAGE 6 3 Levels of Thinking & Living This section covers a model called 3 Levels of Living that can easily be used to gauge the level of your productivity and apply in your day-to-day living for maximum productivity going from no productivity to full productivity. Management guru Peter Drucker says that we can t manage what we can t measure. To be able to manage our productivity, we need a way of gauging where we re at in terms of our pro-activity and productivity. Understanding and being able to see our life through this model of 3 Levels of Living will help us do that. LEVEL 3 LIVING People who live on this level have no productivity because they spend their time worrying about the things that they have no control over, focusing on the things that are not working and complaining, blaming, naming and shaming everything and everyone else around them for their problems. They are heavily invested in their stories instead of their future. A story is something that we tell ourselves to justify why we can t change and why we can t be productive. For instance, I can t be productive because I have to take care of my family. Or, my health is stopping me from doing what I want. They hope and wish for things to get better while giving reasons as to why they can t take action to move towards the way they want things to be. They blame their past, their parents, their boss and everyone else for why they are the way they are. They play the victim in every situation. LEVEL 2 LIVING People who live on this level have some productivity because they do take responsibility for their life, in most of the areas. They might have some areas of their life that they invest in stories reasons why it s hard to change and be productive but they also have areas of their life that they take responsibility for, especially, the areas that they re confident about and are good at. For example, I m on top of my work, but marriage, it s just the way it is. They might do one or two personal development or productivity courses once in a while and try to implement and improve their life but then find themselves going back to the same old, same old. Their actions are inconsistent and hence, lead to inconsistent results.

7 ! PAGE 7 LEVEL 1 LIVING People at this level enjoy full productivity because they realise that they re either part of the problem or part of the solution, so they spend their time and energy to be part of the solution. They focus on what they have control over and can influence. They hold themselves 100% responsible for the results that they get, regardless of what the result might be. They realise that indulging in blame or justification equates to simply wasting the opportunity and power to affect change. They don t take things personally and they acknowledge that everyone is doing the best they can. They are very forgiving and always grateful for the situations that they find themselves in because they know that these are opportunities to learn and grow from. They believe in Allah s SWT promise that He doesn t test them with anything that they can t bear. Photo by Johnnyberg: rgbstock[dot]com/ photos/johnnyberg Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned. ~ Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 286 They see problems as tests that they want to overcome to get to the next level of productivity and living. ABOVE THE LINE, BELOW THE LINE Another way to look at the three levels is from the view of whether someone is living above the line or below the line, being at cause or at effect. Remember that playing above the line means being proactive, taking 100% responsibility for everything that goes on in our life and focusing on what we can control and influence. CHILD, ADOLESCENT, ADULT Another way of looking at the three levels is through the stages of child, adolescent and adult. Children are very dependent, want everything done for them, no responsibility, all fun, won t do anything that s not fun to do and can be very immature. Adolescents would take responsibility in some areas but other areas, they ll want to escape and be rebellious. They will be motivated to do certain things while procrastinate about others. Adults take full responsibility of their life and understand that ultimately it s about growth, contribution and building something worthwhile to leave behind a legacy.

8 ! PAGE 8 HOW TO STRIVE TO LIVE AT LEVEL 1 The key is to strive to live at Level 1 as much as possible. So how do we do that? STEP 1: BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF First, we need to be honest with ourselves about which level we are living at. I believe that everyone is a leader and his or her first job is to lead themselves to live a life that is productive and meaningful. The first job of a leader is to accurately assess and realise the reality of a situation and acknowledge it. STEP 2: HAVE STRONG RITUALS The key to consistently live at Level 1 is by having very strong rituals. Not just the rituals of actions and behaviours but rituals of thinking, because quality action comes from quality thinking. STEP 3: HAVE BIG & STRONG GOALS Have big and strong goals that will pull you forward and help you overcome any obstacle. Henry Ford says that, Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. So if you re seeing obstacles, your goals aren t big enough or you ve taken your eyes off your goals. STEP 4: BE PREPARED TO CHANGE For things to change, we have to change. Remember that: Allah will not change the condition of those who don t change what is within themselves. ~Quran, Chapter 13, Verse 11 STEP 5: DUMP THE STORY The more time you invest in your stories of why things are the way they are, the less time you have to get busy making the changes you want. Your past does not equal your future. Forgive, forget, repent and start fresh. STEP 6: FOCUS Consistently focus on your goals and where you want to go. We can t move forward and get to where we want to go by constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. Next, we ll learn about the critical mindset on learning and productivity that can be used to overcome any thinking problem that people have around learning and productivity. Everyone - including YOU - is a leader and your first job is to lead yourself to live a life that is productive and meaningful.

9 ! PAGE 9 CRITICAL MINDSET ON LEARNING & PRODUCTIVITY FIXING THE FIXED MINDSET It is important to understand the two different types of mindset that Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, talks about in her book appropriately named Mindset the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with the fixed mindset tend to think that their intelligence or capability is fixed. For example, some smart people think they are smart because that is the way they are born. They think they need to look smart in every situation and are very averse to taking on challenges because they do not want to fail or look foolish. They have the tendency to attach their selfworth and identity to their work or the end result and have the need to prove themselves. They do not move forward unless they are certain that they can succeed. They tend to approach everything with the attitude of all or nothing and give up easily in the face of setbacks. On the other hand, people with the growth mindset know that everything can be changed and different intelligence and skills can be developed. They like stretching themselves to take on new challenges and view every misstep or mistake as something that is helping them grow and becoming who they need to be to go to the next level. They have no attachment to the results that they get and focus mainly on their effort. They are grateful for the gradual improvements on the journey of learning and mastering different skills.so, people who are successful in life tend to have the growth mindset. That is what allows them to persist and have patience while working hard to achieve their goals. From the physical perspective, our brains have the amazing ability to adapt and form new connections as we learn, practice and develop new skills; literally, rewiring our brains. In her Ted Talk, Barbara talks about how she overcame her severe learning disabilities and is now helping other children do the same. There is nothing too big or impossible for The Most Generous to grant us. Even if you think that things are predestined for you, they can be changed by being sincere and making dua. Really there are no excuses. You are good enough. The real question is, Do you want it bad enough? Dua or prayer involves intention, expectation, conviction and most importantly commitment to do whatever you can to make whatever you want into a reality. Here is one of my favourite quotes by James Allan: Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without. Okay, so here are the four levels or steps that everyone has to go through when they want to learn something new. I call these stages from being ignorant to being intuitive at any skill that you want to master, be they mental or physical skills. People with the growth mindset know that everything can be changed and different intelligence and skills can be developed. They like stretching themselves to take on new challenges and view every misstep or mistake as something that is helping them grow.

10 ! PAGE 10 The first stage is what is called unconscious incompetence. This stage is where ignorance is bliss, so to speak. You don t know what you don t know, and you are unconscious about what you are incompetent at. But the truth is that ignorance is never bliss there is always a price to pay for not knowing. The second stage is called conscious incompetence. Now, you become conscious about what your incompetent at; you know that you don t know and what you don t know. Now that you have taken a step to finding out more about that subject or skill that you want to learn and master, you realise that there are things that you don t know; the different steps or sub-skills that you need to master. This stage often feels overwhelming and leads to discouragement. The third stage is called conscious competence. Now, you are starting to learn, think and do different steps consciously, practice, practice and practice some more. This stage is where people usually get stuck or give up because what they originally thought was going to be easy has proven otherwise not unusual with learning any new skill. You will make lots and lots of mistakes. This is the stage where you need to The last stage is called unconscious competence. This is have a growth mindset. It takes patience, persistence, where a skill becomes a habit or what is usually called second perseverance and prayer to go to the next level. nature. You have practiced something so much that you do not have to consciously think about executing the steps. The correct process becomes ingrained in you. Now, it just works! It has become an unconscious program that you can run just like any other programs that you have learned, practiced and mastered, e.g., walking, brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, speaking in your mother tongue, riding a bicycle or driving a car. It is the same process with learning Arabic, memorising the Qur an, learning and developing productive habits and techniques, and even overcoming your negative self-talk and emotions. Any negative habit that you want to break or positive habits that you want to build, you can PRODUCTIVE MUSLIM ACADEMY www. productivemuslim.com/academy consciously identify and apply yourself through these stages until the habit you want becomes instilled in you.

11 ! PAGE 11 5 STEPS TO EFFECTIVELY LEARN A NEW SKILL STEP 1: SET A GOAL Be specific: figure out what you want to learn and why you want to learn it. Have a clear picture of what it is going to give you to learn and master it. Come up with as many reasons as you can as to why you can do it. STEP 2: DECONSTRUCT THE SKILL INTO SUB-SKILLS Research and work out the most important sub-skills to master first. For example, want to know the meaning of the Qur an? Here you can learn and understand 50% of the words in the Qur an in just under 10 hours. STEP 3: REMOVE PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL BARRIERS TO PRACTICE Understand that the most important barrier will be your emotional barrier. Keep in mind that there are no avoiding making mistakes. It does not feel good to be incompetent at something. No one wants to feel or look stupid, but sucking at something and making mistakes are all a part of learning a new skill. Remember the growth mindset. A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new. Albert Einstein STEP 4: CLEAR YOUR CALENDAR & SCHEDULE IN YOUR PRACTICE SESSIONS Pre-commit to your practice sessions and take into account the consolidation process of your brain. Schedule in your calendar and set reminders and notifications. STEP 5: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE Doing the do. Nothing beats action! You can know all the steps, but until you apply what you know and implement the steps, you won t know what works or not and you won t be able to improve. So we have learned the importance of growth mindset and how it can help us to be productive and successful in any field that we choose. And we have learned the four stages of mastering any new skills and five practical steps to learning anything in the shortest amount of time. Next, we will learn about the unconscious fears that everybody has that prevent them from being productive and ways to overcome them.

12 ! PAGE 12 FEEL THE FEAR & BE PRODUCTIVE Photo by Epsos.de: flickr[dot]com/photos/epsos/ CHANGE IS POSSIBLE A few of the main challenges when it comes to productivity are procrastination, being overwhelmed and self-sabotage. Most people try to learn new systems, tools and techniques to overcome these challenges without fully understanding the challenges. Earlier, we talked about the four dimensions that we live in, namely spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. Tools and techniques are important, but if we don t understand the unconscious fears that are triggering these fear responses, then we will not be as effective as we could be in doing our best to be productive. So why are we talking about fear? It is because fear is the reason behind why we procrastinate and the underlying factor behind many things that we do to procrastinate. By understanding and having some awareness around what fear is and how fear gets to us, we ll be more aware and better equipped to deal with any challenges. Awareness is the key. With awareness, change is possible. THE NATURE OF FEAR Most common fears that cause us to procrastinate are: Fear of failure Fear of rejection Fear of loneliness Fear of criticism Fear of making a mistake Fear of making the wrong decision Fear of unworthiness Fear of success Fear of disappointment Fear of the unknown Fear of being uncomfortable THREE UNIVERSAL FEARS All the above fears are rooted in the following three fears and they are the fear of: Not being enough Not being loved Not belonging As human beings, we all have these universal unconscious fears (we re not talking about irrational fears, i.e. phobias, here). For instance, if we take the most notorious fear fear of public speaking and analyse it, it is a combination of the following: the fear of appearing foolish in front of other people, the fear of not wanting to make a fool out of oneself and not wanting to make mistake. If I make a mistake, then I am stupid, not good enough, people are going to criticise me, they will know that I am a failure or a fraud, that I am not good enough and I will get rejected and will not be liked or loved! Of course, I am hugely generalising here but you get the point. Tool & techniques are important, but if we don t understand the unconscious fears that trigger our fears, we will not be as effective in being productive.

13 ! PAGE 13 TAKING RISKS ON OPPORTUNITY The fear of not being enough is also the fear behind thinking that we will not be able to handle anything that comes. So, we do not take enough risks and say yes to opportunities. Think back to your past about the many opportunities that knocked on your door. Think of the times that you said yes, opened the door and took them on. And then think of the times you did not answer the door and let the opportunities pass. It is all based on the fear of What if I cannot handle it?. The truth is that we have been promised that we will not be tested with anything that we will not be able to handle. Anything that comes our way, we have the ability to handle, overcome and excel at. On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear. ~ Qur'an, Chapter 2, Verse 286 The challenge, then, lies in our thinking. Henry Ford said Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can t, you re right. This sounds cliche but this concept has been spiritually, scientifically and experimentally proven. Allah SWT says that: FEAR IS AN IMPOSTOR AND A LIAR Fear promises that if we listen to fear and not do the things that we are fearful of, then we will not have to live in fear. The fears that you do not face become your limitations. And soon, those limitations become your reality. And that is how the masses lead small lives. But you are different, aren t you? Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins you to be niggardly, and God promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance; and God is Ample-giving, Knowing. ~ Qur'an, Chapter 2, Verse 268 Satan threatens you with poverty and the fear of inadequacy and doubts. Whenever you want to do something to become successful physically healthy, emotionally more loving, open and generous, financially wealthy and abundant, spiritually aware, connected and closer to Allah SWT the whisper will come, Don t!. You re going to injure or hurt yourself!, What will people think of you?, What if they don t love you back?, What if you fail?, What if blah blah blah blah blah!. These whispers create doubt and fear, preventing you from taking action. I am as My servant thinks I am. ~Hurairah Satan wants you to play small, think small, be afraid of everything, lead small lives and be small people! You notice more of what you focus on. FEAR IS HEALTHY. AND UNHEALTHY. Fear prevents us from potentially life-threatening situations and doing things that will cause us physical harm. That is what the part of the brain called amygdala is responsible for. It is our body s natural response to anything that could be potentially dangerous for us. It is a part of our Creator s wisdom for protection from life. When fear becomes unhealthy and dysfunctional, it keeps us in our comfort zone and prevents us from taking necessary actions to help us learn and grow to become better and bigger versions of ourselves. Fear is your best friend or your worst enemy. It s like fire. If you can control it, it can cook for you; it can heat your house. If you can t control it, it will burn everything around you and destroy you. ~Mike Tyson But if you believe in the promise of our Creator, then what do you have to fear? He promises you forgiveness and abundance. All you have to do is to consistently keep showing up and stepping up. It is uncomfortable, for sure. But that is the path to take if you want an awesome life here and Jannah in the next world. Your level of success, in this world and the next, is going to be directly proportional to the level of uncertainty and discomfort that you can comfortably handle. Think about the system that our Creator regimented and ritualised for us to make sure we get back to Him in peace, in one piece. Among other good stuffs, salah, zakat, fasting and Qiyam-ul-layl (not fard, but if you want to play a bigger game, this is not an option). None of them are comfortable to perform or do, but isn t that the whole point of it all?

14 ! PAGE 14 THE FEAR MONGER Or are you going to listen to the empty promises of the fear monger? The one who is going to deceive you, double-cross you, dupe you, and cheat you out of your potential, your possibilities and the garden that Allah SWT has promised you. And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded, Indeed, God had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves. ~ Qur'an, Chapter 14, Verse 22 THE TRUTH ABOUT FEAR. Fear will never go away. Many of us think that when we have the fear of doing something or taking certain risks, the natural thing to do is to wait for the fear to go away or avoid the things that we are fearful of, right Wrong! The natural thing to do is to do the thing that we fear. Because, fear is saying Do not go beyond this it ll be painful, it ll feel uncomfortable, stay here and be safe, you will not be have to live in fear. The truth is that fear will never go away. Many people wait for confidence to show up before they take action. That is the flaw in reasoning. Confidence is not needed when you are waiting. Someone or something has to move first before confidence comes. That someone is you. Take the first step and then the second step and the fear will disappear. THE CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR The more you wait and delay taking action because of the excuses of fear, the more difficult it becomes to do anything. You will eventually stop believing that you can and ever do anything. If you perpetually put things off and procrastinate, you will start feeling bad about yourself. Your self-image suffers and your self-esteem takes a hit. A part of you dies just a little bit each and every time you put things off or break a promise to yourself. You will not necessarily feel it at the moment because you will be distracting yourself doing other things to make yourself feel good. That is the start of an addiction addiction to food, comfort eating, gossip, TV, smoking, pornography, Youtube, Facebook and countless many other things to distract yourself from feeling the fear of not being enough, not being loved and not belonging. With low self-esteem, it becomes even harder to get moving. Your life begins to shrink and you will feel stuck. That is the start of what many people call depression. From a behavioural standpoint, depression is just the illusion of lack of choice. It is because you have stopped making decisions and chosen to stay stagnant that you feel stuck. Please note that here we are not talking about clinical depression, for which professional help from licensed medical professionals are needed and must be sought. The way you choose to feel stuck can come in many forms. Some people gather lots of information, buy books and do seminars gathering more info and then not implement what they learn. They get overwhelmed and stuck. Others run perfectionist strategies where the standard they set is so high that success is impossible. So how can you overcome these challenges? Someone or something has to move first before confidence comes. That someone is YOU.

15 ! PAGE 15 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES TO OVERCOME FEAR #1: GUIDANCE PRAYER Pray the divine guidance prayer (Istikhara) before you take any important action. That prayer is a great gift for us. Then, there is no regret because you know that if what you decided to work towards is good for you, despite the fears you might have, Allah SWT made it happen for you. If not, move on to something else. Sometimes, what we think is good for us might not be so because we only see what is apparent while Allah SWT knows what s hidden. Like He says, But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. ~Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 216 Trust in the wisdom of the Most Wise, the Best Disposer of all affairs. And be patient. #2: CHECK YOUR INTENTION Whose pleasure are you trying to gain? Who are you trying to please? Your concern should only be to please Allah SWT. If the action that you are taking aligns with your highest purpose and your values and what you believe is ethical and ecological, and is good for you, good for others and good for the greater good, then there is no fear of what people are going to say. People will say what they want to say based on their own limited experiences, limited view of the world, their own fears and insecurities. Stop caring about what people are going to say about you or what you do. What they think of you is none of your business. The truth of the matter is that there will always be a small group of people who will never like you or like what you do anyway. It s not you. It is them. And you need to be okay with that. #3: SWITCH YOUR FOCUS Are you focusing on yourself and making sure you look good? Then you will be fearful. If you focus on serving and make it about others, and appreciate and be grateful for the opportunity to serve and give, on whatever level that you are at, then you will have the courage to act. Stop making it about you. Make it about the people who can benefit from your action. As narrated Abu Musa: The Prophet said, A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other. The Prophet SAW then clasped his hands with the fingers interlaced. (At that time) the Prophet SAW was sitting and a man came and begged or asked for something. The Prophet SAW faced us and said, Help and recommend him and you will receive the reward for it, and Allah will bring about what He will through His Prophet s tongue. ~Bukhari Here is my very personal example to make it really clear. I have this fear every time I write a new article, there is always this little voice in the back of my mind saying, What if people find your articles useless?, What if they already know this?, What if it is not good enough? and all these what if s and the fears of not being enough. I have to switch my focus from making it about me, What will they think of me?, to make it about you, the reader, and revise and renew my intention that I am doing my best for my Creator to serve His creation. I tell myself every time that if this article serves one person, that is good enough for me. I will get it out and put it out there. And I know for a fact that every one has this fear in some capacity. Authors call it writer s block, some people call it resistance. (Please see the Resources section for some brilliant resources from one of my favourite authors, Steven Pressfield, on overcoming resistance. It will give you another dimension of the so-called procrastination.)

16 ! PAGE 16 #4: PLAY ABOVE THE LINE Play above the line and come from a place of love and trust. Doubt and fear is below-the-line thinking. Allah s SWT promise is clear. Will you decide to trust? Be positive and optimistic. Hope for the best. #5: FOCUS ON EXPANDING YOUR COMFORT ZONE Know that everything that you want that you currently do not have is on the other side of fear, outside your comfort zone. You have to decide if you want to face your fear, grow and get what you want? Or you can choose to stay on this side of the fear and stay small. Your challenges and your goals are by nature outside your current comfort zone. So by striving to overcome the challenges that you face or achieving the goals that you set, your comfort zone automatically expands by that process, you become a bigger person, you gain more confidence and you gain the ability to take on more responsibility. That is why the purpose of setting goals is not to achieve the goal but it is about who we become in the process of striving for the goal. That is the reward in itself. Know that we get rewarded for our good intentions, the effort that we make and for striving to do what is best the end result is a bonus. But the result in this world will not always be what we expect. That is why detachment from the result or the goal is important. #6: BE YOU Envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide. ~Emerson When you compare yourself to others and feel that you are not good enough and want to give up, you are just being ignorant of the fact that you have a unique journey that has led you to where you are today. And you will have a unique journey that will lead you, through your own set of challenges and tests, to make the contribution that only you can make to the people that you are meant to serve. The person that you are comparing yourself to got there from his or her life experiences, their unique set of challenges that shaped them into the people who can serve the people that they were meant to serve. They can never be you and you can never be them. Be grateful for who you are. And do not ever want to be someone else. Be the best version of you you can be. Be loyal to who you were meant to be. #7: HAVE THE GROWTH MINDSET Separate your identity from your work. Your work can fail but you are not a failure. Remember the difference between the fixed mindset and growth mindset. There is no failure. There is only feedback. It is just what you make out of the events. Did you get the outcome that you want? If the answer is no, then what do you need to change? Who can you talk to or ask for help? It is just feedback to you that you need to change your approach. #8: DO THE THING YOU FEAR! Bismillah! Make a decision and take the first step. Decide! Will you Forget Everything And Run? Or Will you Face Everything And Rise? And are you Feeling Excited And Ready? Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson So we have covered the nature of fear, the consequences of fear and some practical strategies you can use to deal with and overcome fear. You can become productive by constantly making decisions and striving to take the next step, despite the fear. Next, we will learn about a model called Four Levels of Behaviour that can be used to measure the effectiveness and productivity of the believers in their quest to becoming effective Productive Muslims, In sha Allah.

17 ! PAGE 17 ARE YOU BEING EFFECTIVE? THE FOUR LEVELS OF BEHAVIOUR THE FOUR LEVELS OF BEHAVIOUR: PAIN, PLEASURE, BENEFIT & HARM We will now discuss the four levels of behaviour or activities that can be used to measure our effectiveness. To be successful in this world and the next, we have to be doing the right things effectiveness before doing things right efficiency. You can say you have been busy, but have you been busy just for the sake of being busy; or have you been busy being productive and effective? By being aware of these four levels, you can easily gauge the level of your effectiveness and productivity, In sha Allah. We live in a world of dichotomy and opposites. It is only through opposites that we know the true nature of things. As human beings, we are driven by pain and pleasure. We no doubt like to do things that are pleasing, easy, as well as make us feel good, regardless of their actual benefit. However, as Allah SWT says in the Qur an: And have [we not] shown him the two ways? But he has not broken through the difficult pass. And what can make you know what is [breaking through] the difficult pass? ~ Qur'an: Chapter 90, Verses A tafsir (exegesis) of the above verses indicates that the easy way is easy at the start, but will be hard later on and there will be consequences. The hard way is hard initially, but the ultimate ending will be good and easy. The hard way involves working for what is beneficial in this world and the next, and continuing to strive for goals and ambitions that may not always feel good or easy. One of my favorite quotes by a teacher of mine is: You will have a hard life if you live it the easy way. You will have an easy life if you live it the hard way. The four levels can be illustrated by means of the following diagram on the next page. Photo by Mimica: rgbstock[dot]com/gallery/mimica

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19 ! PAGE 19 THE FOUR LEVELS OF BEHAVIOUR LEVEL 1 Level 1 activities or behaviours make you feel good (pleasure) and are good for you, good for others and good for the greater good (benefit). A Level 1 behaviour is an activity or a skill that we have already mastered. As such, it is within our comfort zone, we feel good doing it and it benefits us. For example, reciting a surah that you have already memorised is a Level 1 activity. Likewise, once exercising or running becomes a habit, we will enjoy doing it because we are aware of how it benefits our body and health. LEVEL 2 Level 2 activities or behaviours are those that require extra effort and investment from you, but they are good for you, good for others and good for the greater good. Working toward memorising a new surah from the Qur an is an example. Another level 2 activity is exercising. Most people do not like exercising or eating healthy because they do not want to endure the physical discomfort of exercise, or the trouble that one has to go through to prepare a healthy menu. But these activities are good for you: If you are healthy, you can dedicate more of your energy and activities for the sake of Allah SWT and serving His creation. If you enjoy healthy food, it benefits your family and community too. Other Level 2 behaviours or actions include: Consistent extra worship Qiyam (voluntary, optional night prayer) Regular goal setting and assessment Learning and practicing any new beneficial skill LEVEL 3 Indulging in Level 3 behaviours or activities makes you feel good, but they do not really benefit you or other people, and do not bring greater good. Examples of activities in this category are plenty. They include: Excess consumption: This can be with regards to eating or any other activity. Procrastination Watching useless, mind-numbing programmes on television Most forms of addiction: TV, YouTube, Facebook, video games, pornography, smoking and drugs LEVEL 4 Level 4 behaviours or activities are those that do not make you feel good when you indulge in them. In addition, they are not good for you, not good for others and not good for the greater good. This begets the question: Why does one even indulge in Level 4 behaviours? The reason is what psychologists refer to as selfsabotage, or a conflict between one s goals and self-image or beliefs (we ll cover it in our next article, In sha Allah). Examples of Level 4 activities include: Giving up on good deeds, habits or anything that is worthwhile: Breaking promises to yourself and others Lying, gossiping and backbiting Procrastination If you continue to engage in them, they will have serious negative consequences on your soul. This relates to the concept of comfort zone that we discussed in our previously in the section on fears. Every moment is a moment of decision: To step up and do what is beneficial but uncomfortable, or to step back and stay safe and comfortable. Alternatively, it may be a decision to step back and away from what is harmful.

20 ! PAGE 20 ABOVE THE LINE OR BELOW THE LINE? You can imagine Levels 1 and 2 to be above the line, literally, and Levels 3 and 4 to be below the line. Above the line means that you are proactively doing things that are beneficial for you. Below-the-line activities are those that do not have real benefit for you, your loved ones or your community. Indulging in distractions and procrastination are below-the-line behaviours that will keep you below the line and mediocre. A very important point to note here is: If you keep up with your Level 2 behaviours or practices, they will soon become Level 1. Likewise, if you keep up with your Level 3 behaviours, they will soon become Level 4. So, one is an upward spiral, while the other is a downward spiral. Looking at this model from the perspective of the four stages of learning described in the subsection: Going from a Disaster to a Master, we can say that: Level 1 correlates to the fourth stage (unconscious competence) involving mastery and becoming intuitive; Level 2 correlates to the third stage (conscious competence) that involves implementation via constant and consistent practice. Photo by RW: rgbstock[dot]com/gallery/rwlinder THE SECRET TO ACHIEVING EFFECTIVENESS, SUCCESS & MASTERY The secret to being effective and successful is to strive to do as many Level 2 behaviours as possible and upgrade them to Level 1, while minimising Level 3 behaviours with the aim of stopping them altogether. Do not even go near Level 4. Stay above the line; restrict yourself to Levels 1 and 2. So, what is a practical approach to doing that? The understanding and application of the 80/20 principle will help you stay and play above the line, In sha Allah. 80/20 PRINCIPLE The Pareto Principle is known as the 80/20 principle. In almost anything, 80% of the result is produced by 20% of the effort. If you look inside your wardrobe, you wear 20% of the clothes 80% of the time. In a company, 20% of the employees do 80% of the work. If you are a student, 80% of your exam comes from 20% of your course content. Even some Islamic institutions offer their Arabic and Islamic study programmes based on the 80/20 principle. Similarly, it might be safe to assume that in any event or gathering, 20% of the people eat 80% of the food! So, what is the 20% in your life that will make 80% of the difference? What is the 20% that you should focus on to get a return of 80%? To be successful, you should be spending 80% of your time on the 20% of behaviours or activities that are in Level 2. The time from before dawn to after sunrise is the most blessed time of my day. To apply the 80/20 rule, 20% of 24 hours is almost 5 hours. I believe this is the time that our Prophet SAW was referring to: It was narrated from Ibn Umar that the Prophet said: O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings ~Sunan Ibn Majah It is important that we take advantage of this time by doing what we deem as the most important for our growth and success in this world and the next.

21 ! PAGE 21 NOBODY SAID IT WAS EASY, BUT IT S WORTH IT! People say that staying above the line is hard. Of course it is hard! That is the whole point. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Then what is the point of the test? [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving ~Qur'an: Chapter 67, Verse 2 Do the people think that they will be left to say, We believe and they will not be tried? ~Qur'an: Chapter 29, Verse 2 We have certainly created man into hardship. ~Qur'an: Chapter 90, Verse 4 Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet SAW said: Paradise is surrounded by hardships and the Hell-Fire is surrounded by temptations. ~Muslim We will be asked about how we spent the time we had in this world. So, we need to be conscious about our actions and behaviours. We should always check our intentions and ask ourselves: Where is my current action taking me? Which level am I playing at? What kind of behavior is this? The key to making this work in the long term is to strive and be patient. Make incremental progress; nothing worth achieving comes overnight. The key is to keep stepping up and doing what is unpleasant but beneficial, until it becomes pleasurable and habitual. That is why building good habits and rituals is important. THE IMPORTANCE OF RITUALS If you look at the fundamental and core practices of our faith, all of them have been ritualised, regimented and made obligatory (fardh) upon us. The five daily prayers are fardh. On the Day of Resurrection, all good deeds will be overlooked until our obligatory prayers have been checked. Only if our prayers are in order, will everything else be okay too. In other words, performing our five daily prayers is the prerequisite for making our other deeds count. They are the first act that we will be held accountable for. Second, fasting is fardh during Ramadan. We all know how much we benefit spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically by fasting in Ramadan. It is a compulsory spiritual and personal development boot camp that every believer has to attend every year. We come out stronger, leaner (if you do it right) and fitter spiritually and physically every single time. Our Creator wants us to live above the line and engage in what is beneficial, even if it is uncomfortable. These are signs for us to ponder over and apply in our life. We can see why it is important to develop discipline and rituals around the things that are not necessarily easy to undertake, but that will benefit us.

22 ! PAGE 22 3 STEPS TO LIVING AN EFFECTIVE & PRODUCTIVE LIFE STEP 1: IDENTIFY WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU AND YOUR GROWTH Ask yourself: What are the 20% of your tasks that if I do them daily, will take my life to the next level, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically? You can do this by starting with your goals. Next, you need to decide who you need to be to do what you need to have those goals. It is your being someone who is decisive, committed, courageous, focused, sincere, present, inspiring, engaging, energetic, grateful and your doing daily actions, practices, behaviours, implementations that will ensure your growth and success. So, decide who you need to be and what you need to do; it is around those two factors that you develop and build your rituals and habits. For example, to become someone who is always grateful and living the present, I could set aside and commit to daily reflection or meditation* and journalising sessions (5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before bedtime) and make them a part of my daily rituals. This is part of my 20% because I realise the importance of gratitude. *Practising being present in the moment and being grateful for who I am and where I am right at this moment. STEP 2: START DEVELOPING YOUR RITUALS After deciding on the behaviours or activities that will nourish and energise you spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically, start developing and incorporating them one by one into a series of daily rituals. Make sure you undertake these tasks first thing in the morning. The following are just some examples of activities that you can incorporate into your rituals: Nourish yourself spiritually by establishing and nurturing your connection with your Creator. Perform the obligatory prayers. Decide on one extra act of worship (nafila) that you can undertake consistently, e.g. duha prayer. Start small and be consistent. Nourish yourself emotionally by thinking about and visualising the blessings that make you feel grateful and goals and visions that inspire you. Think about the people you love and who love you; make dua for them and for your brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. Nourish yourself mentally and intellectually by reading what benefits you and helps you grow. Set aside an hour, or even 15 minutes, to read or listen to something empowering and inspiring. Read**, review and visualise your goals and make dua. Let your goals empower you. Nourish and energise yourself physically by doing some form of exercise that will increase your heart rate and by eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast (if you are not fasting). **Writing your goals down on paper and reading them everyday helps you remember what is important and is of priority. Otherwise, out of sight, out of mind. If you do all of these activities and make them your ritual, imagine the person you will become, how you will feel, and what you will accomplish over the next few months! In sha Allah, you will be setting yourself up for success in this world and the next!

23 ! PAGE 23 STEP 3: READ, RESEARCH, REVIEW & REFINE YOUR RITUALS CONSISTENTLY Print out a blank 30-day calendar and use it to track the habits or rituals that you are building. The best thing to do is work with a coach or join an accountability group programme where you will be held accountable for your daily commitments. The next best thing is to work with an accountability buddy. StickK.com is another great tool to help you stick to your commitments. Remember that it takes discipline, willpower and everything that you have got to make this work. Once you taste the fruits of these beautiful trees that you have planted, you will never go back to your previous lifestyle, In sha Allah. CONCLUSION Remember that there is always a next level and it will not be opened to you unless you have shown Him that you are serious and proven to Him that with your consistent actions, bi ithnillah. When you become consistent with your rituals and new productive Photo by Zela: rgbstock[dot]com/gallery/zela habits, you will be amazed by the ways Allah SWT gives you new insights and realisations and helps you change and overcome your challenges as He promises in the Qur an: And whoever has taqwa (consciousness) of Allah He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect ~Qur an, Chapter 65, Verses 2-3 We need to remember and be conscious of Allah SWT and constantly check our intentions. We should also be conscious of our actions and be present in the moment because we need awareness and consciousness to change, and change can only happen in the present moment. The assessment of the Four Levels of Behaviours will now enable you, I hope, to gauge and maximise your productivity and effectiveness. You also now know that to live at Levels 1 and 2, you need to have goals and rituals for different aspects of your life. In sha Allah, next, we will learn about some common behaviour patterns that we can follow to prevent ourselves from living below the line and thereby achieve effectiveness and success. More specifically, we will address self-sabotage: What it is, why we do it and how to subvert it.

24 ! PAGE 24 UNDERSTANDING SELF-SABOTAGE WHAT IS SELF-SABOTAGE Self-sabotage is any thought, feeling, action and/or behaviour that holds you back from achieving your goals. There is usually a conflict between your conscious desires and your unconscious patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour. Sometimes, it seems like there is something holding you back from reaching your goals and succeeding. Sometimes, people might even think they are being affected by magic or that someone is sabotaging their success. MANIFESTATIONS OF SELF-SABOTAGE IN YOUR LIFE Self-sabotage can occur in your work or profession, i.e. you do not go for that promotion or position you know is going to make a difference in your life. It could also affect your studies or business, when you do not put yourself out there or market your products and services that you know people need and can benefit from. It could be in your health where you keep starting and stopping, again and again, that exercise schedule or meal plan, thus preventing yourself from gaining muscle or shedding those last few kilos. Just when you are about to have a breakthrough, something happens that forces you to start all over again. It is that resistance in starting a project or typing the first paragraph. It is that sleepiness and yawning that takes over you every time you sit down and work. You keep over-eating. People keep calling you, they keep interrupting you. Things keep getting in the way. But no, it is you who keeps getting in your own way. It is you not saying no to the distractions. It is you not saying yes to opportunities and breakthroughs. It is you not making those decisions that need to be made. What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself ~Qur an: Chapter 4, Verse 79 And whatever strikes you of disaster it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much. ~Qur an: Chapter 42, Verse 30 You are not to blame and it is not your fault, but you are responsible. Make sure you understand the distinction between blaming yourself and taking responsibility. Blame and guilt are not healthy, responsibility is. Nobody can change things for you; it has to come from your heart and from the inside. Once you make that commitment, take on that responsibility and decide that you are not willing to settle for mediocrity anymore, Allah SWT will help you change anything you want. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves ~Qur an: Chapter 13, Verse 11 Photo by Vic: Nobody can change things for you; it has to come from your heart and from the inside.

25 ! PAGE 25 ARE YOU DISPLAYING SELF-SABOTAGE PATTERNS? The following are just a few common patterns of self-sabotage: All the unconscious fear (See page 10) Indecision Procrastination Overwhelm Wanting to always be right Overeating Tolerating mediocrity and Level 3 Living (See page 4 ) Not telling the absolute truth Focusing on secondary goals Doing things alone Reinventing the wheel Perfectionism* Not saying No to distractions Not saying Yes to opportunities Controlling people Critical judgement of self and others Creating dramas and stories *Make sure you understand the difference between striving for perfection and striving for excellence (ihsan), which is what we have been told to strive for. Perfection is for our Creator alone, and only He is Perfect and His Book is perfect. We are not, and will never be perfect. But we can be excellent! Our imperfection is perfection in itself because that is the way Allah SWT created us. If He wanted us to be different, He would have made us different. That, though, is a whole other discussion in itself. I used to be proud of being a perfectionist.that was my identity: I am a perfectionist. This changed when someone I admire said: You re not a perfectionist, you re an imperfectionist because all you ever look for are imperfections, in things, in what you do, in people and in the world. Perfectionists do not have high standards, they have no standard. This is because their standards are so high that things are unachievable, so they might as well not have any standard. Moreover, perfection is subjective: Perfect according to whom? What is perfect for you might not be what others want and vice versa. There are many people who do not care about the small details over which you are obsessing. There is no worse sickness for the soul, O you who are proud, than this pretense of perfection. ~ Rumi WHY DO WE SELF-SABOTAGE? Outlined below are some reasons why we self-sabotage, but this article will focus on the first one: 1. Value conflicts 2. Behaviour profiles/styles 3. Unconscious fears 4. Low self-esteem or self-worth 5. Inability to manage our emotions Before we continue, just note that some people might say that there is no such thing as self-sabotage, because behind every action or behaviour is a positive intention and that is a valid point. For example, procrastination is not selfsabotage because there is a good intention behind procrastination: to avoid disappointment and keep us safe from whatever fear lies behind the procrastination.

26 ! PAGE 26 Our unconscious is programmed to protect us and it always wants the best for us. We all have psychological needs that we want to fulfill and we can fulfill them in resourceful, sustainable above-the-line ways (Levels 1 and 2 see Page 16) or we can get there by destructive below-the-line ways (Levels 3 and 4 see Page 16). Self-sabotage can therefore be seen as fulfilling our needs and experiencing our values in below-the-line ways. VALUE CONFLICTS Our values guide our decisions and, hence, ultimately our destiny. If you are not getting the result that you want and not living the life that you want, then most certainly, your values are not aligned with your desired outcomes, goals and desired life. Therefore, your values need to be aligned with your life vision and goals. Value elicitation and alignment is an important process to go through. I recently worked with someone who used to procrastinate and play small (regarding her business). It turned out that she was unconsciously equating business success with no time for family because her dad was always absent from home when she was young, and making time for her family was a value at the top of her list. As a result, she was unconsciously sabotaging her business success to fulfil her family values. The way to stop that is to elicit all her values, prioritise them, install them and align them with her goals. Being unclear about your own values is the main reason why it is so hard for many people to make simple decisions: They do not know what they stand for and what is important to them. When you know what is most important to you and know what you stand for and what you are about, decision-making becomes much faster, easier and effortless. WHAT ARE VALUES? Values are words that represent what are important to us. They are usually unconscious and are linked to our beliefs about what is right and wrong, good and bad. Examples: Peace, security, family or money. Each one of them is of varying importance to different people. MEANS VALUES VS. END VALUES There is a difference between means values and end values. Using the examples above, the first two, peace and security, are end values because they are emotional states we want to experience and that are important to us. The last two, family and money, are means values because they are the means through which we choose to experience certain emotional states. Example: Let s say you ask some people what is most important to them and they answer family. If you then ask them What does family give you or allow you to feel?, they might say love. So, love is what they are really after, but family is a means through which they experience that love. Self-sabotage can therefore be seen as fulfilling our needs and experiencing our values in belowthe-line ways The same applies to money as a means value. Some people are after security through money; for some it is the ability to contribute and make a difference; for others it is power they want to experience as the end state. So, money is just a tool to allow you to reach your end. The same goes if your job or profession is what you value. For some, through their work, they achieve significance and accomplishment. For others, it is satisfaction or for some, it might be connection with people, and so on. When we gain clarity about our values and determine what is important to us, and identify our end values, the means are not that important anymore. We can then consciously design our vehicles or means to meet our end values. Problems arise when we confuse the means with the end.

27 ! PAGE 27 MOVING TOWARDS VS MOVING AWAY VALUES Moving towards values are what we want to experience, and moving away values are what we want to avoid feeling. It is important to be clear on your moving towards and away from values, so you know what you want to experience and not experience. This is important because human beings will do more to avoid pain than they will do to gain pleasure. For example, would you rather have one million dollars or lose an arm? I do not know about you, but I will keep my arm, thank you. And I think it will be the same for 99.9% of people. The pain of losing an arm is greater than the pleasure of gaining a million dollars (unless maybe one has a sick child that needs treatment worth a million dollars). So, if you do not consciously decide what you want to move towards, then your moving away from values could be the source of your self-sabotage. If you want to give da wah, but your fear of rejection is stronger than your values of contribution and compassion for people, then you will avoid talking to people. There are also rules for both your moving towards and moving away from values. Rules are what must or must not happen for us to experience our values. EXAMPLES OF RULES FOR MOVING TOWARDS VALUES EXAMPLES OF MOVING TOWARDS VALUES Being connected to Allah SWT Contribution Health, energy, Excellence vitality Gratitude Modesty Happiness Respect Love Growth Freedom Creativity Courage To experience a connection with Allah SWT, my personal rule is to put my right hand on my heart, close my eyes and take a deep breath; or it could be as simple as saying, Alhamdulillah. Of course, we perform fard prayers and everything else, but what I am asking here is what is your rule for you to experience the emotional feeling of being connected to your Creator? Compare the above rule with this one: For me to experience connection with Allah SWT, I have to pray all five fard prayers on time, with all the sunnah and nawafil prayers, all in complete khushu, and I have to read five juz of Qur an with perfect tajweed. That is going to be quite challenging for you to achieve on a daily basis to get your spiritual connection with Allah SWT! Keep it simple.towards, then your moving away from values could be the source of your self-sabotage. If you want to give da wah, but your fear of rejection is stronger than your values of contribution and compassion for people, then you will avoid talking to people. EXAMPLES OF RULES FOR MOVING AWAY FROM VALUES For me to experience rejection, people have to chase after me and throw shoes at me, while screaming with red angry faces, NO!!!! No!!!!! We said NO!!!!! GET LOST!!! Compare this to my old rule for experiencing rejection: I used to experience rejection when people do not pay attention to what I was saying or look at me sideways. What are the chances of that happening if I am talking to a roomful of people? Probably even before I start talking! EXAMPLES OF MOVING AWAY VALUES Rejection Humiliation Overwhelm Disrespect Regret Resentment Frustration The point here is to make it as easy as possible for you to experience moving towards values and make it nearly impossible to experience your moving away from values.

28 ! PAGE 28 REAL VALUES VS. ASPIRING VALUES Real values are what make you happy and congruent. Aspiring values are what you think you should be feeling, would look good, are what other people expect of you, and are usually set by your social environment. We took on the latter values because we never really consciously thought about them and ended up being stuck with them. To identify your current real, operational values, rather than the ones you want to impress others with, look at your results. Think about the way you have been living your life for the past few weeks and months. What were the tangible results? If you said contribution is important to you, how many hours have you spent during the past two weeks doing things for people you care about, sharing, donating your time and money to charities, volunteering at different organisations or mentoring people? If the answer is a big fat zero, then it is your aspiring value, something that sounds nice but you do not really care about or have not consciously decided yet to incorporate it into your life. You are not living your value. The same goes for other values such as connection with your Creator, health, vitality, love, growth and gratefulness. How much time did you spend last week reading His book, talking to Him, exercising, eating healthy, spending time with family, learning something new or doing something that is outside your comfort zone, journalling or reflecting on His blessings? At this stage, we are mainly concerned about awareness, because values exercises can take hours. In the meantime, just be aware that if you are in pain and feeling guilty about not taking certain actions, then they might not be important to you and you need to be okay with that. What are the values that are imposed on you? Often, society and friends dictate the things we should want or the career or profession we should pursue. Once you have established that awareness, you can start to consciously decide on what is important to you and consciously find ways of living those values. To sum up, we have learned what self-sabotage is and saw how value conflicts lead to selfsabotage. Next, we will look at different behaviour styles, another main cause of self-sabotage, and move on to practical strategies that will help you overcome selfsabotage, In sha Allah. To identify your current real, operational values, rather than the ones you want to impress others with, look at your results. Think about the way you have been living your life for the past few weeks and months. What were the tangible results?

29 ! PAGE 29 SABOTAGE YOUR SELF-SABOTAGE BEHAVIOUR STYLES & SELF- SABOTAGE PATTERNS Your behaviour profile, or personality profile as many people like to call it, is a profile that indicates how you normally see the world and function. I think calling it a personality profile is restricting because the profile does not define who you are as a person. Besides, your personality is a combination of your values, beliefs, identity, habits, attitudes, motivations and emotions. Behaviour profile mainly shows your unconscious thinking style, behaviour and communication styles. It shows how you behave under certain situations and shows your strengths and weaknesses (areas of improvement). Behaviour can be changed, but if you say this is my personality and this is who I am, then your behaviour becomes your identity and it becomes a challenge to change. The purpose of this section is to highlight the aspect of productivity that people rarely talk about and are unaware of: The four major behaviour styles and how each style affects productivity. It is often what we are not aware of that trips us up. Imam Sakhawi said: Whoever knows themselves knows their Lord. It is only through knowing ourselves that we learn to appreciate the wisdom of our Creator. It is even more than that. It is through knowing ourselves that we can maximise our strengths, mitigate our weaknesses and reach our full potential. By knowing the different behaviour profiles, you will get insight into why some people have challenges seeing a vision or setting goals for themselves and why some people have challenges following through. And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge. ~Qur an: Chapter 30, Verse 22 It is from Allah s SWT wisdom that people are created to be different, everyone with his/her strengths and weaknesses, so we all learn from and complement one another and work together. It is about knowing where your strengths lie and maximising them, then learning the strength of others and how they think and view the world, so that we can model Photo by Vic: The key is to be flexible in our behaviour and thinking

30 ! PAGE 30 different aspects of their behaviour to achieve our higher purpose. The key is to be flexible in our thinking and action. The first step towards change is awareness, says Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem. For the sake of simplicity and for the purpose of this article, I will be generalising quite a lot to make the behaviour profile and patterns simple to understand. There are so many levels to this and many nuances and combinations, which is not within the scope of this article. DISC PROFILE The DISC profile includes four main behaviour profiles: Dominance [D]: The type who wants to win Influence[I]: The type who wants to be liked Steadiness [S]: The type who wants to be comfortable Conscientiousness[C]: The type who wants to be right An individual has a behaviour profile that is a combination of at least two types and at most three, but he/she can usually be identified by one dominant type. Please keep in mind the following three thinking patterns (motivators) as we move forward: Moving away or moving towards (Pain/pleasure motivated) Detail or big picture thinker People-oriented or taskoriented

31 ! PAGE 31 DOMINANCE [D] - WANTS TO WIN They are big-picture thinkers. They are competitive, decisive and results-oriented. They like to be in charge, like change and challenges. They are very much moving towards motivated, i.e. motivated by the possibilities of their goals and visions. They do not usually care about what others think of them. The reason they can be very impatient at times is because they process information visually, and as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And that is also the reason they talk fast. They can sometimes come across as being rude because of their bluntness. They are prone to make snap decisions and can be perceived as very opinionated, self-centred, impatient and demanding. Their greatest fear is loss of control. INFLUENCE [I] - WANTS TO BE LIKED They are lively, energetic and optimistic. They seem to get along with everyone and are spontaneous and good at influencing others. They are people-oriented and like to be around people. Their preferred mode of information processing is by listening and that is how they learn best. They can also be inattentive to details, overly talkative and emotional. They can be perceived as impulsive and careless. Their greatest fear is social rejection. STEADINESS [S] - WANTS TO BE COMFORTABLE They are laidback, calm, helpful and patient. They are very loyal, eager to help and are often great team players. People tend to open up to them because they are patient listeners and have a gentle, caring nature. They are motivated by pain, i.e. always moving away from what gives them pain. They often move and talk slow because they interpret their world through feeling and physical contact. They learn best by doing things hands-on and physically walking through something. They tend to stand closer to you than the other types and if you are the type who wants to be right, they will really bug you because you feel like they are invading your personal space. CONSCIENTIOUSNESS [C] - WANTS TO BE RIGHT They have very good attention to details and are very logical, analytical and precise. They tend to focus on tasks and make sure that things get done correctly. They value and produce high quality work. Most perfectionists are of this type. They usually talk to themselves. They can have the characteristics of visual and auditory people, but their preferred mode of processing information is thinking. They want things to make sense. They may also get stuck in details, tasks and tend to lose the big picture and sometime cannot see the forest from the trees. They can be perceived as too critical, pessimistic and even cold. Their greatest fear is criticism of their work.your end. Now that you know why you do these things that get in your own way, you have to stop doing them. But how do you stop? Well, the short answer is to just be aware of your style and how you get in your own way of success, and sometimes that is enough to create the change that you need.

32 ! PAGE 32 A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: BE-DO-HAVE MODEL This model helps you succeed by determining who you need to be (your values and beliefs) to do what you need to do (vehicle/job) to have what you want to have (your vision). You should start with the end in mind (what kind of life do you want to live?) and by asking yourself: What type of values will support you to take action or behave in ways that will get you there? If you want to be successful in business and your moving away value is rejection, then you will have a hard time achieving success because business involves talking to people with the risk of being rejected. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, then comfort and freedom will have to go for the first few years, at least. If you value freedom, family and contribution, you might want to be entrepreneurial and start your own thing. If you value safety, significance, contribution you might want to be a doctor or engineer, the traditional Muslim type careers. If you are spontaneous, fun-loving, talkative and bubbly, you might want something that gives you variety and the chance to talk to many people and brighten their day and life. ALIGN YOUR VALUES, VEHICLE & VISION Vehicle: Your field of study, career, profession or business; your endeavour through which you experience your values as well as realise your vision. Vision: Your end goals. Remind yourself that anything is possible. Nothing is too big for the Lord of the worlds SWT to grant you. Ask yourself: What type of values will support you to take action or behave in ways that will get you to the life you want to live? In this beautiful hadith qudsi, Allah SWT says: O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more than a needle decreases the sea if put into it. ~Muslim If you are reading this, it means you have access to the Internet. Do not limit yourself to only serving your local community. Think big. Think global.

33 ! PAGE 33 PRACTICAL STRATEGIES TO SABOTAGE SELF-SABOTAGE #1: START WITH ISTIKHARA Pray the divine guidance prayer (Istikhara) before you take any important action. That prayer is a great gift for us. #2: GET RID OF: a. Seeking approval from people and the disease to please. b. Stories and dramas that you always keep telling yourself This could be for attention and significance: Hey, I have this problem. I have had it for a long time and because of this I cannot do anything else. Look how miserable I am. I cannot change, though I prayed and made dua and tried so many times. Or some variation along those lines. You need to stop talking about it altogether. The more you talk about it and tell people about it, the more attention you get, the bigger it becomes and the harder it is for you to get rid of it and change. Or it could be because you want to be right, to prove to someone that you are right. Let me ask you this, Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy? #3: BE CLEAR ON: a. Your values b. What you stand for. If you don t stand for something you will fall for anything. Malcolm X c. Work out what your non-negotiable matters are. What will you no longer tolerate about yourself/your actions? What will you no longer tolerate from your environment? #4: HAVE A CLEAR VISION a. Your values b. What you stand for. If you don t stand for something you will fall for anything. Malcolm X c. Work out what your non-negotiable matters are. What will you no longer tolerate about yourself/your actions? What will you no longer tolerate from your environment? I would like to share my thoughts on what will help you be clear about your own vision and goals.the Qura nic model is clear: Our vision has been set by our Creator SWT. Our end is jannah, to see His Countenance. The same applies to our life here. We have to start with an end in mind, a vision. Your vision (for yourself and how you want your life to be, to mean) is not something that will just be revealed to you. It is something you discover, decide and define, and then recover and refine. For some of us, or most of us, it is a recovering process from being put down, laughed at or made small by the environment that we grew up in for wanting something different. It is an ongoing process, but a decision has to be made. It is okay if your vision is not clear at the start. People talk about aiming high when it comes to vision and living this life and getting to the next. That sounds nice, but I want to make it practical. I want to share with you a model on AIMing high and reaching high. A: Attention (to people, things, environment), awareness (of self and others), action I: Intention, investment (time, money, energy), implementation, improvement M: Model, mentor (coaches), mind-set (psychology), methodology (strategy)

34 ! PAGE 34 ATTENTION: Start paying attention to what interests you, what makes you happy and what excites you. What are you passionate about? What were your childhood dreams? AWARENESS: Awareness is the first step to change. Start becoming aware of your own behaviour patterns. ACTION: Start taking action on things that you normally sit around and watch; start participating in different activities or discussions. Without action, there is no result or feedback, hence no movement or improvement. You cannot steer a car that is not moving. Movement creates clarity. Are you a pond that is muddy, rotten and stagnant or a fresh free-flowing stream that is calm, clean and clear? INTENTION: Well, this one is obvious. Actions are by intention. Our ultimate intention is to please Allah SWT and to serve His creation by becoming the best version of ourselves. INVESTMENT: The best investment you can make is in improving the space between your ears. Take your personal development seriously: Invest in personal or life coaching. Get rid of all the unnecessary baggage that you ve been carrying around all these years. Invest in online webinars and seminars. Invest in books and audiobooks. Leaders are readers and the first Qur anic revelation was Iqra (read). As believers, we have no excuse. If you do not like reading, find out the reason behind that and work on it. Often, people associate reading and the pain of reading with their childhood traumas and stress growing up and going through school systems that are usually unaware of and have no regard for the differences in information processing and learning styles of individual students. So, students have been conditioned to think that they are stupid just because they can t learn something at the first try. Invest in reading courses and speed-reading courses. Read anyway! IMPLEMENTATION Refer to Action above. Implementation is effective action: putting plan to action through perspiration, patience and prayer. IMPROVEMENT: Follow-up action should be constant. MODEL: Prophet Muhammad SAW is our best example. He is our perfect model. The same principle applies when it comes to productivity and potential. Once you have some idea of your vision and your vehicle, start looking for your models. Who is succeeding at what you want to do? Research and find out about people who are successful in the areas that you want to be successful in. Get in touch with them, find out if they can mentor you or coach you. Why reinvent the wheel? In the words of author Charles Jones, In five years, your life will be the same except for the people you meet and the books you read. Your models don t necessary have to be physical live persons in real life; they could be models through their books and lectures. MINDSET & METHODOLOGY: Change or transformation is very simple. There are only two things you need to change: Your perception (the way you perceive things) or your procedure (the way you do things), or both. Changing your mindset is the 20% that makes 80% of difference. Investing in improving your mindset will help change many of your perceptions and awareness. On the other hand, investing in modelling after a mentor will take care of the methodology part, because you will learn what works and what does not. Next, we will learn about self-esteem and selfworth as another source of self-sabotage.

35 ! PAGE 35 STRATEGIES FOR AMAZING SELF-ESTEEM ASPECTS OF SELF-ESTEEM Understanding self-esteem requires an understanding two of its constituent parts: Being enough and being worthy. BEING ENOUGH This is not a trust in one s self alone. A major part of it is trust in Allah SWT. Indeed it is His promise that He will not test us with anything that we cannot handle or overcome. Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people. BEING WORTHY Having a sense of selfworth and gratitude with respect to the Blessings Allah SWT has bestowed upon us is a healthy state of mind. Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 286 That we are worthy of a great life of a healthy and prosperous life, of a happy and productive life is a state quite different from maintaining a sense of entitlement. Our self-worth must be based on our iman and our connection with Allah SWT and in recognising that we are the best of His creation. We walk tall on two feet and have our hands so we can perform useful acts. Verily, We created man of the best stature (mould) Qur an: Chapter 95, Verse 4 Every single one of us is created with a purpose. Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us? Qur an: Chapter 23, Verse 115 Allah SWT honours the face of human beings. Abu Huraira reported Allah s Messenger SAW as saying: When any one of you fights with his brother he should avoid striking at the face. ~Sahih Muslim Image credit: live-wallpaper-android[dot]com

36 ! PAGE 36 Allah SWT gave us eyes and ears to see and hear with. He gave us the ability to communicate and express ourselves. He gave us intellect and free will so we can think, learn and decide for ourselves. He guided us to the straight path and made us a part of the ummah of Prophet Muhammad SAW. What could be more honourable than that? It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and sent down rain from the sky and produced thereby some fruits as provision for you and subjected for you the ships to sail through the sea by His command and subjected for you the rivers. ~ Qur an: Chapter 14, Verse 32 Every human being is significant and needs to be honoured. And it starts with honouring and accepting ourselves. Allah SWT is the All-seeing, All-knowing One who Owns our hearts and Sustains us. He is the One who has Power over all things. He does not ask and does not need permission from anyone to put us here on earth. He is the One who knows our mistakes, our shortcomings, our plans, and our secret desires and ambitions. Every passing second is a second chance to turn back, to start over with a clean slate. We do not need anyone else s permission or approval to be here, to be great or to do great things. If we are being tested with the same tests repeatedly, then there is something we ought to learn from them. That is a sign that He cares about us; a sign that He wants to raise our station. He guides us like a good teacher who loves and cares about his students, wishing for them to master important lessons before moving on to newer ones. IMPORTANCE OF HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM Healthy self-esteem is the basis of confidence. Looking at the Be Do Have model, we see that confidence is at the Doing level. We do not need confidence if we are not going to do anything or take any action. We do not need confidence to sit and veg out in front of the TV. At the Being level, we need to have a healthy self-esteem. If we do not have healthy self-esteem, we do not believe we can have great visionary ideas nor think that we are worthy enough to go on to do great things in life. So we tend to set small goals, act mediocre and play small. SIGNS OF LOW SELF-ESTEEM Listed below are a few telltale signs of a person with low self-esteem: Being judgmental Cannot say No Cannot forgive people Hold grudges Always putting others ahead of you Always putting yourself ahead of others Finding fault and being critical Distrustful Perfectionist Always comparing yourself with others Takes things too personally Always putting others down Always putting yourself down Constantly worry about what others think about you People pleasing Guilt tripping people Having a lot of fears fear of failure, rejection etc Always saying not having time to exercise or do things that make you happy or inspire you Being overweight or cannot keep it off (in most cases) You cannot stop working or doing things

37 ! PAGE 37 EFFECTS OF NOT HAVING HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM It affects our relationship with Allah SWT if we are not happy with what He Blesses us with. It affects our health, as we tend not to care for our own well being. Not having a healthy self-esteem forces one to put the needs of others above one s own. It affects our family, relationships and marriage as we are unable to maintain a healthy boundary. We are often overly critical and generally judgmental. Our professional lives are affected too as we constantly feel stressed out. We do not go for promotions nor reach out and seize opportunities. And most important of all, we end up conditioning our children or influencing those under our care to have the same selfesteem related problems that we face! SELF CONFIDENCE IS NOT ARROGANCE Arrogance is assuming that we are the only one who can do something and not recognising that it is Allah SWT who enables us and Blesses us with the ability. Self-confidence comes when we are aware of our strengths and abilities. It comes when we acknowledge our blessings and gifts, and do our best to utilise them. It comes from knowing that we can do anything with the guidance of Allah SWT. And if we happen not to have the skills and abilities in the areas of our interests, self-confidence comes from knowing that we can work towards acquiring them. IMPORTANCE OF SELF IMAGE Self-image is how we see ourselves our perception of ourselves. Low self-esteem is a state when the regard and consideration for our self-image is distorted due to past decisions about certain events, what they meant and the conditioning of our environments in terms of how we should look, be or behave. On a physical level, our self-image is that of our body-image, i.e. how we look or appear physically. This is what most people focus on when it comes to self-image and self-esteem. When we do not like the way we look, we tend not to like ourselves and do not accept ourselves for who we really are. Self-confidence comes when we are aware of our strengths and abilities; when we acknowledge our blessings and gifts and do our best to utilise them; and from knowing we can do anything with the guidance of Allah SWT Focusing solely on improving the body image and being obsessed with it is dangerous because it is superficial. That was the arrogance of shaytan who judged Adam (AS) as being inferior to himself, since Allah SWT created shaytan from fire and Adam from clay. [Iblis (shaytan)] said: I am better than he, You created me from fire, and You created him from clay. ~Qur an: Chapter 38, Verse 76 On a psychological, emotional and spiritual level, there could be statements like, I m not good enough. I m not smart enough, I don t deserve to be happy because I m not perfect, I don t deserve the blessings. I m not pious enough. I don t deserve a great life, so on and so forth But the key is not to compare yourself with others. Be your true self you are unique. What you cannot change physically, accept and own it. Allah SWT Made you the way you are. Focus on being productive, not on being perfect. Focus on changing what warrants change and stop being judgemental about those that cannot be changed. Focus on being healthy.

38 ! PAGE 38 Subconscious, limiting beliefs act as possibility-filters and everything they do becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy CAUSES OF LOW SELF-ESTEEM Most self-esteem related issues go back to the events that occurred during childhood and teenage years. The first stage of childhood, ages between 0 7, is called the imprinting period. During this phase, children are very curious. They absorb and learn from everything around them. They believe anything because their critical faculties have not developed yet. They take everything personally. Based on what they are experiencing around them, they learn to believe how the world works. Children want to be like their parents, so they look up to them. They want to please their parents and so they seek attention and validation from them. Being abandoned, put down, ridiculed or being made wrong at these early stages of a child s development causes significant emotional impact. Those experiences and their memories tend to become lasting beliefs, albeit essentially flawed. Children will tend to generalise every similar event that occurs in the future and store it as evidence to reaffirm those beliefs. On the other hand, unconditional love for children is very important. If parents withdraw their love, using that as a tactic to discipline children, they learn that they are being loved only when they perform or behave in a certain way. Separate the person from the behaviour the person is loved and accepted no matter what, but not the behaviour. Make the distinction between YOU MADE a mistake and YOU ARE a mistake. Distinguish WHAT YOU DID was bad and unacceptable from YOU ARE bad and unacceptable. CORE BELIEFS Repeated use of harsh criticisms, domineering behaviour, name calling, degrading nicknames, negative comments and criticisms, and abuse from people who have significant impact add to the emotional wounds inflicted in early childhood. Self-esteem is like a thermostat. We will only be as healthy, happy, productive and successful as our level of self-esteem allows us to be. These derogatory nicknames, comments and bad treatment meted out to them become their identity and core beliefs in many cases. They begin to act according to their beliefs. These subconscious, limiting beliefs act as possibility-filters and everything they do becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They perpetuate the cycle confirming and reaffirming the self-limiting beliefs. No wonder it is hard to change if we do not change at the core. Rigid self-limiting beliefs result in outcomes such as studying only to get just enough marks to confirm our limiting belief that we are not smart enough or looking for jobs that pay just enough confirming our limiting belief that we are not good enough. We will keep on finding the same people who will push the same emotional buttons confirming our limiting beliefs about how people are. Self-esteem is like a thermostat. We will only be as healthy, happy, productive and successful as our level of self-esteem allows us to be. That is our comfort zone. That is our self-imposed limit the limit of who we think we can be, of what we think we can do, of what we think we can have.

39 ! PAGE 39 TIPS TO BUILD & BOOST SELF-ESTEEM TAWBAH: FIRST & ALWAYS Know that once we make a sincere repentance, we have to believe that Allah SWT has already forgiven us. After that, it is about us forgiving and being gentle with ourselves. WORK ON YOUR IMAN AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ALLAH SWT It starts with your knowledge of Allah SWT. Do your best with the time that you have. EXPAND YOUR COMFORT ZONE Consciously work on expanding your comfort zone. Our level of self-esteem is directly proportional to the size of our comfort zone. The bigger it is, the more self-esteem we will have, In sha Allah. FOCUS ON SERVING PEOPLE Focus on serving people and not on pleasing them. Make people feel good about themselves. That is how our Prophet SAW treated people. He made them feel that they were the most important people. He turned his whole body and paid full attention to people when they asked him a question. He never made anyone feel small he was always smiling, generous and forgiving with his people. DO NOT SEEK APPROVAL FROM OTHERS We need to be real and truthful about ourselves. Always consider who it is that are we trying to please? Do we yearn or seek acceptance from people? Memorise the dua below for protection from riya- a as taught to us by our Prophet SAW: Allahumma innaa na udhu bika an-nushrika bika shay an na lamuhu, wa nastagfiruka limaa laa na lamuh. O Allah, we seek refuge in you from committing shirk knowingly, and ask your forgiveness for (the shirk that we may commit unknowingly. We have to accept ourselves wholeheartedly. We cannot expect to change what we do not accept, or are in denial of. Our parents will love us no matter what. Our real friends will accept us for who we are. Our siblings really do not care how we look But do we accept ourselves? It comes down to self acceptance. Allah SWT has given us each a free mind; to decide, to explore If we made a mistake we must acknowledge it, learn from it, apologise for it, cry about it if we have to and do whatever else we need to do Then move on! Allah SWT has promised us that He will forgive us. Anas ibn Malik reported: BE SELECTIVE OF YOUR COMPANY It is important to be selective about the company you keep. Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet SAW said: A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend. ~Sunan Abi Dawud Be mindful of how our friends are influencing us? Do they support our positive change and growth? Or are they always being negative and putting us down? Be aware of what we let into our hearts via our senses of seeing and hearing. The Messenger of Allah SAW said: Allah SWT says: O son of Adam, however much you call upon Me and place your hopes in Me, I will forgive you without any reservation. O son of Adam, if you have sins piling up to the clouds and then ask My forgiveness, I will forgive you without any reservation. O son of Adam, if you come to me with enough sins to fill the earth, and meet Me without associating anything as a partner with Me, I will come to you with enough forgiveness to fill the earth. ~Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadith Qudsi 34

40 ! PAGE 40 TRUST IN ALLAH S SWT PROMISE If we trust in Allah s SWT promise that He does not test us with more than what we can handle, then we can rest assured that we are enough to handle all our challenges. We can be certain we have enough resources within us to take action and achieve the goals that we are after. MAKE DECISIONS AND FOLLOW THROUGH Learn to take more decisions. Be OK with getting things wrong. Learn from the mistakes, accept yourself and move on. Most of us wait to be perfect and not take action. In any endeavour, we have to take the first step. BUILD SUCCESS REFERENCE POINTS It is important to have goals. Start taking actions once you have broken them down into plans and projects. Take small, steady steps everyday. Celebrate and journal your successes. SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES We are always teaching people how to treat us. Empower yourself by stop giving your power away. Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission. So learn to say No when necessary. Do not let people degrade you. And most importantly, do not do it to yourself by talking to yourself in a degrading way. Be very careful about the adjectives you use after I am we have control over! If one is overweight and unhappy about it, then one must educate oneself about exercise and nutrition. Then start taking action and start moving. If we do not move physically and flex our muscles, we do not lose weight! OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE It is also important to understand that based on certain limiting beliefs and emotional traumas, we unconsciously put on weight to protect ourselves and keep ourselves away from people. This escape response ties in with our self-esteem issues and our innate nature to keep ourselves safe. Start an exercise programme. Programmes like Six-Pack Shortcuts, Body for Life, or P90X are excellent ones that include detailed workout plans, meal plans and everything else that you need to get fit. Intensive exercise regimes help regulate your brain chemicals and boost mental health. Physical transformation is a foundation for building solid selfesteem. If you have been physically or sexually abused, it is imperative you seek help and ultimately heal from these traumas. Talk to qualified practitioners or psychologists. You need to heal because these emotional traumas are at the root of your self-esteem problems. Above all else, focus on forgiveness, love and mercy. SEPARATE YOUR BEHAVIOUR FROM YOUR IDENTITY Become aware of how you talk to yourself in your mind. Start becoming aware of the voice in your head that criticises you when you mess things up. Usually it is the voice of your parents, family members, teachers or peers. ATTITUDE TOWARDS BODY IMAGE can we change it? If the answer is no, then we need to accept it. If we can do something to change it, then we must start by taking relevant actions. Focus on what Of all the things you may have gained from this article series, I would like you to focus on forgiveness, love and mercy. Forgive yourself and forgive the people who have inflicted injustices on you. They behaved the way they did because that is probably all they know from the way they were raised or conditioned. But you are the one with the awareness now and you will have to be the one to break the cycle. Stop passing it forward onto the next generation.

41 What s Next? Your Action Guide It's common that when you finished reading, you have many insights and realisations. You may also feel motivated and inspired. It is important that you note down and journal specific thoughts and decide on a first step to take some concrete actions. This action guide t to designed to help you take relevant actions. PS: If you feel like you haven't digested all the information, its ok. You get what's relevant to you at this stage of your life. When you come back and read it again, you'll get different insights. That's the nature of your growth. It is not important that you do this exercise so that you 'get' what's relevant to you at this phase of your growth.. which will be the foundation for your future) MY ACTION GUIDE Reflect upon these questions and write down your answer in your journal of choice: 1. What are the verses of the Qur'an that inspire you? Choose from this ebook (write down in your journal or copy and paste) or bookmark in your mushaf so that you can always go back to read when you feel down or when you need a boost. 2. It's a promise from Allah SWT that He can give you anything you want. If He asked you to tell him that one thing in your life that you really want to have happened in 12 month's time, what would you ask for? Describe it here. And why is it important for you?

42 3. Make a list of 5 things that you're most grateful for in your life right now (it doesn't matter how big or small they are). 4. What were the gems that you got from this ebook? What are your 'Aha!' moments? List them here. 5. Choose one area in your life which is not working, or which you'd like to take to the next level. How can you apply the gems in that area of your life? 6. What are the top 3 emotions that you would like to feel consistently on a daily basis? (eg. hopeful, excited, angry, anxious, confident etc. ) 7. What's your number one fear that's holding you back from living the productive life that you want to live? 8. What's your number one limiting belief about yourself? I am 9. What is your favourite way of sabotaging your own success? 10.Reread your answers from above, how are your answers related and connected? 11.With this new awareness, what are the first steps that you need to take towards a positive change in your life? I will start doing / stop doing / research / read / find a mentor or coach / sign up for... program / talk to... / call For more actionable steps, follow the FREE Productive Thinking tutorials that will be held on Productive Muslim Academy on Wednesday, March 26th, To get more support on developing your productive thinking, CLICK HERE TO JOIN PRODUCTIVE MUSLIM ACADEMY and be notified of our Productive Thinking Tutorials & Master Class, plus stay in the loop with other productivity training and classes from Productive Muslim Academy. Did you benefit from this e-book? SPREAD THE KHAIR! Share this e-book with your family & friends and encourage them to learn how to think productively for a beneficial and rewarding life, In sha Allah.

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