This piece is written for our college-aged or young professional audience, but these tips are relevant for anyone looking to set better goals this upcoming year! 
Still processing 2020, yet 2022 is right around the corner? The feeling of a new year makes us excited to set goals about what we’d like to accomplish next year. It gives us motivation to be and do better in the upcoming year. But sometimes, we set lofty goals that we’re unable to accomplish beyond a few days or weeks. Or, we tend to set certain goals based on what everyone else is doing even when we need to prioritize something different, like our mental health or spiritual growth. Each person’s journey of growth is unique to them, so check out the tips below to help you create personalized goals that work for you.
  • 1. Reflect: Self-improvement isn’t just for New Year’s; for Muslims, self-improvement is a life-long journey! The concept of “purifying” or improving ourselves is integral to our faith. Allah SWT created us with a soul, and He promises success to the person who constantly works to purify his/her soul. 
“Truly he has succeeded who purifies it. And truly, he has failed who defiles it” [Surat Al-Shams, 91:9-10].
Muhasabah, or self-questioning, is a practical way to make sure that we are always trying to improve. Muhasaba requires taking an honest look at ourselves and reflecting on how we can be better in all areas of our lives. As you think about which goals to set for the upcoming year, reflect on these questions.
  • 2. Choose only 2-3 areas to focus on. Sometimes, we feel like there is so much that we want to accomplish. You may want to study more, volunteer more, spend less time watching TV, or even prepare for big changes like graduating or getting a new job. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the goals we’ve set. That’s why it’s important to commit to making small, consistent changes.
The Prophet SAW said: “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Sahih Ibn Majah)
For this year, try this exercise. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. On a piece of paper, jot down ideas for goals you’d like to accomplish or changes you’d like to make next year. You can make a list, a chart, a drawing, or just free-write. The purpose of this activity is to allow yourself to brainstorm without any limitations. After 10-15 minutes, look at your list and narrow down your goals as you consider these questions:
Choose just 2-3 goals and start with the goals that are easiest for you to accomplish (or the ones you feel most motivated about). You don’t have to keep the same goals for the whole year – you can choose to focus on these goals for the first 3-6 months of the year. When you’ve accomplished some of them, you can set different goals for the next few months.
  • 3. Focus on holistic growth: When setting goals, it may be easier to focus on goals that are material – like exercising, eating healthier, spending less, etc. But consider the spiritual or emotional growth that you might need to make. Some examples would be:
Allah SWT created us with a body, mind, and soul. A holistic approach to change is to nurture each part of our being, starting with our soul and its connection to Allah SWT. This could look like:
As you think about what goals to set, consider whether you are setting goals with this outlook in mind.
  • 4. Make a solid plan to reach your goal. Sometimes we have a general idea of what we want to improve, but we don’t have a plan for how to improve. 
Let’s say that you want to improve your relationship with your parents. This could look different for each person. If you live apart from your parents, it could mean calling them more often. If you live with them, it could mean helping out more with chores or expenses. If your conversations tend to end in arguments, improving your relationship with your parents could mean learning and trying different communication skills when you speak with them. There can be more than one way to improve your relationship with your parents, so which one should you choose and how do you make sure it happens?
Brainstorm a list of options and choose something that feels right for your relationship. Break that goal down into small steps that you can take to build towards your goal gradually. For example, you can start by calling your parents once a week, and in a few months, you can commit to calling or visiting more frequently than that.
To help break down your goals into a solid plan, use the SMART goals format to get specific about what you want to accomplish, when you will accomplish it, and how you will accomplish it. Fill out a SMART goals worksheet to make sure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-oriented.
  • 5. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself. In the digital era where we see everyone’s goals and accomplishments on social media, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others and feel inadequate. But remember that personal growth is not a race; each person’s journey of growth is unique to them.  Focus on how you want to grow. Think about where you are now and what a good next step would be for you. Renew your intention by reflecting on why each goal matters to you. Be genuinely happy for others and see their accomplishments as encouragement to pursue your own goals. If being on social media is discouraging you, it may be helpful to take a break and focus on yourself. 
Lastly, know that growth is a process, so be patient with yourself and reframe your thinking as you strive towards your new goals–adopt a growth mindset!  When you have a setback, it’s a chance to reflect and learn about yourself. What worked and what didn’t work? What did this setback teach you about yourself? It’s okay to feel frustrated, but try to reframe your thinking and power through with a new approach instead. Reflect on how you have improved and what you’ve learned about yourself, even when you are struggling. Celebrate your accomplishments along the way! Being grateful for your successes, big or small, will give you encouragement and motivation to keep working on being the best version of yourself.
*Ramadan is just a few months away. Refer to this article to think about goal-setting in Ramadan. 
A Quick Guide for Setting Better Goals in 2022