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Staying Focused on Your Goals: Challenges, Obstacles, and Solutions

Published April 27, 2021

By BurhanulHaq Brula

As human beings, we all have dreams that we wish to achieve in life. However, some of us continue to dream, while others wake up and chase those dreams, giving them form so that they become practical and attainable goals. When chasing a dream, one will encounter many obstacles and challenges, and upon encountering these barriers, many people cease the chase and return to the dreaming phase. Some of the most common of these barriers include vague or disorganized goal-setting, inconsistent work ethic, and procrastinating behaviors. Those who overcome these barriers are precise in their goal-setting and consistent in their action,avoiding procrastination by having a detailed schedule. These qualities lead them to become dream chasers, those who are able to wake up and take the proper steps to achieve their dream.

Setting a Clear Goal and Being Consistent

Before beginning to work towards a goal, one must set a clear goal first. Although this may seem like the simplest step, it is often the first obstacle in the path to achieving a goal. Oftentimes, we set unclear goals, and our pursuit of them is confused and disorganized. It is as if we are searching for something but are unsure of what we are searching for. As the famous author Jack Canfield once said: “Vague goals produce vague results.” Perhaps one of the most common goals that people set is “losing some weight.” What people fail to do is define exactly how much weight they wish to lose and the daily exercises they will engage in to achieve that goal. When they find that their disorganized efforts are not resulting in progress, they give up. This lack of clarity is what makes all sorts of individuals cease their pursuit of a dream. When setting your goal, you must be as specific as possible. Instead of saying that you want to “lose weight,” your goal should be that you want to “lose ten pounds in ten weeks by losing a pound a week.” Without specificity, we often find ourselves dreaming about an elusive goal instead of methodically pursuing that goal. It’s also important to articulate why you want to achieve a particular goal. If you want to lose weight, you might list that you want to do soin order to be healthier, to have more energy, to feel more comfortable in your clothing, and to be more confident in everything you do. Knowing why you want to achieve a goal, and keeping those intentions or purposes in mind, helps to stay motivated. The Prophet (s) said, “Actions are but by intention…” In fact, the intention of an action, in this case action toward a goal, is its foundation.

On the road to achieving any dream, a lack of consistency is a major obstacle. Consistency is an integral part of achieving any goal, and it is what really sets the dreamers apart from the dream chasers. Dream chasers are the ones who do not wait for a moment of brilliant motivation, rather, they are the ones who achieve their goals by consistently taking small steps every single day to edge closer to their goal. The Prophet (s),for the first 13 years of his mission, consistently preached to whoever would listen and saw minimal success. It is estimated that when he left Mecca for Medina, there were only around 100 Muslims, meaning he gained an average of fewer than ten followers a year. Today, there are 1.8 billion Muslims, comprising the majority of the population in 49 out of the 195 countries in the world.The Prophet was disciplined, consistent, and dedicated to his goal despite encountering major obstacles all along the way.

If your dream is to score high on the SAT, then you must work towards this goal every single day, set aside a specified amount of time each day to work towards this goal. If your goal is to be an elite athlete, then you must practice and work towards this goal every single day. In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell demonstrated that in order to achieve greatness in any field it is necessary to dedicate at least 10,000 hours towards it. He was referring to expertise and mastery in a complex task such as grandmaster level in chess or world-class neurosurgery. Goals like these require years of consistent practice and discipline. Many goals, however, are more modest but still require disciplined consistency, making it clear that in order to achieve any dream, consistency is perhaps the most important quality in the process.

Overcoming Procrastination

Another major challenge for young men and women in achieving a dream is procrastination. Oftentimes, people lose interest in their goals simply because they put no pressure on themselves to achieve a goal. They do not have any schedules or deadlines that push them to be resolute and consistent with their efforts. This leads to conscious or unconscious procrastination and a vague hope that “somehow and sometime” the dream will achieve itself. This mindset is similar to thinking that we can just leave everything to Allah to take care of, rather than taking whatever action is needed. A man once asked the Prophet (s) if he should tie his camel and trust in Allah or leave the camel untied and just trust that Allah will keep it safe. The Prophet (s) replied, “Tie her and trust in Allah.” This wisdom clearly demonstrates the necessity of taking action; and regarding goals, consistent action is absolutely necessary. One cannot simply postpone the dream and hope for it to occur itself; it requires consistent effort, and procrastination derails that effort completely. In order to achieve any dream, create a precise schedule and impose deadlines on yourself to keep yourself motivated and consistent. If your goal is to write and publish a book within a year, do not leave the task to the final few months. Start early, write every day, set yourself page-count deadlines, and make sure that you meet your realistic deadlines. Every deadline is simply a step closer to your ultimate goal, step by step to reach the summit of your dream.

In summary, one’s thought process when working to achieve a goal should be clear and practical— having a clear goal of what you want to accomplish, knowing why you want to achieve that goal, having a disciplined action plan, and being consistent. Lastly, no matter how demanding, challenging, or frustrating the process may be, do not abandon your goal. Albert Einstein once remarked that “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” He’s talking about being patient and perseverant. Sabr, in fact, is an amazing Islamic trait and its meaning is both patience and perseverance! The Prophet (s) said,“Whoever persists in having sabr, Allah will give him sabr. Nobody can be given a blessing better and more comprehensive than sabr” (Bukhari). Therefore, be patient and persevere, put your trust in Allah, and follow through with your plan to achieve your goal.

Dream Chasers

Many young men and women today have dreams, in fact, almost all of them do. However, very few are able to recognize and implement the steps necessary to achieve those dreams. Instead, they find themselves chasing vague ideas, being inconsistent, or pushing away their deadlines until they forget the goal entirely. A small minority of people, however, understand the process of goalsetting and achieving. Those who successfully chase their dreams are crystal clear about their end goal and why they are working toward it.They consistently and methodically work towards their goal on a daily basis and have clear schedules and deadlines that keep them on track to achieve their dream. This small minority are not just dreamers, they are dream chasers, and through understanding the methodology to set and achieve goals, one can join this select group.

BurhanulHaq BrulaAuthor Burhanulhaq Brula is a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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