As we’re edging towards the month of Ramadan — the month of change, growth and improvement — there are some things that are coming to the forefront our minds.
One could be the state of our relationship with the Qur’an; how often or not we recite from the book of Allah. Another could be the state of our salah; how connected or disconnected we are with our Lord. Another thing that I’m finding that’s coming out time and time again are habits — those things we do unconsciously, on repeat, without thinking about them.
For some people it’s incessantly scrolling on their phone on social media.
For some people it’s sleeping in late and going to bed late.
For some people it’s smoking — yes, I know; let’s be real here.
For some people, the habit is smoking.
Whatever our habits are, it’s important for us to recognise we can change them.
Something that really interests me when it comes to the topic of habits is seeing how people approach habits. What I see and witness a lot is, people see something they do that they don’t like, and they decide that they’re gonna simply stop doing that thing – because, you know, it’s just so easy, right? Or they decide they’re going to just do something else instead of that habit.
For some people, it works for a short period of time, where they’re able to successfully stop doing something and replace unwanted behaviour with something else. We know that through repetition, habits are formed, and that’s the basic foundation of habits, right? Repetition causes habits to be formed.
The thing no one’s talking about – and you know, LaYinka likes to bring things that no one’s talking about – is the truth, that a habit is like an iceberg.
The habit is the behaviour you see, and beneath it is something else, the bigger part of the picture. The habit is the thing above the surface, the thing that you see that’s obvious to you, but beneath that…what’s beneath that? Let me tell you what’s beneath that:
Okay, so you’re reading this thinking, ‘What? My intention?’
It’s interesting — why? Because habits are unconscious. We would think, ‘There is no intention. I’m not thinking about anything before I just pick up my phone, scroll incessantly without thinking, then look at the time and an hour’s gone. I’m not thinking about any particular intention.’
Let me tell you this: Suppose your habit has a positive intention that it wants to fulfil?
Mmm-hmm, yeah, you read that right. An intention that was useful once upon a time, brought about benefit to you, and at some point in the past served you. And because you got what you wanted, you carried on doing it, and you’re stuck with that behaviour.
Some positive intentions could be, for instance, comfort, love, relaxation, joy.
So, it could be that your habit of scrolling incessantly on your phone is actually to fulfil the intention of relaxation. Your habit of overeating could be fulfilling the intention of comfort. Your habit of choosing the wrong people to be around could be fulfilling the positive intention to have acceptance or love.
I’m sure as you’re reading this, this is something you feel like you need to sit with and digest. Trust me, it’s something you do want to sit with and digest because it makes a heck of a lot of difference when you start examining your habits.
For this week, what I invite you to do is this:
— Get a sheet of paper out and write down all the habits you have; the things you do that you’re not happy with. Let’s focus on the not-so-good habits right now; the unconscious behaviour or the habitual behaviour that you don’t want to be doing, that you keep telling yourself, ‘Urgh, I wish I’d just stop that, I know that so bad, but I…’, blah blah, all the excuses, right? I want you to write them down. Be real here; this is key. Write down all the things.
— And then, looking at the habit/s, ask yourself, ‘What’s the intention here? What does this habit want? What do I want, truly, beneath this?’
So, if you’re looking at your phone all the time, what is it that you want? Maybe the positive intention is connection, maybe it’s relaxation; whatever it may be, look at the action and ask yourself, ‘What is it that I truly want from this?’
You see all the positive intentions, and then you know what starts to emerge? You start to realise that beyond this one behaviour, there are so many different ways you can fulfil that intention without that habit. There are a multitude of ways you can have that intention fulfilled without doing that behaviour.
For instance, at some point in time, your unconscious mind decided that incessant scrolling gave you connection; so, in order to fulfil the intention of connection, you must scroll incessantly. Now, if scrolling incessantly on social media is for the intention of connection, what are other ways you can connect with people without having to incessantly scroll? What are all the other ways that you can connect with people?
The thing with this particular exercise is that you start to realise that you have more choice than just the one you’d decided upon once upon a time.
Have a wonderful, beautiful weekend, my love. If you need any help and you want to discuss this, let’s talk about this in the comments, inshaAllah.
I look forward to sharing another episode with you next week.