Practising guided self-control means that we act judiciously to life’s demands. We train ourselves to take action when needed and practise restraint when useful.
Assalamu ‘alaikum Sisters! Take a deep breath, turn your attention inwards for a moment and focus on the year ahead. What kind of year would you like it to be? What would you like to say is your biggest accomplishment at the end of the year? Even if you are not sure of what exactly you would like to achieve, I’m sure that feeling fulfilled and happy would be at the top of your list.
Intention and action are both important in order to achieve something. However, speaking or taking action may not be the best course of action every time. Refraining from saying or doing something may be just as valuable. Practising guided self-control means that we act judiciously to life’s demands. We train ourselves to take action when needed and practise restraint when useful. Practising guided self-control will take understanding and practice; not doing so may have significant consequences. Take sister Naseem’s example. Naseem was having trouble adjusting in her new marriage. There were lots of demands on the couple, and instead of working as a team, it seemed that they were taking it out on each other. One day she had “had enough,” she had words with her mother-in-law and her husband and just walked out. Now, a few years later, she realises that maybe she could have stuck it out a little bit longer. As Muslimahs, we pay attention to our modesty in dress and speech; however, another aspect of modesty is practising self-control in our life overall. So let’s explore some ways in which we can learn to practise guided self-control.
Keep your eye on the bigger picture:
When stress rises, our ability to be solution-focused disappears. This is the same with emotionally charged situations. Reacting from stress may end up leading to rash decisions that one will regret later on. One way to practice self-control is to keep your eye on the bigger picture, especially during stressful situations. Remind yourself that whatever you are going through will pass. Take a moment to ask yourself “What’s important in the long-run? If I take this course of action, will it be in alignment with my long-term goal?” If not, then re-think things and then act.
Breathe, then speak – or better yet, say nothing
Have you ever been hurt by what someone said? I’m sure you can relate to that. Sometimes, the hurt that words leave behind can be long lasting. Practising self-control with our speech can help us improve the quality of our lives immensely. So, how do we do that during a frustrating or challenging time? If someone is saying or doing something hurtful, attempt to step back from the situation, take a few breaths and listen. Sometimes it is better to stay silent during that time. Once the storm has passed, then think about the true message you wish to communicate before you have a conversation. We can sometimes let our ego or hurt get the better of us. Again, keep the bigger picture in mind; this will help you to choose your words more carefully. Also, there may be situations where you felt that you shared too much with someone. If you have a habit of revealing too much, then ask yourself “Is it because I want this person to like me? Do I wish to belong?” Our need for acceptance can sometimes get the better of us. So, in situations where you may be feeling vulnerable, have a mental “cheat-sheet” of things that you are willing to share about yourself. This way, you will feel prepared and more in control.
Gauge the value of inaction
We are trained to value action these days. Do you have anyone in your life who leads a life of leisure? Perhaps they have help around, or don’t really need to work? How do you think about them deep down? Perhaps we tend to judge people who have it easier than us on a subconscious level. This really isn’t our fault; it’s because we are all hardwired to value work these days. Don’t get me wrong, working is essential if you are going to get things done. However, there may be times when inaction is more valuable than doing something. For example, if you are really tired and haven’t slept all night, then it wouldn’t be a good idea to drive, would it? Sometimes, leaving something (or someone) alone for a while could be a good idea. For example, if you are struggling to get something finished, or perhaps you keep trying, but aren’t getting the desired result, then it may be time to leave things alone for a while. Ask yourself the question “What would be the most valuable thing for me right now? Do I keep going or do I take a break?” You may be tempted to keep powering through, but if given some space, your ideas may begin to flow again. So, the next time you are feeling stuck or upset about something, move away from it for a little while. If it is something physical that you can put away, then put it away in a cabinet, step out and take a real break. If there are pending tasks and nothing is getting done, then step away for a while to renew your energy. If it is a difficult relationship situation, then talking to the other person when they aren’t receptive will be of no use. Practise some self-control during this challenging time. Take a walk, busy yourself in your own matters and give the other person some space to deal with whatever they need to resolve. Insha Allah they will come back and be receptive to you in time.
Practising modesty isn’t just about what we wear; it relates to how we think, behave and even what we value. Self-control connects to modesty because it will result in actions and behaviours that we can truly value. Insha Allah, I hope that these strategies will help us deal with challenging situations more effectively.
Sayeda Habib empowers sisters to find true fulfilment, achieve balance, and enhance their self-confidence. For further information on coaching, or to get in touch with Sayeda, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email Sayeda@makelifehappen.com