How many times throughout elementary school and high school, and maybe even today, do we hear people say, “Be the best you can be!”? I remember seeing those posters and banners all over the place, and felt a great amount of motivation towards becoming a better person. Well, that was the case, until I asked myself the simple question: how exactly am I supposed to do that?

During talks with a few clients and friends lately, I’ve noticed many people struggling with the same question, whether they recognize it or not. It’s both incredible and upsetting to see how many of us negate this aspect of our lives as being of crucial importance because we’re too busy living up to norms or expectations, or because we don’t really know how much we are truly worth.

“Live your life striving to become the best you can be. Then, once you’ve become the best, become better.”

Define Your Goals

Often, because of the situations or circumstances we’re in (whether we put ourselves there, or were coerced into doing so in some way or the other), we lose focus on our goals and visions. Just the other night, I asked a couple in their 40-50’s about what their goals were in life and if they ever accomplished them. One responded saying that she had a dream but never followed through because she didn’t think she would be able to succeed, and because “life got in the way”. The other said that he never really had a dream or goal, because it was just about living every day with the hopes of survival. Now, if he lived in a place where survival was a daily struggle because of war, famine, disease, or anything like that, I would commend him for having achieved his goal of survival. But, he has lived the majority of his life in a comfortable setting, and in a place that hasn’t been hit with any of those tragedies. Hearing him say that he lived a life without goals or dreams saddened me, and the first words that came out my mouth were, “A person with dreams is a person simply existing. He hasn’t even lived yet.” And his response, with an expression of disappointment and submission, was simply, “I know. That’s my life.”

This is a condition that I don’t want to see any of you being in. And if you feel you are already in that state, then it’s time to make some changes, and develop some goals. It is NEVER too late to set goals and to have dreams.

Ask yourself what kinds of things interest you, and what impact you want to leave on the world. It’s about leaving behind a legacy. When I say that, I don’t mean that you should go out and make some major project or anything like that. Some may want that, but some may just want to open up a small coffee shop, or some may just want to learn how to speak a specific language. Goals are personal, and in no way are they limited to the expectations and limitations of others or of “reality”.

Recognize Your Potential

“Being realistic is one of the most commonly travelled roads to mediocrity.” – Will Smith

Truth be told, this is exactly what it is that holds people back from achieving their potential. We apply limitations on ourselves by thinking “realistically”, but had it not been for people thinking beyond reality, we wouldn’t have things like light bulbs, airplanes, or elevators. Think about it. Had it not been for the inventors of these innovations thinking outside of what was considered truth, we would be sitting in candlelight, would take weeks/months (I googled it) to travel from Vancouver, BC to Toronto, ON by foot/horseback/car instead of the 4-5 hours it takes by plane, and imagine getting to your apartment on the 15th floor of your building every single day without an elevator…you’d be in ridiculously great shape, but you’d be furious if you walked all the way down the stairs of your building only to later remember that you forgot the stove on.

Life is filled with blessings of innovation and creativity, and it’s upon us to determine how far we go with that. Your goals and ambitions are your own, and so, no one (besides God – i.e. if it’s haram or forbidden, let it go) can tell you how to address them. I believe we ALL have potential to be great, but what makes the great differ from the rest is that they are willing to put in the work and effort, whereas the rest are busy being satisfied with “just enough”. Live your life in a way that is focused around you thriving – not just surviving.

Write It Out

One of the things that has truly helped me in working towards and achieving my goals has been writing them down. I know it sounds like something minute, and you may think to yourself, “I’ll just keep it in my mind,” but honestly, it helps. In a day, we think about so many different things, that running the risk of losing your brilliant idea or your profound thought is just not worth it. In addition to being helpful in that sense, writing out your thoughts also helps in reminding you of your passions, your goals, and what lead you to choosing to aspire towards those ambitions. Far too often, we get swept up in the ups and downs of life that we forget what it was that inspired us towards doing things in the first place. Writing these things down helps you when you start to lose focus.

When writing down your goals, try to break them down into long-term and short-term goals as well, to give yourself milestones to reach on your path towards accomplishing your ultimate goal. Doing this will inspire you and help you to stay motivated on your path towards fulfilling your dreams. This too may seem like an insignificant thing, but I assure you that it works wonders and helps immensely!

What I personally do, is look at the things I’ve written down about the visions behind my projects, and the short-term and long-term goals I have for each one. Then, I start my day by setting daily goals on what I hope to accomplish for the day for each project.

Take Action

“We will not change the condition of a people until they change that which is within themselves.” – Quran (13:11)

This is perhaps the hardest, yet most difficult step in this process. Often, we have an incredible plan or idea, or we have goals that would inspire even the most successful of people, but we delay or even give up on following through because we fear taking that first step. We over-think and over-plan everything to the point that we end up scattering the thoughts in our minds, and ultimately just lose who we are and what made us aspire towards our goals.

Get the ball rolling by just starting. Seriously, JUST START. I know, its easier said than done, but it’s important to take that leap of faith and learn to fly as you go along. Every morning, look at your list of goals, and promise yourself that you will do SOMETHING today towards fulfilling that goal. Even if you fail that day, try again the next day. What’s most important is that you keep trying until your goal becomes a part of you. An example would be something like overcoming an addiction, or making prayer a part of your life, or trying to get in shape. Wake up every day with the intention of taking a step towards making progress towards your goals. No matter how many times you fall, get back up and keep trying. Some goals may be easy to fulfill, and others may take years, or even a lifetime, but the key is to never stop trying.

If there is a change you want to see, be proactive in becoming better. Don’t let the limitations of norms and realities hold you back from reaching the heights of your potential. The beauty of your potential is that its height depends on your efforts – the more you strive towards becoming better, the better you will become. Fight laziness, and tell those voices in your head that are making excuses for you to shut up, because you’ve got the potential to become better, and you have no intention of letting anything or anyone hold you back!

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” – Paul Brandt