“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”
-Leonardo Da Vinci

So here I am, in my mid-forties, on my road to self-mastery, self-discipline and the ability to call upon willpower when needed.

For the longest time I’ve admired people who are able to set their minds to a task and see it through.

One of the biggest challenges for me has been the five daily prayers as a Muslim.

Doing so is mandatory and can leave being a believer or a non-believer hanging in the balance.

Of course most of it has to do with intentions, but for the longest time I blamed my lack of consistency on my level of faith.

After so many years of being a Muslim, I’m now delving into an old habit of reading many books from a wide range of authors and I’m uncovering a lot of interesting data in the area of psychology and science that is showing me that it may not be as I expected.

We hear time and time again that we as humans are weak and forgetful. To me this is truer than ever.

I’m seeing that it’s not only my level of faith, but I also have to take into account my current habits, comfort zones and limited understanding of psychology; which has been a long time interest for me since college.

I’m now back to reading books in search of learning the details of how the brain works and functions to get a better grasp and understanding for my road to self-mastery journey.

Which brings me back to self-discipline and the ability to call upon willpower when needed as I stated in the beginning.

In the following articles to come, I will share my journey in search of these qualities as well as other skills, in the hopes of it being beneficial for you in some way.

If I could spare you even one pain or struggle in your life then my mission is accomplished.

To be more specific, my intentions are to find and incorporate, into my life, tools and wisdom on self-mastery from people of all walks of life, past and present.

Whether it be from books or someone that I know or have known in the past, or even personal experiences, my goal is to find a way, once and for all, to put into practice the religion of Islam into my life that I embraced some 20 years ago.

I will, more specifically, use myself as the test subject during the course of my studies in bridging psychology and health with Islam.

Others may have done this already but my main goal is to find out for myself and benefit from my own exploration.

 

My Road to Self-Mastery In Action

“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” – Herbert Spencer

You may be wondering how researching non Muslim books could benefit in putting Islam into practice.

For example with willpower, as it’s covered in the book Willpower‘ by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, willpower requires physical and mental energy.

Whether it’s working all day, going to school, making decisions all day (what to eat or not to eat, controlling temptations etc), or raising children, there comes a time in the day when you’re no longer able to fight off temptations, make good decisions, or refrain from arguing with family.

As stated in their book, “People can sometimes overcome mental fatigue, but Baumeister found that if they had used up energy by exerting willpower (or by making decisions, another form of ego depletion that we’ll discuss later), they would eventually succumb.”

Succumb to that piece of cake, arguing with your spouse, yelling at your kids, honking at the car that cut you off or not going to the gym.

These are all symptoms of what Freud called ‘the depleted ego’. He was wrong in some theories, but he was on to something with this concept.

So could the five daily prayers be the prescription for the many, much needed breaks for our mind and body? To replenish our ego reserves to sustain willpower?

As stated in the Quran, “Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book, and perform the Salah (prayer). Verily, the Salah prevents from Al-Fahsha’ (immoral sins) and Al-Munkar (evil deeds) and the remembering (praising) of Allah is greater indeed. And Allah knows what you do.” -Surah Al-Ankaboot (29:45)

Could this be a way of stating that our willpower will be strengthened, thus giving us a greater ability to control our anger and avoid sin and temptations?

If so, we could then conclude that it may be the reason as to why it is of vital importance to pray on time. Not only do you reduce running the risk of procrastination, but it could be that they are spaced out in such a way as to not let us fall too far into ego depletion (lack of willpower).

So if we know that we shouldn’t put it off, we could then implement Mel Robbins ‘5 Second Rule’ to make sure that we get up and pray right away.

Through scientific research, she has found that the mind has about a five second window in going from an idea to an action, and if we wait beyond that five seconds our minds will kick in to try and sabotage it.

It’s also what Steven Pressfield refers to as ‘Resistance’, in his book ‘The War of Art’.

These are the kind of ideas that run through my mind every day and now I want to dig in deeper with more study and research to then share with you.

Allah knows best, and I’m only speculating as to the why we do what we are commanded to do. But I know that it’s all for our own benefit, as Allah (SWT) mentions so many times in the Quran.

If you’re not a Muslim, you should still find it beneficial since I’ll be incorporating passages and quotes from a variety of writers and philosophers from all backgrounds and time periods. If at the very least, you will find great book recommendations.

Not to say that I’m combining these writings and ideas with Islam, but rather using them as a means to enable myself to put the Islamic way of life into action as much as possible, and to show the similarities of other writings with Islam.

These go hand in hand since as Muslims we believe every Prophet was sent (since Adam (AS)) with the same message and only differed in certain jurisprudence and laws.

The main message however was the same. Worship your Lord and obey him using the Prophet of your time as the example.

I’m merely applying the knowledge in an effort to become a better Muslim, where as you can apply it to any discipline of your liking.

 

Documenting My Road to Self-Mastery

“I realized so much of my life hasn’t been in a well-lit room, and I realized the importance of documenting my experiences as a way to memorialize them.”
-Thomas Newman

At first, my plan was to read as many books as I could get my hands on, take notes, then put it all together as a strategy toward putting Islam into practice.

That’s still the plan, only before I was going to wait a year before writing anything at all.

It all had to be perfect.

Since then, through reading Robert Greene’s book ‘Mastery’, I’ve learned that I also need to put in the work as a writer to chip away toward those 10,000 plus hours to mastery.

So I decided to document the process. The process of trying to not only write something worth reading, but to also become a good writer in general.

This would allow you to see my transition from not only a novice of writing to a master of writing (God willing), but to also become a better person and hopefully inspire you to do a similar challenge as well for yourself.

Maybe you have a passion or interest that you’ve put off and want to get back to but lack the plan or confidence to put it into practice.

Are you one of those ‘Thank God it’s a Friday’ people? If so, you may want to think about laying down a few goals that will drive you toward your dream job; doing what you love.

This is what I’m working toward. For me it’s Islam and to be a full time writer in the process. For you it may be something else, but it’s something we can experience and advise each other on along the way.

 

The Road to Self-Mastery Never Ends

“Are those who have knowledge and those who have no knowledge alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful. ”
-(Quran, 39:9)

The road to self-mastery never ends. It’s a lifelong process to keep our spirits up and our wits sharp.

Both the Quran and the Sunnah are full of reminders on the importance of learning and obtaining knowledge.

More importantly is the emphasis on putting it into action.

In the articles to come I will focus on specific areas in life, health, entrepreneurship and the religion and dedicate each blog to its own topic.

I will also provide many quotes and statements from books, articles and pod casts that relate to the topic at hand.

I’m not qualified to speak as an expert in any of the fields or topics that I will cover, so I’ll be using the work of others (well established authors, teachers and thinkers) as a means of providing credibility and value.

 

The Road to Self-Mastery Starts Now

The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
-Mark Twain

To add to that quote, it also starts with strong intentions.

As I stated earlier, I was going to wait until I had read hundreds of books before writing my first blog.

I wanted to immediately come across as a professional writer and appear incredibly intelligent, but after reading several books of late, ‘Ego is the Enemy’ by Ryan Holiday being one of them, I’ve learned that I need to get started right away.

It was my Ego keeping me from doing the work. Telling me that I need to be perfect before getting started.

That I need to wait and read more before taking that leap of faith from the ledge of self-doubt into the pool of the internet.

Or even worse, telling me that I already know enough to speak on any subject and to start right away and try to pass myself off as an authority figure.

In the end, I decided to fess up and be straight with you as to where I stand and where I would like to go.

There will be more to come in a later article on Ego and how it’s so similar or even synonymous with what we as Muslims know to be ‘Nafs’.

We all at some point in our lives aspire to be someone greater than our current selves. The question is whether we pursue it or not.

Thanks to the internet, as a means, I’m finding now more than ever how to get back to my lifelong passion of writing.

A goal that until the advent of the Internet, seemed like a long shot or a dream, something like becoming a film star or famous musician.

Now it all seems possible and realistic.

The best part is that I can use my love for writing as a means to becoming a better Muslim, husband, father, son and friend (God willing).

 

Conclusion

What are your thoughts? Do you have a dream that you would like to pursue or are currently pursuing?

Do you have any good suggestions for books?

I’ll be posting my reading list on Good Reads as well as showcasing what I’m currently reading.

You can find all of this here on my website (side bar to the right).

I believe we all seek the same outcomes. To be successful, loved and content. More or less.

No matter our backgrounds or religious beliefs, we should all agree to disagree on many things, but also come together and focus on what we do agree on.

If you’re someone who does not believe in a Creator, a quote from Meditations of Marcus Aurelius comes to mind.

“Either it is a well-arranged universe or a chaos huddled together, but still a universe.”

We can all put aside our differences and come together as human beings for the good and betterment of us all.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a dream that you would like to pursue or are currently pursuing?

Do you have any good suggestions for books?

Wishing you much success and happiness. Your brother in Islam and humanity,

Farooq