You don’t need to have it all figured out
You don't need to have it all figured out
I’ve heard and had multiple conversations with peers over the past few years in relation to having a fully-fledged plan, a direction in life, and a well-defined vision with a complete understanding of one’s role in the world and the impact they want to leave behind.
The outcome of the conversation always seem to be the same. The other person feels incredibly stressed out, out of their depth and like a failure with little to no clarity on what it is they are doing.
I find it all quite sad if I’m being honest. I think the world we live in now pushes this idea that a person must make an impact, have it all figured out and work in a manner to increase one’s own sense of worth in order to find success. These assumptions naturally filter itself into our practice and perception of Islam and we end up with Muslims, too seriously concerned about their ‘religious impact’ on the world.
But if you’re between the ages of 17 – 35, I honestly don’t think it matters all too much. I genuinely believe that between these ages what’s more important is to gain a deep understanding not of one’s need to create an impact in the world, but that of one’s place in the world in relation to their Lord. What He wants, loves, desires, is pleased with, and angered by. I think this age is an age where doing activities and laying out one’s impact strategy is not all too important in comparison to becoming a wholesome human being. Building one’s ibādah (worship), character, experiences, knowledge, understanding, skillset – all should take priority.
It appears from my limited reading of history that greatness and true responsibility announces itself upon people much later in their lives. Around the age of 40, where a person is holistic enough to go out there and know with clarity what it is exactly they are to do, where to do it, and where they want to go. Such a sunnah appears to be the sunnah of all great men and women. Where their formative years shaped their character and competencies and the latter years allowed them to shoulder true responsibility.
I think us young people beat ourselves too much over things beyond our control and are slightly too arrogant to recognise how shallow and incomplete we also are. We have often yet to live life completely. Lives which are meant to be a culmination of so many emotions and experiences we need to come to know in order to be able to be those who can know what is right, what is easy, and what must be done. We need to learn and experience the loves of marriage and parenthood, the grief of death, the burial of our parents, the happiness and joy of age, the sadness and anxiety age brings with it; the responsibility of family, children, work and religion, and the accountability which comes with it. In the absence of such things and more, I don’t see how a person under the age of 35 can want to or even assume they have it all figured out.
Finally, sometimes when we become so obsessed with figuring it all out, we inadvertently create within our own heart a little God of ourselves which we begin to place trust hope, reliance, aspirations, desire and all necessary characteristics of the heart unto it. The actions of the heart must all go back to Allah. Similarly, if a person spends so much time figuring it all out and attributing it to themselves what space is left for Allah? Build plans, have dreams, make goals but let Allah be the One who Wills it into being and let yourself be in submission to that will.
There are two pieces of advice two murrabis (mentors) of mine once said. The first was that although plans and goals are noble and should be set, don’t become rigid on them so much so that you don’t allow life to play its hand. Learn to be flexible with one’s goals and don’t become rigid in areas which may not be within your control. For rigidity without some flexibility opens a trajectory for a downward spiral of misery, especially if the ‘plan’ doesn’t go to plan. And the second advice was that in the battle of the hearts and minds, the heart must always be firm. Its firmness is built upon trust, reliance, hope, fear, courage and all other lofty values deeply connected back to Allah, such that no matter what happens in life there is nothing that causes it to waver. And the mind, let it worry and plan and think for its role is to adapt and overcome.
Basically, you don’t need to have it all figured out.
By Enam Ahmod