Lessons of Life
Set Your Priorities Right!
Life Is Not A Mess, We Make It
Bring God Into Your Life To Succeed!
(M. Javed Naseem)
Life is a big test of our organizational abilities and management skills. It challenges our patience and steadfastness to the limits. Only the cool-minded are able to handle these affairs wisely and neatly. We make mistakes when we are mad or upset; and we make wise decisions when sanity prevails.
Life is good and full or happiness or life is miserable and full of problems, it all depends on the choices we make in life. Sometimes, there are not many options available and the situation requires a wise decision. Those are the situations that test our ability. We can turn a ‘miserable’ life into a ‘bearable’ one if only we could set our priorities right. We should know how to shuffle things around and that shuffling would give us a little more room to play – thus getting us out of misery.
If we use all our intelligence, education, experience, expertise and skills to figure out the purpose of our life in this world, life would be much easier and less painful. The study of the Quran will unfold before us the purpose of life on this planet. Allah says:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلإِنسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ
“I have only created Jinns and men,
that they may serve Me.”
Allah, the Almighty, is our Creator and He created us to serve Him. That’s the purpose of our life described very clearly and in very simple terms. As a matter of fact, serving Allah might include a million things. So, simply put, we are here in this world to obey the commands of Allah. Now, from these commands we figure out that this world is a big test for us and we are here to prepare ourselves for the next life in the Hereafter. Life in this world is temporary while the life in the Hereafter would be eternal. We are in a traveling phase and we should make use of all the facilities and elements that can be beneficial or helpful in our preparation for the Hereafter.
We are on a journey and this world is a stop-over (or rest area), not the destination. We should use it for refueling, for short-term resting, recharging, energizing, picking up things that we need for the trip, discharging surplus baggage, and move on.
One thing is certain that the Hereafter is for those who believe in it; for those who believe in meeting with their Creator on the Day of Judgment. In other words, it is the Faith (their belief) that’ll become their shield against the Hellfire. Allah asks:
يَامَعْشَرَ ٱلْجِنِّ وَٱلإِنْسِ أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ رُسُلٌ مِّنْكُمْ يَقُصُّونَ
عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِى وَيُنذِرُونَكُمْ لِقَآءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَـٰذَا قَالُواْ
شَهِدْنَا عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِنَا وَغَرَّتْهُمُ ٱلْحَيَاةُ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَشَهِدُواْ
عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ كَافِرِينَ
"O you assembly of jinns and men! Came there not
unto you messengers from amongst you, setting
forth unto you My signs, and warning you of the
meeting of this Day of yours?" They will say: "We
bear witness against ourselves." It was the life of
this world that deceived them. So against themselves
will they bear witness that they rejected Faith.”
In the following verse, Allah reiterates that we should not ignore His signs and should pay heed to the warnings. We should not forget the purpose of our creation. Otherwise, we would become the fuel of Hellfire.
وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيراً مِّنَ ٱلْجِنِّ وَٱلإِنْسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ
لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا
وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَآ أُوْلَـٰئِكَ كَٱلأَنْعَامِ
بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـٰئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْغَافِلُونَ
“Many are the jinns and men We have made for Hell.
They have hearts wherewith they understand not;
eyes wherewith they see not; and ears wherewith
they hear not. They are like cattle, nay more
misguided, for they are heedless (of warning).”
So much for the purpose of life! Now, let’s talk about our handling of life (or the affairs of life) in this world. When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24-hours in a day is not enough, and when mismanagement in life becomes a permanent source of tension and stress, remember the story of the jar with golf balls and coffee. The story has so many versions on the internet. Here’s the original one.
The Wisdom In Golf Balls
How To Become More Mindful Of What Really Matters
(Excerpts from the book ‘The Now Effect’, by Elisha Goldstein, PhD)
A professor stood before a philosophy class holding an empty jar. As the students took their seats, she began filling the jar with golf balls. When they reached the top, she asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then took a bag of pebbles and poured them into the jar, and they made their way into the spaces between the golf balls. Again she asked the students if the jar was full, and they agreed that it was.
But the professor had another trick up her sleeve. She brought out a bag of sand and proceeded to pour the grains into the jar, filling up more of the remaining space. Again the question came: “It’s full now, correct?” The answer was a resounding “Yes.”
The professor then took a sip of her coffee and dumped the rest into the jar, filling up spaces that no one thought were there.
“So what does it mean?” the professor asked.
A witty student raised his own coffee mug and asked, “There’s always room for coffee?”
The professor, along with the rest of the class, had a good laugh. Then she said:
“Imagine that this jar represents the space in your life. The golf balls represent what’s most important — family, children, health, friends, things that you’re passionate about — the things that at the end of your life you would be glad you paid attention to.”
“The pebbles are essential but less important, such as your house, your car, maybe your job.”
“The sand is all of the small stuff in life that we’re trying not to sweat.
“The coffee, well, you already answered that one.”
The professor continued, “There is room for all of this only if you put the golf balls in first. If you put the sand or pebbles in first, there won’t be room for the golf balls. The way we pay attention to our lives works the same way. If you spend your attention or mental space sweating the small stuff in life, you won’t have the capacity to pay attention to what is most important to you.”
This is a classic story that speaks to us becoming more mindful of what really matters. I do the same exercise with my clients and students. Why? Thoughts of what is most valuable fly in and out of our minds all the time, and we don’t see the space between our awareness and these thoughts. This exercise provides a physical representation of thinking about what really matters and simultaneously makes us aware of the space in which we have the opportunity to choose a response. The practice of intentionally paying attention to what matters primes the mind to become more aware of what is meaningful.
The biggest question at this stage of the process is, what in life really matters to you? Is it your relationship to your partner, paying attention to your children, taking care of your body, sharpening your mind, being kind to yourself or others, making room for play, or living with greater ease?
Paying attention to the things that you value in life is fundamental to your happiness. We know that our minds have an inclination to follow the path of least resistance, so we need a compass to help us intentionally come back to our priorities.
Did we learn any lesson from this story?
Yes. If we put Allah (remembrance of Allah) in the empty jar of our live, we’ll have plenty of room in the jar to fill it up with lots of other things.
But if we put other worldly or material things first and fill up the jar of life, there’ll be no more room left to put Allah in our lives. We would be too busy to handle and shuffle others things that will never leave us in peace and tranquility.
It’s up to us to make the right choices and keep the balance in life!
Moral of the story:
Don’t fill up your life with sand! Set your priorities right!
Fill up your life with God first!