Did I really try my best?

INsights 024, Friday 23rd September 2022

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Peace be upon you.

Perhaps the most effective question I ask myself to evaluate my actions and make improvements is:

“Did I really try my best?”

I find this powerful because it gets me to think about:

1. My efforts and processes more than the specific outcomes.

2. The source and level of my motivations more than the details of what I achieved.

3. The things that are within my control more than those that are outside of my control.

It also reduces excuses because the question itself is designed to adjust for the barriers and limitations that I may have faced.

If the answer to the question is, “Yes, I did try my best,” then despite the difficulties I had to deal with and regardless of the outcomes, I can take comfort from the famous phrase:

“God does not take someone to task for more than they can bear." Chapter 2, The Cow, Verse 286

The way I see it, imperfections and even apparent failure might be excusable in the eyes of our Lord. But a lack of effort or attention for no obvious reason will be a lot harder to answer for.

If my answer is indeed, “No, I actually didn’t try my best,” at least I’m forced to enter into a root cause analysis, which is a method of problem solving that gets right down to the crux of the issue.

Was it low motivation? If so, why was I being heedless? Why might I have been feeling disconnected?

Usually answers present themselves pretty readily and I can be more alert to getting myself into the zone next time.

Was it a lack of proactivity or insufficient attention to detail? If so, why the laziness or carelessness?

Again, whenever I think carefully and am being honest with myself, things I could do better in future become obvious.

How was your last week?

Why not take some moments now and ask yourself the same question to evaluate how you’ve been performing over the last week?

Here are some areas you can consider:

  • Achieving consistency in my prayers… did I really try my best?
  • Offering heartfelt and focused prayers… did I really try my best?
  • Spending time meaningfully engaging with the Qur’an… did I really try my best?
  • Serving my parents… did I really try my best?
  • Loving and supporting my spouse… did I really try my best?
  • Being there for my children… did I really try my best?
  • Adding value and being as helpful as possible to others… did I really try my best?
  • Looking after my health… did I really try my best?

You get the idea! 🙂

Getting ready for the big day

In the end, all this is to help us prepare for our accountability on the Day of Judgement.

When I spend time thinking about that day, I find it helpful to think of it as a conversation. I imagine that God will ask me certain questions in relation to the things I’ve done or I’m currently thinking of doing and then I try to think about what I might say in response.

Specifically, I imagine Him asking me, “My servant, did you really try your best?”

Now for some actions, I know I won’t be able to say, “Yes.” I might feel guilty or ashamed in relation to them, prompting me to seek forgiveness now and be ready to confess openly when the time comes.

But for a few actions, I hope I will be able to say, “My Lord, I know I made many mistakes during my attempt, and I’m sure I was ignorant of things I probably should have known… but I really did try my best.

I’d like to think that the possibility of me saying this in the next life will be a result of me asking myself the question repeatedly in this life and making positive changes as a result.

And I’d like to think that if God does agree that in certain moments I really did try my best for His sake despite all my flaws, it might just be enough to see me through to the place I hope we’ll all go in the not too distant future. After all...

“Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We will surely give them a good life and reward them according to the best of their actions.” Chapter 16, The Bee, Verse 97

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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing.

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