Stay Positive This Ramadan

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.’ – Henry Ford

What is motivation?

Is it the praise, the acknowledgement of a job well done; is it the feeling of well-being spurred by self-awareness…?

While definitions set forth by experts quantify it as a characteristic that defines goal oriented behaviour, there is that niggling feeling that it is not a prerogative enjoyed by all. For, even those who have adopted the behaviour that underscores motivation, will have moments of lapses. Motivation has its own parameters to stay alive, even when it is the very reason for our every action.

But ask a lay person about his/her understanding of motivation and there is bound to be a reference or two to praise. Everyone, apparently, thrives in an ambience that is made positive with complementing words. Conversely, an absence of praise could also be quoted as a reason for a lack of motivation or a general apathy to things that should matter.

But again, motivation is not a one-time affair. It is an everyday trait that needs replenishment.

While staying motivated or finding ways to keep chanting the ‘positive’ mantra is not as easy as it sounds, the following pages will present tips and guidelines from motivational and inspirational speakers who have imbibed the trait to help people seeking the solace of motivation in their lives.


Believe in Yourself

Believe in yourself and ignore what people think of you

“I was an extremely shy person and had no communication skills whatsoever. I also had very low self-esteem, which made me isolate myself from the rest of the world for years. Later on, I went through very difficult circumstances, which forced me to change… One of the incidents that changed my life and moulded me to who I am today, was the snakebite in 1998 – it put me in a coma for four days. After that, by the grace of Almighty Allah, I was able to structure the plan for the change I saw myself in…” states Hatim Harith Al Abdissalaam, tracing his initiation into the world of motivational speaking.

Over the course of ten years, which paved the path to his celebrated status as a motivational speaker, he focused his attention on reading specialised books, practicing public speaking, socialising, volunteering at charitable organisations, goal setting and, as he puts it, “letting go of negative friends.”

Experience has since taught him the importance of believing in people. “I have realised that the most important element to build people’s confidence is believing in them and giving them an opportunity to shine,” he maintains, adding that he strongly believes that everyone has a God given talent, which needs to be explored.

According to him, one major roadblock on this path is a lack of confidence, which afflicts majority of people. “It is driven by many factors. It starts off very early; for example, when your parents don’t really believe in you or don’t see you as a special star and dictate who you should be, rather than accepting what you really want to be,” he explains, adding to the list the education system, which does not recognise the different abilities among students.

What adds to the problem, in addition to the differences in skills, is the all-consuming focus on high school results. “Students are made to believe that high school results are final judgments of life – if he/she doesn’t do well in school then he/she is doomed and considered to be a total failure. This continues through to college where students are forced into specialisations that do not conform to their interests and they end up working in places that do not allow them to become creative or confident to prosper…” states Hatim.

However, there is always a way to stay self-motivated. “Believe in yourself and ignore what people think of you… Trust me, the moment you discover your real abilities and the potential of your brain, you will never look back or slow down,” is his advice.

This could be put to practice during the season of Ramadan, he maintains, providing the following guideline to get it right: “The month of Ramadan is a blessing and it’s a month that we should all wait for anxiously; it’s a month of discipline, where you test the limits of your physical and mental abilities. It’s the only time where you take control of your life in terms of desires and temptations. Only those who really want to prosper and grow will utilise this month fully, while others give excuses to do nothing, claiming that they are fasting and tired.

“I personally put in triple the effort during Ramadan, compared to other months as I really enjoy to push myself to the limit and test my durability – physically and mentally.

“People set their goals at the beginning of every new year and most of the time they can’t really achieve even 40 percent of their goals. I set my goals in the month of Ramadan, which forces me to be disciplined and focused on my goals.

“I have two full time jobs during Ramadan – working six hours in the oil and gas industry and two hours at the radio station, every single day, in addition to giving public lectures, teaching my kids, exercising and performing religious rituals…not to forget the weekends where I fill up my schedule and don’t allow any room for being unproductive. Yet, I feel I have only utilised 50 percent of my capabilities. If I can do it, you all can do it better than me…”

Hatim Abdissalaam is the ER Officer, SD Project Implementation at Oman LNG; he is an active member of The Islamic Information Centre – Grand Mosque, lecturer at The Shariaa College, radio and television host and trainer at the Ministry of Health


Know Yourself


Confidence stems from self-awareness and an emotionally balanced approach to life

“I used to stutter as a child and, as mysterious as life could be, I think we take our early challenges as a calling to overcome and excel in,” states Mutassem Al Sharji*, founder of the social enterprise Enriching Experience, who fused that calling with his love for gaining and sharing knowledge to reach his current status. “What has helped shape my career is my constant desire to practice what I preach and be humble enough to admit ignorance, instead of conning people with any intellectual pretence,” he adds.

He follows an ‘inside out’ approach while coaching people to gain a higher level of self-awareness and assisting them in developing relevant strategies to enhance their potential on a personal and organisational level. It was his fascination for the stark differences in people’s achievements, despite sharing the same environment, that led him to explore the domains of psychology, philosophy, social sciences and economics to find the right balance for personal growth and self-awareness.

In the following interview, he highlights the importance of seeking inspiration from within and building on the confidence level through self-awareness.

As a Life Coach, what do you see as the most important factor in building confidence among people?

Confidence is of two types: technique-based confidence and character-based confidence.

The first could be learnt through techniques of body language and how one presents oneself. It works temporarily, but it is not a permanent solution simply because it is superficial and could easily get shaken depending on circumstances.

The second form of confidence comes from a higher level of self-awareness and the courage to be authentic. Hence, I would say a person must continuously strive to be more self-aware and develop the capability of being emotionally balanced towards other people’s praise or criticism. Being self-aware, emotionally balanced and having the courage to live authentically is confidence.

Do you think there is a general lack of confidence among people?

Confidence is a result of living a fulfilling life with clarity and in resonation with oneself. It is just a by-product of living authentically and is not an aim in itself. I think people need to be more aware of their real priorities and strive to live according to them; not live according to the expectations of other people.

What are some of the stumbling blocks that come in the way of general progress?

First, some family members and friends might think you are crazy for taking a path less trodden.

Second, the amount of hard work you need to put in, every single day, to excel is tremendous.

Third, internal challenges and feelings of temptations to settle for less and stop striving.

How do you help people address issues that concern self-growth?

I help them develop a higher level of self-awareness and identify what it is they really want from their most authentic vantage point. And then, based on that, I assist them in developing a different perception about the issue, which, consequently, enables them to overcome it easier.

What are some of the challenges you face as a Life Coach?

To be expected to be a perfect human being – which is impossible and it is not something I’m striving for.

To be expected to be positive and optimistic all the time, which is again impossible. I believe in balance and every person has both, positive and negative traits.

What would you advice people seeking motivation in their lives?

  1. Know yourself continuously
  2. Strive to be yourself at all times
  3. Count your blessings every single day

How can the season of Ramadan help people get replenished, mentally and emotionally, for the year ahead?

It is a great opportunity to reflect and reconnect with ourselves especially due to the changes in lifestyle and working hours. It is a perfect time to develop new habits such as meditation and reflection. Also, it is a perfect time to get rid of bad habits.

Plan for the month wisely and act on that plan with a soldier’s discipline!

*Mutassem is a business consultant, life coach and karate coach. He has delivered/facilitated more than 600 hours’ worth of training and impacted the lives of more than 2,000 people in more than 20 different organisations.


Self-Love and Self-Growth

Building confidence is something that needs daily nourishment

I grew up with severe body image issues. I was always a chubby girl and faced a lot of flak for it while growing up. I now have the confidence to talk about it after a lot of inner work and self-love; but way back then, I sought a lot of ‘unhealthy’ ways to substitute that lack of self-worth. Over the years, as I began to work on myself, I discovered two things: one, that my self-worth does not depend on what others think of me; two, that there are so many ailing hearts out there, all suffering on the inside and never having the guts to talk about it or even acknowledge it… That is when I realised I could make a difference. If I can go from the awkward, misplaced and teased girl to becoming a motivational speaker, counselling psychologist and healer who talks to literally hundreds of people on a daily basis, anybody can. I am proof that we need not let our past dictate our future. We create the beautiful life we want with our own self-worth,” states Zeenat Merchant Syal*, a practicing counsellor, psychologist, spiritual counsellor, motivational speaker, naturopath, holistic healer and writer.

According to her, it all boils down to self-confidence, which she classifies as a daily requirement. To emphasise it further, she quotes Zig Ziglar, American author and motivational speaker, who said, ‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.

In her 15 years of experience in the field, she has observed people feeling less confident for a variety of reasons. “It could stem for a harsh word from a colleague or friend; it could also stem from past experiences that left feelings of embarrassment, a lack of self-love and, most of all the comparison bug,” she notes.

In the following text, she addresses issues of confidence, self-growth and the importance of nourishing heart and mind:


Society, in general, has these neat boxes with labels, which it expects everyone to fit into. The instant a person does not fit into those boxes, he/she is considered a misfit and becomes the focal point of all things negative. Today, the field of arts is given its due respect, but way back then, parents (some even now) loved to tell their kids to grow up to become a doctor or engineer to savour success. Children are brought up with the thought that their self-worth is dependent on A+ grades… Instead, parents must nurture their children’s talents, whatever they may be, and allow them to blossom into confident adults who can then actually make a huge difference in society. Lack of self-confidence comes from not believing in your own abilities, and that belief can only be developed by loving who you are completely and having a supportive environment.

The biggest stumbling block in realising this is procrastination. The level of self-doubt that comes with every hurdle we face on the way to success is the cause for this procrastination. We put off the things that we need to put our energy in, get completely immersed in the mundane trifles of life and then blame not having time or energy to work on that big idea or dream that we know is what we are meant to do. Basically, we become our own worst enemies.


The best kind of help is self-help. Self-growth is nothing but fine tuning yourself to become the shining diamond you were always meant to be. The challenge we all face is moving the rubble from around that diamond, so that it can surface and shine. That is where people like me often come in.


Motivation is an ongoing process, a behaviour that you can nurture and expand, but motivation cannot be forced. If you are ready to live a meaningful life, then here are two powerful strategies to pump up your motivation to start acting on the goals that are important to you and your life.

Have a morning motivation ritual: Staying motivated is a daily practice. If you don’t start your day right, it won’t end right either. So have a morning motivation ritual.

Build Your Potential: Motivation flows from the heart, it does not rain down upon you. To stay motivated you need to first link to what you feel strongly about. Tap into an idea that excites you and fires up your imagination. Allow this vision to provide you with a higher purpose. For example, instead of just losing weight with a restrictive and boring diet, you could focus on the health benefits of losing weight. It’s not about the weight that you will lose, but about the health, strength and empowerment that you will gain that will keep you moving forward. Whenever you are feeling demotivated, set your sights to the stars and focus on the pleasure of the ideas that arouse your passion.

Spiritual growth during Ramadan

Ramadan is a month of spiritual growth. I often think of it as a month for ‘reset’. In fact the energy of this month is so pure it can make miracles happen if we utilise this time truly well. On a physical level, fasting helps detox the body if we open and close the fast with pure unadulterated whole foods, instead of fried and complex foods.

And since food or the pursuit of the stomach is not that important in Ramadan, as it is all year round, we have more time to nurture our soul and grow on that front. We can immerse ourselves in helping the less fortunate, praying more and connecting with the Divine. Kindness, love and compassion can all be ways we can reach purity of spirit. When we help others we heal too.

During fasting,   we attain a level of patience, self-control and understanding of our body and mind, which can help us grow exponentially. Smokers can easily stop smoking during this time, losing weight is far easier, focusing on the important rather than the mundane is all part of the growth process that Ramadan brings.

When we can reset our bodies, our minds and our hearts during this pure month, almost any goal that we set for ourselves can be achieved. The year ahead only feels brighter, because we are going ahead with a pure cleansed spirit.

Zeenat Merchant Syal is the founder, writer and online counsellor of the website/blog:


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