One of my teachers whom I attended his halaqa is also a Psychology professor, with a PhD. He’s a licensed Psychologist. One time we were talking about a topic that is very popular amongst students – the topic of stress.
Now, just as an aside, stress is not inherently bad. For example, you might have heard of the fight-or-flight response. You need stress to trigger the danger alarm in your head, to trigger the fight-or-flight response. You need stress to survive. But just like cholesterol, there is good stress and there is bad stress.
Here, I am referring to bad stress specifically.
Back to the story, my teacher and I were talking about stress. He told me that one of the main reasons that students are stressed out is because they are worried about things that they cannot control. They preoccupy themselves with things that are beyond their capacity.
Let me give you an example.
One time I visited my previous high school. I met my juniors there and one of them came to me for some advice. She told me how stressed out she was. This girl was scared out of her mind. She had this big exam coming up and she’s already scared of the results. The exam was months away, but she was already worried sick that she might not get the results that she wanted. She cried, in front of me. Her reaction is understandable because that exam is very important.
Though I understand why she reacted that way, but her reaction was not necessary.
Why? Because we can’t control the outcome. She was worried about the outcome, the exam results – the grade that she’s gonna get at the end of it all. That is something beyond our control.
What is within our control is the effort that we put in right now, and we should focus more on that than the end results.
Worrying about something that we can’t control is what our Prophet advised us not to do. You know the “if” attitude? For example, worrying about things that have passed. “Oh, if only I hadn’t done that.” Or “if only I had done this.” And so on. That is something that the Prophet discouraged. Similarly, worrying about the outcome – “what if I don’t get that result?” “what if I don’t get the job?”
The Prophet said this “if” is the door that Shaytan opens. It’s one of his tricks – preoccupying us with things that we can’t do anything about.
What the Prophet taught us is that, we focus on now. What are you doing now? What are the efforts that you’re putting in now?
That doesn’t mean that we can’t have a vision for the future. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have high aspirations. No. The Prophet also teaches us that when you ask for Jannah, ask for the highest one – Jannatul Firdaus. So yes, have high hopes and aspirations. Aim high.
But don’t busy ourselves daydreaming about it. Instead, busy ourselves with working towards it.
Busy ourselves with the effort and not the results. The effort is what we can control but not the results. It’s a good thing too because Allah doesn’t judge us based on the outcome, but He judges us based on our efforts.
Allah said in the Quran:
[And it will be said to the inhabitants of Paradise], "Indeed, this is for you a reward, and your effort has been appreciated."
(Surah al-Insan 76: 22)
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