Driven by our spiritual beliefs, we Muslims demonstrated unrelenting dedication, commitment, and sincerity for the full month of Ramadan. We pushed to achieve more in reward by setting and keeping to a discipline without fail for the consecutive 30 days. For most of us, procrastination became a non-issue. We endured physical strain through long prayers, hunger and thirst during the day, and little and interrupted sleep schedules. All in all, we shirked little in stepping out of our comfort zones and though a positive mental attitude, focus and self motivation, not for a moment any of these stresses deterred us from attaining our spiritual goals.
Believe it or not - what most of us demonstrated for the full month of Ramadan were traits required to attain personal excellence. People have accomplished more, tackled and resolved the most difficult problems, and become effective leaders by espousing these traits of excellence. Why then, one wonders, do a majority of Muslims fail to achieve the same levels of excellence in other areas of their lives? Why is the plight of Muslims today only mediocre at best? Why do so many Muslims sincere and passionate in their prayers, fasting and other rituals snap out of the spirit of Islam in other aspects of their lives?
A chasm obviously exists between how we successfully step up to excel in our religious rituals and how we otherwise choose not to do so in other aspects of our lives. Because if we habitually lived by the same traits of excellence, we would excel more in our careers, learning and education, dealings with people, enjoy exemplary family lives, possess great health and healthy relationships, and dramatically improve all aspects of our lives. If each one of us did their part to drive toward excellence, the plight of Muslims the world over will be much better than what it is today.
The answer to this "disconnect" lies deep in our minds and is mostly attributed to our beliefs. Our beliefs ingrained in our psyche, whether spiritual or otherwise, provide us with feelings of certainty and drive us to take the right actions. So, while the strength of our spiritual beliefs drives us to take the right actions and consequently to excel on spiritual fronts (one proof of which we saw in Ramadan), lack of such strength in beliefs related to other areas of our lives keeps us from moving forward. Therefore, when we hold weak beliefs (or none at all) related to our desired actions, we only do the very minimal to get by - a far cry from what is needed to excel in those areas. As a result, we struggle in our relationships, have lower standards of education, pursue mediocre professional careers, struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and so on.
Beliefs propel us to take action that we otherwise would struggle with. For example, how many chain smokers do you know of who can quit smoking for hours during Ramadan, which they are not able to do otherwise? How many brides and grooms do you know of who were able to lose weight a few weeks before their wedding that they otherwise could not do earlier? How many cardiac patients do you know of who were able to alter their diet plans and healthy lifestyles permanently after they endured a serious heart attack? In all such cases, something changes in their minds that make them take full-fledged action without fail. That is the power of beliefs.
In changing behaviors, forcing oneself to act without believing works only for the short term. Can you recall how many times have you forced yourself to get into the habit of doing something but reverted to your old way of doing things? How many times have you forced your children to do something only to see no change in their behavior for the long run? Quran teaches us too that simply the act of praying for example does not mean much unless one is grounded in the right beliefs. Consider this verse in the Quran:
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces towards the East or the West (in prayers), but righteousness is the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets. [Surah alBaqarah (2):177].
So, if you have failed to see certain results in any area of your life that is because you must address your underlying beliefs related to what you have been trying to change. Read my article, "Forming of Beliefs." Simply forcing yourself to act for the moment can get you only so far.