Planning for the Big Picture
Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, once said, "I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps it's because escape is easier than change."

Escape is no doubt fun. But fundamental change, the kind that can move us forward in life and help us achieve all that we want from it, requires the kind of long-term thinking, planning, and implementation many of us simply want to run away from.

It's neither easy, nor enjoyable. Planning for the big picture often means confronting our faults and failures, as well as being willing to get out of a comfortable pattern of living, even when we know that things can and should be better.

Ramadan offers us the best opportunity in this regard. If we don't already, we can set goals for only this blessed month, so we aren't overwhelmed by making a huge life change. But at the same time, we can instill positive habits and attitudes that, if repeated throughout the blessed month, can change our lives for the better.

For example, I know one sister who never prayed. One Ramadan, she began to do so five times a day, and she hasn't looked back. That was 23 years ago. It took just one Ramadan to instill in her this lifelong habit.

You, too, can set worthy goals this Ramadan, with the hope that they will become lifelong habits. Please take some time out this week, not more than 15 or 20 minutes, and jot down a few things you would like to accomplish during the upcoming month of fasting.

The beginning of the New Year is usually considered a good time to set goals and make resolutions. Ramadan is even better. Since it's for only one month versus one year, it's easier to stick it out and really try to make the effort. The possible benefits: the development of a lifelong good habit, a good deed done in a systematic way, and a sense of accomplishment that can be carried over the rest of the year.

Here are some suggested goals to set in Ramadan 2010:

1. Break your fast with a $1 meal and give the rest to the needy.
Over one billion people worldwide live on $1 a day.

Please see: . That includes a good portion of Muslims who not only spend their days fasting, but break their fasts with less-than-lavish meals, made up of foods like beans, rice, lentils, and bread.

At least three times this Ramadan, try to do Iftar with a $1 meal. It will give you a perspective beyond empathizing with the hungry from dawn to dusk only.

2. Give away something you truly love
Allah reminds us in the Quran: "You shall not attain righteousness until you spend out of what you love (in the way of Allah). Allah knows whatever you spend," (3:92). Also, Prophet Muhammad (saww), was noted to always be generous, and was even more so in Holy Ramadan.

Keeping this in mind, choose something you truly love and are attached to this Ramadan and give it to someone in need. For example, if you had been saving up to buy a personal item - be it a gadget, something nice for your house, or a fun vacation - consider giving away all that money to a charity you trust, a family member or friend struggling financially, or to help cover an ill person's medical bills, for example.

The point of the exercise is to become closer to Allah by sharing with others and reducing our attachment to material things.

3. Console a grieving friend
Grief can take many forms, ranging from the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, illness, or any other hardship. If possible, visit a grieving friend or acquaintance in person, meet for lunch, or at least call. Text messages, tweets, and wall posts just don't cut it when it comes to really hearing someone out and giving the support they need in times of difficulty.

4. Begin one small, sincere, but regular good deed
The Prophet (saww) advised, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even though it were little"

Start one, and only one, small good deed this Ramadan. It could be smiling more if you are a generally more serious type; calling or visiting parents just one more day a week than you usually do; or cooking one meal a week so your spouse has more time to remember Allah. Choose your deed and stick with it.

5. Host an Iftar for the hungry
Polish your guest list this year and include family, friends or neighbors who you know are struggling financially or are truly hungry. Too often, we invite our exclusive clique of people close to us, most of whom don't worry about where their next meal is going to come from, unlike one in 3 families in the world.

This year, expand your social circle and include those who are truly in need. Better yet, invite your "crew" and your new friends together.

6. Give up one, and only one, addiction
This runs the gamut from lattes to Facebook, to video games to chai/caffeine of any kind. The aim is to lessen dependency on those things we don't truly need and remember that we should rely completely on Allah for all things.

7. Tolerate or forgive one bad habit or quirk of a loved one
As we remember Allah's tolerance of our countless faults, this Ramadan - 10 days of which are defined as the "days of forgiveness" - overlook or forgive a specific fault of a loved one. This can be small but annoying habits, like regularly losing the grocery list, forgetting lunch on school days, or perpetually being 15 minutes late.