Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, to everyone who celebrates!
The month of Ramadan impacts everyone in Malaysia. Ramadan bazaars selling all manner of treats were available nationwide, for “buka puasa” or breaking of the fast. And often, even those not obligated to fast join in with their Muslim friends to enjoy the food on offer.
The fasting month comes to an end with the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Many people head back to their hometowns for festivities. Some may also make plans for getaways to vacation spots with their families. The mass exodus from Kuala Lumpur usually leaves the capital city bereft of its usual hustle and bustle.
By and large, Malaysians love festive seasons. Of course, there are quite a few celebrations each year on account of the multicultural nature of our country. And, the biggest of them all is Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Even though I do not personally celebrate this festival, I have always enjoyed reveling in it. From attending breaking of fast dinners with friends and clients, to being invited to open-houses during the celebrations; Ramadan is a month that is significant.
It is also really interesting that if you reflect on the inner significance of the obligations during the month of Ramadan, it tells you a lot about life and living.
I thought about what lessons could be learnt from this month, for work.
The first lesson is that refraining from eating or drinking anything from “Fajar”, the prayer that marks dawn, till “Maghrib” the prayer that marks dusk, the Ramadan month teaches you that you need a heightened sense of self-control to succeed.
To not eat, and especially to not drink any liquids, for such a long period of time in a tropical climate like Malaysia, requires tremendous discipline.
Being successful at anything, including your work, has this need for self-restraint as a non-negotiable criterion. At work, you need to exhibit discipline to stay focused to complete your tasks and your duties.
Being self-controlled ensures that you behave in an acceptable way at the workplace. It also helps you connect and adhere to the rules and regulations of your organisation.
Well-ordered employees are liked and appreciated by their superiors, but also by co-workers. In my experience, people who are disciplined are not only successful professionally, but also in their personal lives.
This is the first lesson from the month of Ramadan that can be learnt.
The next lesson that this fasting months teaches is empathy. Here’s an example.
A few hundred metres away from my home is the famed Taman Tun Dr Ismail Ramadan Bazaar. Each year, over one hundred pop-up food stalls are erected to sell various “buka-puasa” treats.
Every evening from about 3pm to 7pm, the bazaar is heaving with people from all over town, coming to get their food for the evening breaking of their fast. While we all enjoy the variety of scrumptious offerings, the traffic becomes a complete nightmare.
This neighbourhood of TTDI is renowned for its restaurants, bistros and bars. And one of the biggest banes for the residents here, which causes tremendous distress, is the lack of parking spaces, and the ensuing insufferable double-parking of cars.
Our neighbourhood’s active social media pages are usually flooded with rants and complaints about inconsiderate people who randomly park their vehicles all over the place.
However, every year during the fasting month, I notice that even though there is a multifold increase in the parking problems, most residents are pretty patient and have empathy for their fellow Malaysians.
Empathy is your ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experience of others. It is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.
Everyone does this really well during the month of Ramadan.
At your workplace, empathy can show a deep respect for your co-workers. It indicates that you care. For leaders, an empathic leadership style makes everyone feel like a team. This increases productivity, morale and loyalty.
Empathy is a powerful tool for anyone wanting results in life. And this is the second lesson from Ramadan.
The third lesson I gleaned from the fasting month is about gratitude.
This month is a time for introspection and reflection. Muslims are to reflect upon their actions, and conduct, as well as being appreciative and having gratitude towards all that they have, which others in need, may not have.
This is arguably the most powerful significance of the month.
Over the past two decades, there is a body of research suggesting that companies that practice gratitude and appreciation in systematic ways show an increase in the levels of engagement of their employees.
The evidence indicates that gratitude and appreciation contribute to the kind of workplace environments where employees actually want to come to work, and don’t feel like cogs in a machine.
So do remember that discipline, empathy, and gratitude are the hallmarks of the month of Ramadan; and they are also vital components for your success at work, and in life.
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Maaf Zahir dan Batin.
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”