1) one's intention must be true;
2) one's goal must be true;
3) the means one takes must be true; and
4) the way one takes the means must be true.
Explaining the Four Keys to Success
1. True Intention
A true intention is for one’s action to be sincerely for the sake of Allah.
Allah Most High says, “They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their religion sincerely His.” [Qur’an, 98.5]
And, “Whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord.” [Qur’an, 18.110]
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Actions are by intentions, and each person shall only have that which they intended.” [Related by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Umar (Allah be pleased with him)]
Imam Ibn al-Mubarak (Allah have mercy on him) said, “How often is a small action made tremendous through its intention, and how often is a tremendous action rendered small through its intention.” [Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala, 8.400;
2. True Goals
Having a true goal entails that one’s goal is something that is pleasing to Allah, in accordance to the guidance of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) that has been explained to us in the Shariah.
A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Anyone who acts in way not in accordance with this affair of ours shall have it rejected.” [Related by Muslim]
3. True Means
Taking true means entails several things:
a) one take the most effective outward means to accomplish one’s goals; and
b) one take the most effective inward means, including complete reliance upon Allah, and ensuring that one’s action is in accordance with the general guidance of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and any specific sunnas related to one’s action.
4. True Way of Taking the Means
~Allama Shabbir Usmani's commentary on Sahih Muslim
Source: Sunnipath Q & A