Think like a Monk draws on Jay Shetty’s own experience as a monk in the Vedic tradition and shows us how we can release our potential and live a more fulfilled life. If you’re looking to overcome negative thoughts; remove bad habits; reduce your level of stress or live a happier and more fulfilled life, this book is perfect for you!
Get the book here: Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty
Key Idea #1 – Negativity is all around us and we must avoid it.
Negativity seems to be all around us. The train is too busy, the traffic is getting worse, your co-worker seems off with you, the list is endless.
But, being surrounded by negativity can have some unwanted side effects…
One of them is the subsequent outlook on life we get because of those negative thoughts. When we are feeling down it is easy to think the world is against us and as a result, we can act out in selfish ways. Now, do not get me wrong, whilst bad things do happen, it is important to try and avoid developing a “victimhood mentality” whereby you think everything is set-up against you. Shetty shares some interesting research which suggests that people who feel “wronged” and adopt a victimhood mentality are more likely to feel entitled to whatever they want, and as a result act in their own self-interest to the detriment of others.
If the negative mentality spills over into groups and communities, the negative effects can be even more severe. According to multiple sources of research included by Shetty, it has been observed that we are hard-wired to conform. If a group has the wrong answer to something right, we are more likely to change our own opinions to match the group in a bid to fit in. Whilst this trait can be very powerful if you find yourself surrounded by positive and driven people, toxic cultures should be avoided at all costs as toxicity will breed more toxicity.
Key Idea #2 – We can use fear to our advantage.
We all have so much to offer the world, however, fear and anxiety disconnects us from our abilities and stops us from fulfilling our potential.
Part of the problem lies in the fact we have negative connotations to fear. Retorts like “scaredy-cat” or being teased for being scared are all things which contribute to us thinking of fear as something negative and to avoid completely, rather than a tool to help us identify risks and opportunities.
No matter how “strong” we become, the truth is we will never live without fear. However, fear is not the problem. The issue lies in how we react to it. Fear isn’t a negative emotion designed to stop us in our tracks; it is instead a warning flag to tell us something is wrong and we need to put solutions in place quick.
We can either use fear to immobilize us or energize us. A great example from the book is the story of Alex Honnold, the first person to ever climb Freerider – a nearly 3,000ft ascent within Yosemite National Park – with only ropes. Whilst the thought of undertaking such a task would scare most of us, Honnold’s response was insightful and something we can all learn from – “People talk about trying to suppress fear, I look at it differently, I practice again and again until it’s not scary anymore”.
I think this is a great piece of advice, don’t see fear as something which is telling you not to do something, see it as a sign that you need to practice until you cannot get it wrong! Plus, the things we should fear aren’t the things that might happen, it’s the things which won’t happen if we don’t face our fears.
So, if you find yourself worried about an exam, study more until you cannot get it wrong. If you find yourself worried about an interview, learn as much as you can about the company as possible! As Sun Tzu says “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”. Use your fear to become the victorious warrior, don’t ignore it to become the defeated one!
Key Idea #3 – Happiness comes from within and asking yourself “why”.
In this day and age with everyone’s success being plastered all over social media, it can be easy to get carried away with thinking that external factors like money, cars and success will bring us happiness, but this is only an illusion.
No matter how much we accumulate, our search is never usually for a specific thing – say a certain amount of money or that dream job – it’s the feeling it gives us instead.
Whilst that new successful job might feel great during the moment, the novelty will eventually wear off and everything will go back to normal. Whether you made the right choice will depend on how you feel inside not long after obtaining what you were looking to obtain. You can find a great video which explains that feeling here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJNh_A-LlvA&ab_channel=Goalcast
To be truly happy you need to achieve something which is internally important to you. It has to be something which you’ve wanted because of deep thought about yourself, instead of what other’s have told you what you need.
The best way to understand what will make you truly happy is to dig deep into the things which currently make you unhappy and to ask the simple question of why.
Let’s imagine you aren’t happy because you don’t feel as if you make enough money…
The first place to start is to ask yourself why don’t you feel as if you have enough money?
You might suggest that you want to be able to travel the world and see places.
It turns out that you see people online doing it and you want to do it as well.
You feel as if that’s what you are meant to be doing because your weekends aren’t currently fulfilling.
What at first seems like a general wish for more money soon uncovers deeper wants and desires regarding having more fulfilling weekends. The thing which will make you happy isn’t more money, it’s to have a fulfilling weekend, which is possible in many ways without needing to spend thousands!
Key Idea #4 – Find something you love and live it.
Work is an important part of life not only for sustenance but also fulfilment. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you spend your time working on something which is not only worthwhile but also something which makes you happy and provides value to others.
Monks call this your “Dharma”. It’s when your natural talents and passions connect with what the universe needs and whatever you’re doing becomes your purpose in life.
If you want a happy life, you need to be living your dharma.
An easier way to understand this is by this simple formula:
Passion + Expertise + Usefulness = Dharma
So, have a long hard think about not only what you like but also what provides value. If you find it you should seek to make this your living as it’s the most likely route to feeling fulfilled.
If you can’t try your hardest to find it. You might have to put up with things you don’t want to do until you can finally live it but it will be worth it.
But also remember: Your dharma is your responsibility. Nobody is going to give you a free pass and build that perfect life for you, you need to build it yourself. Get out there, meet the right people to help you with what you want to do and make the right decisions which will put you on the right path. When you find out what your purpose is in life, you might need to fight for it!
Key Idea #5 – Routines can help us perform better.
There’s a saying from Jim Rohn which goes along the lines of “The distance between dreams and reality is discipline”. It’s okay to dream, but if you want those dreams to actually happen you need to put in the work and earn it.
This is where having a solid routine is important, it not only ensures you put in the time you need to in order to work towards what you want, but it also helps to streamline your life and enable you to forget about making trivial decisions everyday and instead focus on the more important ones.
According to Shetty, the best place to start with developing a positive routine is to have a consistent wake-up time. In addition to making sure you wake up at a consistent time each day, he also suggests trying to wake-up an hour earlier than usual to give yourself a head start on the day and carry that momentum throughout. When you give yourself that bit more time you will find your mind is more free from stress, you won’t rush as much and as a result, are less likely to make mistakes.
On top of getting a good nights sleep, you should build your routine around what you are looking to do. If you want to run a marathon, make sure you have a consistent schedule where you train! Don’t leave it to luck and feeling, instead plan everything out and stick to it. You’re more likely to achieve your goal that way rather than giving it a go and hoping for the best.
And a final point to remember is that your best day started yesterday. If you want to have a good day, make sure you start it the day before. Make sure you have a restful evening. Set a time you wish to go to sleep and stick to it. Also make the lots of “small” decisions the night before – What will you wear? What is on the agenda? What time do you need to leave? All of those decisions added up will drain your mental energy in the morning so help yourself out the night before and save your morning headspace for the substantive issues.
Key Idea #6 – Gratitude can make the best out of a bad situation.
We are all likely to have positive and negative experiences in life, however, a great way to make the best out of the negatives is to try your hardest to find the positives in those too. This is where gratitude is important.
Shetty describes this as the feeling of appreciation when you recognize something is valuable regardless of its monetary worth. Maybe a co-worker said something nice to you or somebody taught you an important lesson, these are all things which bring us value in life even though they don’t have a price tag.
And, because of this, Gratitude is not something we should ignore. It’s been linked to better mental health and self awareness, better relationships and also helps provide a sense of fulfilment in peoples lives.
A great example of gratitude is the story of Brain Acton. After applying for multiple jobs and being rejected he didn’t hesitate to post his failures on social media and express anything less than gratitude for the opportunities he got. After deciding to spend his spare time working on a new project, he eventually co-founded WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook – one of the companies which initially rejected him. The result of accepting the moment and being grateful for it allowed him to move onwards and upwards.
For many people the feeling of rejection can be devastating. It can make us feel worthless and take away all hope we had, however, gratitude can help remove those effects. Start by spending a bit of each day thinking back on the positive and negative aspects and finding value in what happened. Although your boss may have criticized your work they might have also opened your eyes to things you need to improve, which if you do will make you a more desirable and valuable individual. If you can find value in the the good and the bad, whatever happens you will continually keep learning and improving.
Key Idea #7 – Service is the highest purpose we can serve.
This is probably the most profound and important ideas the book features.
Although personal success and wealth is something we would all like to aspire to, the highest aspiration is to leave the world that little bit better than we found it.
Alongside your own personal development, you should find some time to serve others and your community.
Ask yourself how you can help improve the lives of others and make sure you dedicate some of your time to doing so.
Although it’s hard to make massive changes in one lifetime, it is easily possible over multiple lifetimes.
If we all plant trees under whose shade we do not plan to sit, we will definitely be on the right track to making the world a better place for everyone.
Thanks for reading – and I’d like to include a shoutout to my friend Ellis who very kindly gifted me this book to summarize!
Get the book here: Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty