Our world is full of distractions. We rarely have time for ourselves to just sit still and calm. Our culture and media feed us images and concepts about who and what we should be. And we end up getting stuck in the rat race. Because in the end none of these things can truly satisfy us. We’ll simply seek more and more, and this ends in frustration and unhappiness. But there is another way. For millennia, monks have believed that meditation and mindfulness are beneficial, that gratitude is good for you, that service makes you happier. In his book, Think like a monk, Jay Shetty explains how we can adopt a monk mindset while navigating through the challenges of life. In this summary, I’ll share with you four key lessons that I learned from the book.
Key Lesson #1: Understand your identity
Think about what you’re pursuing in life; is that what you truly want, or has that goal been impacted by society and the expectations of others? The writer Charles Horton Cooley once said, “I am not what I think I am. I’m not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” In other words, we generate our lives according to what we think people think we should do. So to truly understand our identity, we have to reflect on our goals and ask ourselves whether what we’re chasing is really aligned with who we are, or whether it has come from some external influence.
Key Lesson #2: Minimize negativity
We all experience negativity in our lives, and while we can’t control the people around us, we can often choose who we want to be around in the first place. This is an important quality of monk life, and it’s one of the reasons why monks have been shown to have the happiest brains on the planet. This idea is nicely wrapped up in the 25/75 principle—25% of the time, we may be around people who drag us down, but why not spend the other 75% of our time with people who pull us up?
Key Lesson #3: Find your purpose
Purpose equals passion plus strengths plus compassion. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, start with what you’re curious about. What is it that you love reading about, that gets you excited and enthusiastic? (If you don’t know, ask the people around you.) But passion alone isn’t enough—strengths are important, too. And the mistake we often make is trying to gain the strengths of others. Albert Einstein once said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So don’t forget your own unique strengths. The final part of the purpose is compassion: How can you use your passion and strengths to make other people’s lives better? We can do incredible things when we use our passion and strengths compassionately.
Key Lesson #4: Slow down
This doesn’t mean “achieve less,” or “be less ambitious.” It just means doing everything with clarity and at the right pace. When we’re rushing, we’re not able to be our best selves; being slow, on the other hand, is about starting off with stillness and silence. For 80% of us, our phone is the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we look at at night. How can we change that to be a quote that we love? Maybe it’s a song or a paragraph from a book. Maybe it’s an idea that we just sit with for five minutes, to create a sense of stillness and calm before we take on the chaos of the day.
So in summary, this book offers excellent advice that is highly practical and relevant to our modern society. Thinking like a monk is not easy but it is worth it. As long as you find your identity in the right areas, think positively, and treat your loved ones well, you will start to think like a monk.