Book notes: Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

Think Like a Month by Jay Shetty book summary review and key ideas.

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Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day by Jay Shetty


Jay Shetty, social media superstar and host of the number one podcast On Purpose, distills the timeless wisdom he learned as a monk into practical steps anyone can take every day to live a less anxious, more meaningful life.

When you think like a monk, you’ll understand: 

  • How to overcome negativity
  • How to stop overthinking 
  • Why comparison kills love 
  • How to use your fear 
  • Why you can’t find happiness by looking for it 
  • How to learn from everyone you meet 
  • Why you are not your thoughts 
  • How to find your purpose 
  • Why kindness is crucial to success 
  • And much more

Shetty grew up in a family where you could become one of three things – a doctor, a lawyer, or a failure. His family was convinced he had chosen option three: Instead of attending his college graduation ceremony, he headed to India to become a monk, to meditate every day for four to eight hours, and devote his life to helping others. 

After three years, one of his teachers told him that he would have more impact on the world if he left the monk’s path to share his experience and wisdom with others. Heavily in debt, and with no recognizable skills on his résumé, he moved back home in North London with his parents. Shetty reconnected with old school friends – many working for some of the world’s largest corporations – who were experiencing tremendous stress, pressure, and unhappiness, and they invited Shetty to coach them on well-being, purpose, and mindfulness.  

In this inspiring, empowering book, Shetty draws on his time as a monk to show us how we can clear the roadblocks to our potential and power. Combining ancient wisdom and his own rich experiences in the ashram, Think Like a Monk reveals how to overcome negative thoughts and habits and access the calm and purpose that lie within all of us. He transforms abstract lessons into advice and exercises we can all apply to reduce stress, improve relationships, and give the gifts we find in ourselves to the world. Shetty proves that everyone can – and should – think like a monk.” -Audible

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Jay Shetty turns timeless monk wisdom into practical steps so we can have less anxiety and more peace and purpose in our daily lives.

Opening thoughts:

I’ve heard of and seen Jay Shetty‘s videos on Facebook and other places. And I see him talking on his podcast I think with a lot of high profile people as well. I’m excited to see what this book is all about. I know he speaks a lot about mindset and motivation and his staff is very inspirational, but I don’t really know what this book is about. Maybe something on spirituality?

Key notes:

  • If you want to train your mind to find peace, calm, and purpose, monks are the experts
  • Becoming a monk is a mindset that anyone can adopt. Some of the most famous monk-like people come from a wide range of backgrounds
  • Monk wisdom is also supported by science 
  • He found out when studying monk philosophy that in the last 3000 years, humans haven’t really changed
    • The monk teachings talk about forgiveness, energy, intentions, living with purpose, and other topics in ways that are as a resident today as they were back then
  • Most important lesson: focus on the root of things
    • He learned that the first thing monks learn is how to breathe because your breath is the only thing that stays with you throughout your entire life that doesn’t change

Part One: Let Go

Chapter one: identity – I am what I think I am

  • Our identity is tied up in what we think others think of us
  • Values are an ethical GPS we use to navigate through life
    • Our values are defined by what we experience growing up
  • The media mind game: He learned early on as a monk that our values are influenced by whatever absorbs our mind
  • We need space, silence, and stillness to build self-awareness
  • 3 suggestions to actively create space for reflection:
    1. On a daily basis, sit down to reflect on how the day went and what emotions you’re feeling
    2. Once a month, go someplace you’ve never been before to explore yourself in a different environment
    3. Get involved in something that’s meaningful to you 
  • Exercise: write down some of the values that shape your life, and the next then write down the origin of where those values came from
    • Our real values are reflected in how we spend our time
    • Suggestion: audit your time
  • Exercise: audit your spending, particularly discretionary spending
  • The next step is to curate your values
    • Higher values elevate and propel us towards happiness, fulfillment, and meaning
      • Higher values: fearlessness, purity of mind, gratitude, service and charity, acceptance, performing sacrifice, deep study, posterity, straightforwardness, non-violence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, perspective, restraint from fault finding, compassion towards all living beings, satisfaction, gentleness or kindness, integrity, determination
    • Lower values demote us towards anxiety, depression, and suffering
  • Exercise: look at the three best and three worst choices you’ve ever made
    • Why did you make them? What did you learn? How would you have done it differently?
    • Buried in your answers are your values
  • Exercise: value-driven decisions
    • For the next week, whenever you spend money on a non-necessity or make a plan for how you spend your free time, pause and think “what is the value behind the choice?
    • This momentary pause will eventually become a habit and help you make conscious choices about what matters to you and how much energy you devote to it
  • Once you filter out OEO’s (opinions, expectations, obligations) you’ll see the world through different eyes. The next step is to invite the world back in
  • Studies show that both happiness and depression spread within social circles
    • Who you surround yourself with helps you stick to your values and achieve your goals
    • You grow together
  • Exercise: companion audit
    • Make a list of the people with whom you spend the most time
    • List the values that you share with each person
    • Are you giving the most time to the people align most closely with your values?

Chapter 2: negativity

  • We have three core emotional needs: peace, love, and understanding
    • Negativity often springs from a threat from one of the three needs
    • Negativity is contagious
  • We have a tendency and instinct towards agreement with others
  • Chronic negativity can also have harmful effects on your physical health
    • Don’t judge others with a different disease and don’t think you’re perfect
  • Monks lead with awareness
    • They approach negativity or any type of conflict by taking a step back to remove themselves from the emotional charge of the moment
  • Detachment helps you find understanding without judgment

“If you can, help others. If you cannot do that, at least, do not harm them”

Dalai Lama

Reader’s note: This reminds me of what my pastor always says, “hurt people hurt people.” We don’t have an obligation to feel bad if someone is negative toward us. Their actions are simply a reflection of their own inner state

  • 25:75 Principle: for every one negative person, have three uplifting people
    • Surround yourself with people who are better than you in some way, happier, more spiritual
  • Don’t just spend time with the people you love. Grow and learn with them
    • A community is a place where people serve and inspire each other 
  • The desire to save others and give advice is ego-driven
    • We’ll become frustrated if they don’t take our advice and wisdom
    • If someone needs an ear, you can help them without exerting much energy
  • The only competition allowed in a monastery is to outdo each other in showing love and respect
    • Competition breeds envy
  • When we find ourselves judging others, we should take note
    • It’s a signal that our minds are tricking us into thinking we are moving forward when in truth, we are stuck
  • We think freedom is pursuing our desires
    • Real freedom is letting go of things not wanted
    • The key to real freedom is self-awareness
  • Exercise: audit your negative comments
    • Keep a tally of the negative remarks you make over the course of a week
    • See if you can make your daily number go down. The goal is zero
  • Negative projections and suspicions reflect our own insecurities and get in our way
    • It is important to find our significance from being the person we want to be, not from thinking other people have it better
  • We should learn to take sympathetic or unselfish joy in the good fortune of others
    • If we only find joy in our own successes, we are limiting our joy. But if we can take pleasure in the success of our friends and family, 10 20 or 50 people, we get to experience 50 times the happiness and joy
    • In the theater of joy, there are unlimited seats
  • There is so much toxicity in the world around us and the origins are in people’s hearts
    • We must clean the ecology and purify our own hearts and inspire others to do the same in order to contribute great purity to the world around us
  • Exercise: List out five people you care about but also feel competitive with
    • Come up with at least one reason you’re envious of each person
      • Did that achievement take anything away from you?
    • Now think how this has benefited them and visualize everything good that came from that achievement
      • Would you want to take away any of those things if you could, even knowing that those things will come to you?
    • Your envy is robbing you of joy
  • In transformational forgiveness, we find the strength and calmness to forgive without expecting an apology or anything else in return
  • Forgiveness is good for everyone
    • Giving and receiving forgiveness both have health benefits
    • When we make forgiveness a regular part of our spiritual practice, we start to notice all of our relationships blossoming
    • Forgiveness is a two-way street and pain affects both people
    • We must forgive others and also ask for forgiveness for our own shortcomings
  • Exercise: write out a letter and record yourself reading what you forgive yourself for
    • The pinnacle of forgiveness is to wish the other person who caused you pain well

Chapter 3: fear – Welcome to hotel earth

“Fear does not prevent death, it prevents life”

  • An essential step to reprogramming fear is learning to recognize our reaction pattern to fear
    • Pain makes us pay attention
  • Exercise: rate something that’s truly scary as a 10 on a scale
    • Next time is your fear, compare it relative to that 10
  • The cause of fear: attachment
    • The cure for fear: detachment
  • Clinging to temporary things gives them power over us, and they become sources of pain and fear
    • But when we accept the temporary nature of everything in our lives, we can feel gratitude for the good fortune of getting to borrow them for a time 
    • When you accept the fact that you don’t truly own or control anything, you’ll find yourself actually enjoying and valuing people, things and experiences more, and being more thoughtful about what you choose to include in your life
  • Monk training lesson: don’t judge the moment
  • Exercise: use your breath to control your emotions by slowing down your heart rate
    • Use the 4-second breathing technique (4 sec inhale, 4 sec exhale)
  • Celebrate your past challenges that led you to your current successes in life
  • We need to reprogram our view of fear from something that is inherently negative to a neutral signal, or even an indicator of opportunity

Chapter 4: intention – Blinded by the goal

  • 4 fundamental motivations:
    1. Fear
    2. Desire
    3. Duty
    4. Love
  • As long as we keep attaching our happiness to the external events of our lives, which are ever changing, we’ll always be left waiting for it
  • While generally American incomes have risen since 2005, our happiness has fallen in part because of social factors like declining trust in the government and our fellow Americans, and weaker social networks
  • Life isn’t always positive, but it’s always possible to find meaning
  • Purpose and meaning, not success, lead to true contentment
    • Understanding this makes us see the importance of being motivated by duty and love
  • Pause to think not only why we want something, but also who we are or need to be to get it, and whether being that person appeals to us
  • Be honest about your “why’s” and intentions
    • It’s okay if you recognize your motivations are fear or desire. You’ll eventually discover you won’t find fulfillment
  • Exercise: take a desire you have and ask yourself why you want it
    • Keep asking until you get to the root intention
    • Don’t negate intentions that aren’t good. Just be aware and recognize that if it isn’t love, growth, or knowledge, the opportunity may fulfill important practical needs, but it won’t feel emotionally meaningful
  • We should define ourselves by our intentions, not our achievements or career
    • If we do, and we lose a job or achievement, we lose our identity
    • The focus should be on the process, not the outcome 
  • Satisfaction comes from believing in the value of what you do
  • Exercise: add to-be’s next you your to-do’s
    • Write a to-be next to every to-do
    • This is a reminder that achieving your goals with intention means living up to the values that drive those goals
  • The best way to research the work required to fulfill your intention is to look for a role models. Research and study what they did to get there, especially what they were doing at your stage right now

Chapter: meditation – breathe

  • The monks taught him that meditation is like cleaning your heart, and by the time you finish it needs to be done again
    • It is work that always needs to be done
  • In getting you to where you want to be, meditation may show you what you don’t want to see
  • When you align with your breath, you learn to align with yourself through every emotion, calming, centering, and destressing yourself
  • He recommends setting aside time once or twice a day for breathwork
    • It’s such an effective way for calming yourself that you can use it at times during the day when you feel short of breath or you’re holding your breath
  • Exercise: breathwork – for focus and energy or calmness and relaxation
    • Preparation: Find a comfortable position to sit or lay down in, close your eyes and lower your gaze, roll back your shoulders, and bring your awareness to calm, balance, ease, stillness, peace
      • Whenever your mind wanders, gently and softly bring it back to calm, balance, ease, stillness, peace
      • Now become aware of your natural breathing pattern. Don’t force or pressure your breath, just become aware of your natural breathing pattern.
    • Diaphragmatic breathing is when you inhale from your nose and exhale from your mouth, focusing on the expansion & contraction of your stomach and not your chest
      • When you inhale, feel that you are taking in positive, uplifting energy. When you exhale, feel that you are releasing any negative toxic energy
      • Lower your left ear to left shoulder as you breathe in, then return to the middle and breathe out. Repeat on your right side
      • Really feel the breath, with no rush or force, in your own pace at your own time
    • Breathe to calm and relax – after breathwork prep is done
      • Breathe in through your nose (4 count)
      • Hold (4 count)
      • Exhale through your mouth (4 count)
      • Repeat (10 reps)
    • Breathe for energy and focus
      • Breathe in through your nose (4 count)
      • Exhale powerfully through your nose (less than 1 count)
      • Repeat (10 reps)
    • Breathe for sleep
      • Breath in (4 count)
      • Exhale (longer than 4 count)
      • Repeat until asleep or close

Part Two: Grow

Chapter 5: Purpose – the nature of the scorpion

  • They were taught to see society as the organs in a body
    • No one organ was more important than another. They all worked in concert and the body needed them all
  • We need flexibility in order to access every corner of study and growth
  • Dharma is living in your purpose
    • He sees Dharma as combination of Varna and Seva
    • Varna = passion & skills
    • Seva = understanding the world’s needs and selflessly serving others
      • You should feel passion when the process is pleasing and your execution is skillful, and the response from others is positive showing that your passion has a purpose
  • Dharma = passion + expertise + usefulness
  • 2 lies we hear when growing up
    1. You never amount to anything
    2. You can be anything you want to be
  • Truth: you can’t be anything you want, but you can be everything you are
    • A monk is a traveler, but the journey is inward bringing us ever closer to our most authentic, confident, powerful self
  • Pay attention, cultivate self-awareness, feed your strengths, and you will find your way. Once you discover your Dharma, pursue it
  • Book reference: Open by Andre Agassi
    • Andre admitted he hated tennis, even despite the fame and fortune
    • Eventually, he started to live his true calling for serving others and helping at-risk youth
  • We don’t and can’t do everything
    • What we can’t do is someone else’s gift and responsibility. Our limitations make space for the gifts of other people
    • Instead of focusing on our weaknesses, we should lean into our strengths and look for ways to make them central in our lives
    • Don’t confuse inexperience with weakness
      • It’s important to experiment broadly before we reject options, and much of this experimentation is done in school and elsewhere when we’re young
  • Play hardest in your area of strength, and you’ll achieve depth, meaning, and satisfaction in your life
  • Quadrants of Potential – both skill and passion on the top right, no skill or passion on the bottom left
    • Many times we work on things we’re good at but don’t love, then use our spare time to work on things we love but aren’t good at because we don’t spend enough time developing them
  • Look for opportunities to do what you love in the life you already have
    • You never know where it might lead
  • You can also learn to love what you’re good at by reframing your perspective and find meaning or purpose in what you do
  • Link the feeling of passion to the experience of learning and growth
  • The intentions with which we approach our work has a tremendous impact on the meaning we gain from it, and our personal sense of purpose
    • Learn to find meaning now and it’ll serve you all your life
  • Exercise: identify your quadrants of potential
4 Personality Types: Varnas
  • There’s no hierarchy of personality types. All are necessary and equal
    1. Guide
      • Compelled to learn and share knowledge
      • Possible professions: teacher, writer
    2. Leader
      • Likes to influence and provide
      • Professions: CEO, Lieutenant, school Principal, shop manager
    3. Creator
      • Likes to make things happen
      • Professions: at startup or neighborhood association
    4. Maker
      • Likes to see things tangibly be built
      • Professions: coder, nurse
  • Merchants, business people, marketers, salespeople, entertainers, producers, entrepreneurs, CEOs
  • Skills: brainstorming, networking, innovating, make things happen, can convince themselves and others of anything
  • Great at sales, negotiations, persuasion
  • Highly driven by money, pleasure, and success
  • Hardworking and determined, always on the move
  • Excel at trade, commerce, and banking
  • Work hard, play hard
  • Originally: artists, musicians, creatives, writers
  • Today: social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, COOs, heads of HR, artists, musicians, engineers, coders, carpenters, cooks
  • Skills: inventing, supporting, implementing
  • Driven by stability and security
  • Generally satisfied and content with the status quo
  • Choose meaningful goals to pursue
  • Work hard but always have balance with family commitments
  • Best right-hand man or woman
  • Lead team gatherings, support those in need, highly skilled at manual professions
  • Makers and Creators compliment each other
  • Makers help creators focus on detail, quality, gratitude, and contentment
  • Creators help makers think bigger, become more goal-oriented
  • Teachers, guides, gurus, coaches, mentors
  • Skills: learning, studying, sharing knowledge and wisdom
  • They like having space and time to reflect and learn
  • Want to help people find meaning, fulfillment, and purpose
  • Often like to work alone
  • Enjoy intellectual pursuits in spare time: reading, debate, and discussion
  • Originally: kings, warriors
  • Today: military, justice, law enforcement, politics
  • Skills: governing, inspiring, engaging others
  • Directed by courage, strength, and determination
  • Seek to protect others and driven by morals and values
  • Like to work in teams, great at organization, focus, dedication to a mission
  • Guides and Leaders compliment each other
  • Guides give wisdom to Leaders, Leaders give structure to Guides
  • Invest in your strengths and surround yourself with people who can fill in the gaps
  • Exercise: choose a diverse group of people who know you well (coworkers, family friends) – about 3-20 people
    • Ask them to write down a moment when you were at your best and to be specific
    • Look for patterns and common themes
    • Write a profile of yourself as if it weren’t about you
    • Think about how you can turn your best skills into action, in different circumstances or with different people
  • Questions when exploring your Varna:
    • Did I enjoy the process?
    • Did other people enjoy the results?
  • Exercise: keep an activity journal
    • For every activity, answer the 2 questions fundamental to Dharma
Dharma is of the body
  • Pay attention of how an activity feels in our bodies
    • Does the idea of it make you feel joy? When doing it, how does your body respond?
    • When you’re in your element, you can feel it
    1. Alive
      • Some people feel a calm, confident satisfaction. For others, there’s a thrill of joy and excitement
      • You feel alive, connected, with a smile on your face
    2. Flow
      • Natural momentum, feel like you’re swimming with the current
      • Lose track of time
    3. Confident
      • You don’t feel alone or out of place
      • No matter where you are physically, it feels right
    4. Consistency
      • Being in your Dharma gets better the more you do it
      • A single event is a clue to what energy you like, when and how you feel alive
    5. Positivity and Growth
      • When we’re aware of our strengths, we’re more confident, value others’ abilities more, and feel less competitive
      • Rejection and criticism feel like information we can accept or reject depending on whether they can help us move forward
  • Embrace your Dharma in all aspects of life (at work, with family in friends, in hobbies)
    • Though your Dharma is your natural state, its range is further than your comfort zone
    • It’s important to stretch our Dharma as well
  • For all activities, some are competence building and some are character building
    • Doing something you don’t enjoy isn’t useless as it builds your character
    • You need to build both in order to serve our souls and a higher purpose

Chapter 6: Routine – Location has energy, time has memory

  • Waking up to an alarm clock and checking our phones first thing immediately overwhelms us with stress, pressure, and anxiety
  • Recommendation: wake up 1 hour earlier than you do now
    • The energy and mood of the morning carries through the day, so making life more meaningful begins there
  • Wake up early, but sleep early enough so that you get a full night’s rest
  • Every morning, make some time for the following
    • Thankfulness
      • Express gratitude for someone, someplace, or something every day
      • This includes thinking it, writing it, and sharing it
    • Insight
      • Gain insight through reading the paper, a book, or podcast
    • Meditation
      • Spend 15 minutes alone breathing, visualizing, or with sound
    • Exercise
      • Yoga, basic stretches, or a workout

Reader’s note: I love this idea of T.I.M.E. and I definitely want to make this my one action item/takeaway for this book

  • The morning is defined by the evening, so the evening routine is also important. You need to start the momentum for the morning by establishing a healthy, restful evening routine
  • Tip: write down three things you want to achieve the next morning during your evening routine
    • Tip: find your version of a “monk’s robe,” a uniform you’ll put on in the morning that will give a different energy than your relaxation clothes
  • Remove challenges and simplify your decisions throughout the day to reserve your energy for more important things
  • The emotion you fall asleep with at night is most likely the emotion you’ll wake up with in the morning
  • Truly noticing what’s around us keeps our brain from shifting into autopilot
    • Routine frees your mind, but the biggest threat to that freedom is monotony

“A lot of the time, creativity comes from structure. When you have those parameters and structure, then within that you can be creative”

Kobe Bryant from On Purpose Podcast
  • Structure enhances spontaneity, and discovery reinvigorates the routine
  • Exercise: Visualization for tomorrow
    • After doing breath work to calm your mind, visualize yourself as your best self – in the morning, healthy, well-rested, energized
    • Feel the sunlight, and as your feet hit the ground, you a sense feel gratitude for another day. Then say in your mind “I am grateful for today. I am excited for today. I am joyful for today
    • See yourself going through your morning routine being mindful and taking your time
    • See yourself writing down your intentions for the day: focused, disciplined, be of service
    • Visualize the rest of your day as your best self-serving and leading others, listening and learning from others, giving and receiving your best
    • Visualize coming home at the end of the day, tired but grateful
    • Scan your entire body and be thankful for each part helping your throughout the day
  • Visualization doesn’t change your life, but it does change how you see it
    • Life won’t go how you visualize, but you can return and realign it to the ideal you imagine
Chew your drinks, and drink your food
  • Exercise: Look for something new in a routine that you already have
    • What can you see on your commute you’ve never seen?
    • Try starting a conversation with someone you see regularly but haven’t ever engaged
      • Do this with one new person every day and see how your life changes
    • Change up your routine or physical environment
  • Exercise: Transform the mundane
    • Commit to a single task and focus all your senses on the task
  • We are never free from our daily chores, but to be enlightened is to embrace them
  • If you allow yourself to daydream, you will always be distracted
    • Being present is the only way to live a truly rich and full life
Location has energy
  • Every location has a specific energy, and your Dharma thrives or falters in specific environments
  • Exercise: environmental awareness
    • For every environment you spend time in, ask these questions right after, and then again at the end of the week
      • What were the key features of the space? (quiet or loud? big or small? vibrant or plain? in the center of active space or removed? close to people or isolated?)
      • How did I feel in this space? (productive, relaxed, distracted)
      • Did the activity I was doing fit well in the place I was doing it?
  • The more your personal spaces are devoted to single, clear purposes, the better they will serve you. Not just in the fulfillment of your Dharma, but in your mood and productivity
Sound design your life
  • Sound design your life and choose ringtones, podcasts, and music that uplift you and make you feel happier
Time has memory
  • Doing something at the same time every day helps us remember to do it
    • Commit to it and do it with increasing skill and facility
    • Slot a new habit into the same time every day. Better yet, link the new practice to an existing habit
  • Location has energy, time has memory
    • If you do something at the same time everyday, it becomes easier and natural
    • If you do something in the same space everyday, it becomes easier and natural
  • Time and location help us maximize the moment, but single-tasking is one essential component to being wholly present in that moment
    • Single-tasking as much as possible keeps your brain in the habit of focusing on one thing at a time
    • You should pick certain routines where you always single-task
  • Try kick-starting a new habit with immersion. Do something deeply for longer periods of time
    • This is hard in the modern world, but the greater your investment, the greater your return
    • If something is important, it deserves to be experienced deeply

Reader’s note: I think practicing single-tasking on a new habit would probably be another really good takeaway or action item from this book

  • The ocean is full of treasures. But if you swim on the surface, you won’t see them all
  • Immersion takes time and practice. Any process can work if you do it immersively, then you’ll reap the benefits

Chapter 7: The mind – the charioteer’s dilemma

  • Most of the time your brain is not reacting to events of the world. It’s predicting, constantly guessing what’s going to happen next
    • True growth requires understanding the mind
  • Visualizing the mind as a separate entity helps us work on our relationship with it
  • The quality of our interaction with the mind is based on the history of our relationship with it
    • The five horses pulling the chariot are your five senses that need to be calmed and reined in
  • The monkey mind is reactive. The monk mind is proactive
  • Visualize yourself removing physical and mental triggers
  • Exercise: write down all the noise in your mind on a daily basis, noise that you know you don’t want to have (self-defeating messages your mind is sending you)
  • The best way to overwrite the voices in your head is to literally start talking to them. Address yourself by name out loud
    • Studies show that talking to yourself not only boosts your memory, it also helps your focus
    • It helps clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important, and firm up any decisions that you’re contemplating
  • There are 3 routes to happiness, all of them centered on knowledge
    • Learning
    • Progressing
    • Achieving
  • Identify the ways you’re making progress, and you’ll begin to see, feel, and appreciate the value of what you are doing
    • Rather than amplify your failures, amplify your progress
  • Reframe your self-criticism in terms of knowledge
    • Encourage yourself as you would a child who is just beginning to make a change
  • Putting a solution-oriented spin on your statement reminds you to be proactive and take responsibility rather than languishing and wishful thinking
    • Instead of “I can’t do this,” rephrase to “I can do this by…”
  • Use the awareness of what deep pain really is to keep smaller disruptions in perspective
  • Find self-compassion. It’s about observing your feelings without judging them
  • Exercise: new scripts for the charioteer
    • Write a list of the negative things to yourself
    • Next to each, write down how you would present that idea to someone you care about
    • Give yourself love and support as you would give to another person
  • All spiritual teaching, this is not an oversimplification, is about how to be present in the moment
    • But the problem is we’re almost always somewhere else. Reliving the past or worrying about the future
  • Only by detaching can we truly gain control of the mind
    • We all live in the illusion of permanence in which we all live
  • Book reference: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
    • Real strength and detachment is being close to everything but not letting it consume and own you
  • In fasting, we let go of our bodily concerns and redirect our energy and attention to focus on the mind
    • Fasting can be come a creative time free from distractions
    • Fasting is a physical challenge driven by the intellect
  • Fasting and the other austerities that monks practice remind us that we can bear greater hardship than we thought possible. That we can overcome the demands of the senses with self control and resolve
  • Detaching starts with awareness
    1. Identify when you experience attachment, frequency and time of day, and why you have certain habits
    2. Think about what you want to subtract and add
    3. Swap in new behavior – 2 strategies
      • Immersion for a set time
      • Slow, gradual iterations. Make a small change then build on it
  • It is your mind that translates the outside world into happiness or misery

Chapter 8: Ego – Catch me if you can

  • You are who you are when no one is watching
  • The ego wants to be seen as better
    • The ego creates false hierarchies
  • The arrogant ego desires respect, whereas the humble worker inspires respect
  • The nature of judgment is that it almost always backfires on us in one way or another
    • In the act of criticizing others for failing to live up to higher standards, we ourselves are failing to live up to higher standards
    • Usually, it’s to distract ourselves from our own insecurities and weaknesses
    • Projection is the psychological term for our tendency to project onto others emotions or feelings we don’t wish to deal with ourselves
  • The ego is the obstacle to growth
    • If we aren’t open minded, we deny ourselves opportunities to learn, grow, and change
  • You can only keep up the myth of your own importance for so long. If you don’t break your ego, life will break it for you
Humility = the elixir of the ego
  • Practice humility by doing simple work and menial tasks that didn’t place any participant at the center of attention
  • 2 things to remember and 2 things to forget
    • To remember: the bad we’ve done to others and the good others have done for us
    • To forget: good we’ve done for others and the bad others have done to us
      • These restrain our ego and increases gratitude
  • Don’t take everything others do personally. It is usually not about you
  • Detaching inspires gratitude. When we let go of ownership, we realize that all we’ve done has been with the help of others
  • Exercise: transforming ego
    • Look for opportunities to detach from ego and put forth a thoughtful, productive response
      1. Receiving an insulttake a broader perspective and respond to the situation
      2. Receiving a compliment or accolades – use the opportunity to be grateful for the help you’ve received
      3. Arguing with a partner – the desire to be right or win comes from ego’s unwillingness to admit weakness; see the other side
      4. Topping peoplelisten to understand and acknowledge
Build confidence, not ego
  • Humility allows you to see your own strengths and weaknesses clearly so you can work, learn, and grow
    • Confidence and high self-esteem help you accept yourself as you are: humble, imperfect, and striving
  • Exercise: write down the areas in which you really want to be confident – health, career, or relationship (pick one)
    • Write down what is going to make you feel confident, something realistic and achievable
    • Break it down into small wins you can achieve today
Receiving feedback
  • Exercise: receive feedback productively
    • Choose an area you want to improve, find someone who’s an expert in that field and ask for guidance
  • Overcoming your ego is a practice, not an accomplishment
  • Real greatness is when you use your own achievements to teach others, and they learn to teach others, and the greatness you’ve accomplished expands exponentially
  • Think of the role you play in other people’s lives as the most valuable currency
  • People who have it all derive the greatest satisfaction from service
Meditation: Visualize
  • Everything that exists in the world was first created in someone’s mind
    • In order to create something, we have to imagine it
    • Visualization is important because whatever can be built internally can be built externally
  • Meditation doesn’t eliminate distractions, it manages them
    • If you get distracted, simply bring your awareness back to your breathing pattern and visualization or mantra
    • If it isn’t hard, you’re not doing it right
    • Choose positive visualizations
  • If you’re trying to capture a moment, keep your eyes open
    • If you’re trying to remember or reconnect to a past moment, close your eyes
  • Anti-anxiety technique: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
    • 5 things you can SEE
    • 4 things you can TOUCH
    • 3 things you can HEAR
    • 2 things you can SMELL
    • 1 thing you can TASTE
      • For each thing, give your entire focus until you move on to the next
      • Afterwards, breathe in the joy and happiness and take it inside your body, let yourself smile naturally in response to how it makes you feel

Part Three: Give

Chapter 9: Gratitude – the world’s most powerful drug

  • When you start your day with gratitude, you’ll be open to opportunities, not obstacles
  • Gratitude becomes a habit and you’ll start to look for more things to be grateful for
  • Exercise: keep a gratitude journal
    • Every night, take 5 minutes to write down things you’re grateful for
    • You can also track how you sleep before and after this experiment
  • We’re in the habit of thinking we don’t deserve misfortune, but that we do deserve whatever blessings have come our way
  • Exercise: everyday gratitude practices
    • Morning gratitude – as soon as you wake up, flip over on your stomach, put your hands in prayer and bow your head. Then think of whatever is good in your life
    • Meal gratitude – take one meal a day and commit to taking a moment to be thankful for the food (reader’s note: I need to do this!)
  • Exercise: gratitude meditations
    • After sitting, relaxing, and doing breathwork, say the phrase “I am grateful for_” and completing with as many things as you can
    • If possible, reframe negativities by finding elements of them for which you’re grateful
    • Joy visualization – during meditation, take yourself to a time and place where you experience joy and allow that feeling to reenter you
  • Build your gratitude like a muscle now so that it will strengthen over time
  • Don’t judge the moment. As soon as you label something as bad, your mind starts to believe it
    • Be grateful for setbacks. Allow the journey of life to progress in its own time and way
    • Ask: What’s the opportunity in the moment?
  • Exercise: gratitude in hindsight
    • Think of something you weren’t grateful for when it first happened
      • Now consider in what way this experience is worthy of your gratitude
    • Think of something unpleasant going on now or that you anticipate and experiment with anticipating gratitude for an unlikely recipient
  • Express your gratitude specifically to others
    • Gratitude and joy come from the feeling that someone else is invested in you. It’s a feedback loop of love
Kindness and gratitude are symbiotic
  • Buddhist teaching: Kindness and gratitude must be developed together, working in harmony
  • Kindness is as easy and hard as this – genuinely wanting something good for someone else
    • Thinking about what would benefit them and putting effort into giving them that benefit
  • Your own acts of kindness teach you what it takes to be kind, so your own kindness enables you to feel truly grateful
  • To receive gratitude with humility, start by thanking the person for noticing
    • Appreciate their attention and intention, then look for a good quality in the other person and return the compliment
  • Exercise: remember kindness done by others, and let this feeling lead you to want to reciprocate it back to those who have given it to you, or passing it on to those who don’t have it
  • Studies show volunteering can result in lower feelings of depression and increased feelings of overall well-being
  • Exercise: experience gratitude through volunteer work
    • Try volunteering once a month or once a week
  • Exercise: write a gratitude letter
    • Write a letter to someone you feel deeply grateful for and write out specific moments and words
  • Gratitude is the mother of all qualities – compassion, resilience, confidence, passion

Chapter 10: Relationships – people watching

  • In addition to diet and lifestyle practices, longevity was tied with several aspects of community:
    • Close relationships with family
    • A tribe with shared beliefs
    • Healthy social behaviors
  • Redwood trees are strong and steady not because their roots are deep, but because they are wide. They thrive in groves, interweaving their roots so the strong and weak together withstand the forces of nature together
  • Whatever energy you give out, you will always get it back (love, hate, anger, kindness, etc). The problem lies with your expectations
    • Sometimes we expect love in return from the person we give it, but fail or return the love others give us
  • Exercise: Lead and follow
    • Make a list of your students and teachers
    • Write down what the students can teach you, and what the teachers might learn from you
  • 4 Characteristics/types of trust we look for in the people we allow people into our lives
    • Competent – has the right skills and/or experience to be listened to
    • Care – people who care and think about what’s best for you, not them
    • Character – strong moral compass and uncompromising values
    • Consistency – reliable, present, and available when you need them
  • Nobody could or should play every role
    • Set realistic expectations from what others can provide you
    • However, first think about what value you can offer them
  • Exercise: Reflect on trust
    • Pick 3 diverse people in your life and decide which of the 4 C’s they bring into your life
    • Be grateful and thank them for that
  • We should be open to the greater world for friends who can become family, and seeing a greater connection to humanity, especially when family cannot provide for your needs
  • Exercise: be realistic about your friendships
    • Make a list of the people you’ve seen socially over the past week or two
    • In a 2nd column, identify if the friend is a season, reason, or lifetime friend – this is to get a rough sketch of the balance of people in your life
    • In a 3rd column, write the role you play in these people’s lives
  • Trust is central in every relationship
    • Trust is about intentions, not abilities
  • We set ourselves up for long-term trust when we let it evolve naturally

Reader’s note: Another good takeaway here I plan to implement is to reconnect with people whom I think have good energy and rekindle and revitalize our relationship with the intent of maintaining them for the long-run.

Trust is a daily practice
  • Trust needs to be reinforced and rebuilt every day by making and fulfilling promises, giving sincere compliments and constructive criticisms, going out of your way to give support, or standing by someone when they’ve messed up and need help
  • The monk concept of celibacy is to show that so much energy and attention is given to romantic attachments that it drains focus from oneself and internal validation
    • The time and energy used by romantic pursuits can be used more effectively on growing yourself, your self-awareness, and being the person who can make themselves happy
Attraction vs. connection
  • 5 primary motivations for connection
    1. Physical attraction – looks, style, presence, the idea of being seen with them
    2. Material – accomplishments, and the power and/or possessions this affords them
    3. Intellectual – you like how they think, stimulated by conversation and ideas
    4. Emotional – you connect well, they understand your feelings and increase your sense of well-being
    5. Spiritual – they share your deepest goals and values
  • The first three are usually mentioned, but the last two point to a more profound, lasting connection and show your compatibility
Quality not quantity
  • It’s the quality, not quantity that counts when spending time with family
    • Kid’s won’t necessarily remember the times you weren’t there but will remember the energy you gave when you were around
  • A monk shows love through presence and attention
  • Exercise: Handcuff attention thieves
    • To give someone the attention they deserve, sit down and agree on rules surrounding devices (phone, laptop, and TV)
    • Choose specific times that will be quality time without distraction
6 Loving Exchanges
  • 3 types of exchanges, each with both giving and receiving
    1. Gifts – giving charity and receiving whatever is offered in return
      • Can be an object or an action/service, our time
      • In receiving a gift, you can bring the same thoughtfulness through gratitude, understanding why and what it means for the giver
    2. Conversation – listening is one of the most thoughtful gifts
      • Listening intentionally means looking for the emotions behind the words and creating an environment of trust where they feel safe
      • Exercise: to build trust in our relationships, ask someone open-ended questions until you land on a topic that’s important to them
        • Ex: what’s on your mind lately? how’s your relationship like with __?
        • Share your own experiences without turning the conversation to yourself
    3. Food – interpreted broadly as “experiences”
      • Any tangible expression of care and service that nourishes body & spirit
  • Exercise: Ask for what you want
    • Tell the important people in your life how you like to receive love
    • Be genuine in asking people you love for help rather than waiting for them to predict what you want
      1. Think of a complaint you have, but don’t look too hard for faults if there are none (this is a great sign)
      2. Dig to the root of the problem
      3. Articulate without criticism
        • This is what would make me feel more loved and appreciated” instead of “you do this wrong
  • When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person
  • Your level of self-awareness will help you find the right relationship
    • You will have a better idea of what you truly need in your life and what you have to offer someone else
    • If you don’t know what you want, you’ll send out the wrong signals and attract the wrong people
  • Once you’ve unpacked your own bags and you’ve healed yourself mostly, then you’ll come to relationships ready to give
    • You won’t be looking to them to solve your problems or fill a hole
    • Nobody completes you. You’re not half
    • You have to come from a place of giving where you’re nourishing someone else
Keeping love alive
  • Love is kept alive by creating more new memories, by continuing to learn and grow together
    • Fresh experiences bring excitement into your life and build a stronger bond
    • Ideas for activities couples can do together
      1. Find new in the old – candlelit dinner, read a book to each other, take a walk together
      2. Find new ways to spend time together
      3. Serve together
      4. Meditate and chant together
      5. Envision together what you both want from the relationship
Overcoming heartbreak
  • There is a difference between feeling grateful for what you have and settling for less than we deserve
    • Don’t wrap your self-esteem around someone else
  • Set the level of joy you expect and the level of pain you’ll accept in any relationship
  • No relationship is perfect, but every relationship requires work
    • Don’t mistake attachment for love
  • Holding onto the wrong person causes us more pain than letting go
  • For a past relationship, reflect on:
    • Biggest expectations not met?
    • What was important?
    • What was good? What was bad?
    • What was your role in its demise?
      • Use these to identify what you want from the next relationship and what you might have to work on in yourself
  • If you put your identity in your relationship, then the pain you feel will be the loss of that part of you
    • Now that you’re single, use this time to build a community of people with shared interests whom you want to be in your life forever

Chapter 11: Service – plant trees under whose shade you do not plan to sit

“The ignorant work for their own profit. The wise work for the welfare of the world”

  • Most important lesson learned as a monk: The highest purpose is to live in service
    • Selflessness is the surest route to inner peace and a meaningful life
      • Selflessness heals the self
    • To think like a monk is to serve
    • We are nature, and nature is always serving & giving
Service is good for the body and soul
  • We are born wired to care for others, so service does us good
    • We are born to serve, but the distractions of the external world make us forget our purpose
    • We need to reconnect with that instinct to find meaning in life
  • Service gives back to us
    • Studies show that when we pursue compassionate goals aimed at helping others, we’re less likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression
      • Those who help others tend to live longer, be healthier and have a better overall sense of well-being
    • Service connects us, amplifies gratitude, increases compassion, builds self-esteem
  • Monks don’t make grand gestures; love is in the small things
    • Love and service is consistent and intentional
    • Remember that we never know what someone is going through so we treat them with the same gentleness, generosity, and compassion towards someone who might need them

Reader’s note: Here’s another good action item – find ways to be consistently and intentionally generous, kind, and compassionate. Situations I can plan in advance what my response will be in those situations. Ex: having food gift cards to give away, being compassionate to someone who seems like they’re misunderstood, and gentle with someone who might be in pain.

  • Instead of “how was work?” monks would ask “have you served today?
  • When you do service, you do your part to spread the value of service in our culture
  • Exercise: Extend your radius of care
    • Think of 4-6 people you would drop everything to help
      • How often do you think about these people or show them that you care for them? Can you start?
    • Now think of 20 people you would help. Think of a group or small community
      • Write down and display this list of 20 people so you’ll think of them more often
When will you be ready to serve?
  • The more detached we are, the easier it is to let go of our time and money
  • Charity isn’t giving of yourself. You’re taking something that was already on earth and giving it back to earth
    • You don’t have to have to give
  • A study showed that people with less money tended to give more
    • This may have to do with their experience with hardship and having to rely on others. Therefore, they may have more empathy for others in need
  • Who is wealthier, the one with money, or the one who serves?
Serve with intention
  • We can heal our mental challenges by helping others with their physical needs
    • Service is a reciprocal exchange
  • Remember that whatever you are giving was given to you. When you pass it on, you cannot take credit for it
Serve within your Dharma
  • Service is a natural part of being human and easier than you think
    • Find ways to serve through what you’re already doing
    • Connect what you already do to a higher purpose
  • Exercise: Ways to serve
    • Over a week, write down places where you spend time
    • Find service opportunities, at least one in every circumstance
    • Pick 3 opportunities that interest you the most and try getting involved in one of them
All suffering belongs to all of us
  • There’s always another level of service
  • We are motivated to serve when we think of the whole world as one family
  • We should develop a sense of what sorts of service we’re best at and focus our attention on them
  • Exercise: Serve the pain that you know the best
    • Write down 3 moments when you felt lost or in need
    • Match a charity or cause to each area of pain
      • Heal the pain you connect with
  • Life hack: service is always the answer
    • It fixes a bad day and tempers the burdens we bear
    • Service helps other people and us
    • We don’t expect anything in return, but what we get is the joy of service
      • It is an exchange of love
Meditation: Chant
  • He recommends adding a mantra to your morning or evening meditation practice
  • Where affirmations change the way you speak to yourself, mantras change the way you speak to the universe
  • The classic “aum” chant vibrations stimulate the vagus nerve, which doing so has been shown to have health benefits
  • Exercise: seeing through sound


  • The world isn’t with you or against you
    • You create your own reality in every moment
  • Like a dancer, the monk mind is flexible and controlled, always present in the moment
Daily practice – includes breathwork, visualizing, and chanting
  • Make it the first thing you do every morning and/or the last thing you do before bed
  • Start with 21 minutes a day, using a timer to give yourself 7 minutes each for breath work, visualization, and mantra
    • When you’re ready, expand to 2x per day
  1. Breathwork
    • Breathe out as slowly as you breathe in for about 5 minutes
  2. Visualization
    • Ask yourself what you’re grateful for today
    • Breathe in gratitude and breathe out negative, toxic energy
    • Visualize a joy, happiness, and gratitude-filled memory, focusing on as many of the senses as you can tied to that memory (5,4,3,2,1 technique)
    • Absorb the love, joy, and happiness. Visualize the love from that moment flowing through your entire body
    • Do this for about 5 minutes
  3. Mantra
    • Ask yourself, what is your intention for the day, and set it
      • Is it to be kind? Confident? Focused?
    • Repeat the following to yourself 3 times each:
      • I am happy about who I am becoming. I am open to all possibilities and opportunities. I am worthy of real love. I am ready to serve with all I have
  • There is no measure of success, no goal, and no end to a meditation practice
    • Don’t look for results, just keep doing it
  • Practice consistently for 4-12 weeks and you’ll start to notice the effects
    • The first sign that you’re doing it right is that you’ll miss it if you take a break
    • You’ll also notice an increased awareness of what’s going on in your mind
  • Monks try to be present in the moment, but they’re always conscious of now and forever
    • They measure their lives not by how big or small their impact is but how they make people feel
  • Exercise: Two Death Meditations
    • Try a “death meditation” whenever you’re questioning whether or not to do something, to make a significant change, learn a new skill, take a trip, etc
    • He recommends doing it at the beginning of a new year to inspire new paths in the coming year
      1. Imagine yourself on your deathbed and ask your future self questions such as:
        • What do I wish I had done? What experiences do I wish I had? What do I regret not giving more attention? What skills do I wish I worked on? What do I wish I detached from?
        • Visualize the inevitable to give you every lesson you need to live a fulfilling life
      2. Imagine how you’d like to be remembered at your funeral
        • Think about the impact you had at your funeral
        • Then imagine how you’d be remembered if you died today
          • What is the gap between these two images?

Closing thoughts:

Wow. Such a phenomenal and comprehensive book. I have such a clearer understanding of who Jay Shetty is now, his background, and what he’s all about, and I’m all for it.

One thing I enjoyed about this book is that it’s such a solid work on how to live a happier, more fulfilled life. It seems like a lot of top books cover this topic, but I love that he brings monk and Buddhist teachings on this topic and translates it to a modern context. I also found that the core wisdom on universal topics such as relationships and purpose/passion are in line with some of my other favorite books like Purpose Driven Life, Solve for Happy, and Path Made Clear.

Another great thing about this book was that it wasn’t all just philosophical concepts. He actually gave action items for the reader to try out and apply the principles in real life, which I think makes a book like this more impactful.

Overall, the timeless wisdom, great writing style, and application suggestions make this a fantastic book. This is easily in my top 10 for the year, if not Top 20 all time favorites. I definitely need to go through this book again in a year or so.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

As I was reading this, I noted a few specific takeaways that I thought all had potential. While I typically never make an exception with my “only one takeaway” rule, I’ve actually started implementing all 3. Since this is the case, I’ll list them out here:

  1. Every morning, make some TIME for the following (thankfulness, insight, mediation, exercise)
    • After my morning prayer/gratitude, I work out while listening to a faith-based podcast. Also, I’ve been incorporating daily meditation as well as a new 30-day challenge
  2. Practice single-tasking on specific tasks regularly
    • I’ve been taking my commutes and rives a bit more seriously with single tasking. I’m trying to not look at my phone at all, and sometimes not even play music or an audiobook.
  3. Reconnect with people on a “short list” whom I intend to intentionally cultivate and maintain a deep relationship with
    • I made a comprehensive list of people with whom I vibe with and I want to consistently stay connected with with hopes of developing a life-long relationship with.

Similar books:


Rating: 5 out of 5.


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