This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Think Like a Monk" by Jay Shetty. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Do you feel dissatisfied with your life? Do you often have to do things you don’t like?
In his book Think Like a Monk, former monk Jay Shetty says that we all have to do activities that we don’t enjoy in life. Instead of letting this bring you down, Shetty says to reframe how you look at everything you do and to see how they align with your values, what you can gain from them, and analyze why you may not like a certain task.
Here is Shetty’s advice on how to be satisfied with life no matter what you’re doing.
Clarify: The 2nd Stage of the Monk Mindset
Former Vedic monk and award-winning content creator Jay Shetty claims that the route to happiness and fulfillment is to Think Like a Monk. According to him, monks are the calmest and happiest people in the world because they live with a sense of purpose that aligns with their true, inner selves.
Fortunately, you don’t need to cut yourself off from the modern world or shave your head to benefit from this mindset. Shetty draws from his experiences as a monk, ancient spiritual texts, and the latest psychological research to transform abstract concepts into actionable methods you can easily incorporate into your life.
Shetty claims that there are three ongoing stages to adopting the monk mindset—the more you engage with and practice these methods, the happier you’ll feel:
- Purify: Become aware of and release external influences and internal obstacles that don’t align with who you really are.
- Clarify: Make conscious decisions and move confidently toward experiences that bring you genuine happiness and satisfaction.
- Exemplify: Expand your feelings of inner peace and happiness out into your relationships and the world around you.
In this article, we’re going to explore the second method, clarify, at length.
Engagement Leads to Satisfaction
If you want to know how to be satisfied with life, follow Jay Shetty’s advice. Shetty argues that the activities you enjoy offer a path to feeling more satisfaction and happiness. When you’re genuinely interested in something, you’re more likely to feel engaged when you think about it. This feeling of engagement makes you want to spend time perfecting your skills and makes you less prone to distractions. As a result, your feelings of satisfaction gather momentum without much effort on your part.
(Shortform note: We previously discussed how absorption in a task enhances your focus and discourages distractions, so it makes sense that the activities you enjoy encourage feelings of satisfaction. However, sometimes you’re too busy doing what you have to do to figure out what you want to do. According to the authors of Minimalism, there are four obstructions holding you back from discovering your interests: identity, status, certainty, and money. For example, you may focus all your energy on working at something you don’t enjoy because your sense of identity and financial security is tied up with the career status you’ve achieved. Therefore, consider how these four factors influence your ability to enjoy your day-to-day activities.)
Unfortunately, there are always going to be things that you need to do that don’t interest or engage you. However, Shetty claims that it’s possible to find meaning and satisfaction in any activity you do by finding different ways to think about it and by aligning the activities with the values you’ve set for yourself. Let’s explore the three methods Shetty suggests to help you feel more engaged and satisfied no matter what you’re doing:
1) Track the activities you take part in: Shetty recommends that you log every activity you get involved in and consider whether or not you enjoy them. Ask specific questions to uncover what exactly you enjoy or dislike about each activity. In addition, reflect back on times when you’ve performed at your best and felt satisfied with your accomplishments. Consider the patterns that link these experiences and how you can create opportunities for similar experiences in different circumstances or with different people.
(Shortform note: Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) offers an interesting way to expand upon Shetty’s method. She suggests that, once you pinpoint the experiences that you most enjoy, you set an ambitious goal that requires you to actively focus on these activities. Having a clear goal will help you to prioritize the way you spend your time and create more opportunities for similar uplifting experiences. For example, Rubin’s love of writing inspired her to set the ambitious goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in one month. Her work on this goal led to a number of opportunities that now allow her to pursue writing as a full-time career.)
2) Reframe what you don’t enjoy: If you find yourself having to do things that you don’t enjoy, Shetty suggests that you reframe the way you think about them so that you can switch your focus from dislike to appreciation. For example, you dislike your job but you choose to focus on the transferable skills you’re currently honing. This allows you to find meaning in the skills you’re developing because they’ll serve you well in the job you’re aiming for.
(Shortform note: Interestingly, research in neuroscience and positive psychology shows that Shetty’s method of focusing on appreciation in one area of your life will heighten your feelings of satisfaction in all areas of your life. According to The Happiness Advantage, positive thoughts train your brain to find opportunities in adversity and to easily overcome challenges and setbacks. This creates positive momentum in your life and fuels further opportunities to feel happy and satisfied.)
3) Add to-be lists to your to-do lists: Shetty claims that focusing on who you want to be while you’re in the middle of an activity changes the way you perceive it and opens you up to experiencing it in a more engaging way. For example, every evening you have the frustrating task of trying to get your kids to finish their homework. When you consider who you need to be to achieve this (calm, patient), you switch your focus from feeling frustrated to feeling calm. This changes your experience of what’s happening and reduces the tension you normally feel when involved in this activity.
(Shortform note: Research on the topic of intention-setting confirms that when you focus on who you want to be more than on what you have to do, you increase your self-discipline when faced with conflicting choices about how to behave. For example, you usually use brute force to get your kids to do their homework. This method rarely works and only serves to increase your feelings of frustration. On the other hand, when you intend to be calm when dealing with your kids, you switch your focus from how you wish they’d act to how you want to act. As a result, you immediately know how to act (patiently) when you’re tempted to shout at them for their disruptions.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Think Like a Monk summary :
- Tips from a former Vedic monk on how to find happiness and fulfillment in life
- The three stages to adopting the monk mindset
- How to positively influence the world around you