Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty

The Book in a Few Sentences

Happiness rates have been steadily declining since the 1970’s. People are focused on external conditions that are subject to change. Growing internally brings lasting happiness, and serving others creates meaning.

Think Like a Monk summary

This is my book summary of Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. My summaries are casual and include what I believe are the most important concepts, ideas and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.


  • “A layperson who is consciously aiming to be continuously alive in the Now is a monk.” - Brother David Steindl-Rast
  • Ancient wisdom is as relevant today as it was developed thousands of years ago.
  • Despite chasing “happiness,” people today are more dissatisfied than ever.
  • Having the mindset of a monk reduces confusion and offers clarity, meaning and direction.
  • The breath is always with us and always available to help us through any situation.
  • The way of the monk is to go to the roots through self-examination.
  • Realizing self-awareness is the purpose and the reward of meditation.

One: identity

  • “I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” - Charles Horton Cooley
  • We compromise our values trying to live up to others’ expectations of us.
  • How can we know who we are and what we value when others are telling us who we should be and what we should do?
  • A happy and meaningful life starts from within.
  • Being lost in pettiness and superficial things causes us to forget what is most important.
  • Your values anchor you to the actions and habits that best serve you.
  • The first step in discovering who you are and what you value is to reduce the outer “noise” by letting go of materials possessions, ideas, even people, if necessary.
  • Your values are revealed in how you spend your free time.
  • The more we notice the goodness in others, the more we will notice the goodness in ourselves.

Two: Negativity

  • Negativity and positivity are contagious.
  • Self-understanding begins with awareness, and self-awareness is the key to freedom.
  • The more you allow yourself to be defined by others, the less you know yourself.
  • When happy people complain, they tend to do it mindfully.
  • Mudita, or enjoying the good fortune of others, allows us to experience infinitely more joy.
  • Greater forgiveness equals greater peace.
  • Most of us are unaccustomed to taking responsibility and acknowledging fault.
  • Dissolving negativity requires digging to the root cause.

Three: Fear

  • Fear and anxiety hold us back from realizing our potential and giving our gifts.
  • Changing your relationship to fear begins with focusing on the potential benefits rather than noticing the discomfort.
  • We have four emotional reactions to fear: panic, freeze, run away, or suppression.
  • It’s important to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful fears.
  • The more we practice gratitude for the hard times that helped us to grow, the more we begin to appreciate difficulty.
  • Denying fear doesn’t make it go away.
  • In relationship we often avoid difficult topics and conversations rather than addressing them.

Four: Intention

  • Maya is the Sanskrit word for believing in that which is not. For example, believing that success will bring happiness.
  • Nothing external can bring lasting happiness.
  • Happiness means feeling good about yourself, having close relationships and contributing to the world.
  • Happiness rates for Americans has declined since the 1970s.
  • The more we feel what we do matters, the more we feel that we matter and the more we alive we become.
  • The roots of all intention are fear, desire, duty and love.
  • Often you’ll discover what you are searching for is an internal feeling like security, confidence and happiness.
  • Our lives are like a garden — first we need to weed, then plant seeds, and then tend to and care for the plants on an ongoing basis or weeds will grow back.
  • Saying “I wish” is a way of saying “I don’t want to do anything differently.”
    Life becomes more meaningful when we live from intentions rather than achievements.
  • Your intentions reveal your values.
  • Believing in what you do brings satisfaction.
  • If you want the benefits of being a monk, you have to live like monks do, including rising at the same time as monks do to meditate and embodying the qualities of a monk.

Meditation: Breathe

  • Meditation doesn’t make you a bad person, but you may see things that are upsetting or that you don’t like.
  • Aligning with your breath helps you to stay calm and centered.
    You don’t have to be in a calm setting to meditate; you can meditate anywhere.

Five: Purpose

  • Living your Dharma means using your skills to better the world, which is a sure route to fulfillment.
  • We are always both student and teacher.
  • A monk travels inward, ever close to the authentic, confident and powerful inner core.
  • Dharma is already woven into your very being.
  • Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
    In the Bhagavad Gita, there are four personality types called varnas: Guide, Leader, Creator and Maker.
  • Creator: Marketers, salespeople, entrepreneurs, make things happen, always on the move
  • Makers: Social workers, doctors, engineers, inventing, supporting, implementing
  • Guides: Teachers, coaches, gurus, want to bring out the best in people, value knowledge and wisdom
  • Leaders: Military, law enforcement, politics, natural leaders, provide structure
    Knowing the varnas helps you to connect with yourself and focus on your strengths and inclinations.
  • Find others who can help where you are weak.
  • When you are thriving, people will take notice.
  • “Dharma is passion in the service of others.”

Six: Routine

  • The trick to getting up early is going to bed early.
  • A positive next day begins the night before, including knowing the first thing you will do when you wake up.
  • Starting the day with a simple morning routine like meditation is like having a mental shower.
  • Start each morning in the way you would like the be throughout the day - deliberate and focused.
  • 75% of human growth hormone is believed to be released between the hours of 10p.m. and midnight while we sleep.
  • Contrary to popular belief, structure fosters creativity, spontaneity, and delighting in small things.
  • Being present means being happy.
  • Physical spaces with a single purpose foster greater well being and productivity.
  • Developing a new habit is easier when you schedule it at the same time every day.
  • Change requires dedicated effort one area at a time, rather than trying to do change everything at once.

Seven: The Mind

  • The human mind is rarely present, but instead tends to dwell in the past and the future.
  • Successful navigation of life requires understanding and training the mind.
  • Procrastination is the pull between the “should-self” and the “want-self.”
  • We are neither our mind nor our thoughts.
  • Seeing that the mind is separate from us, we can look at its behavior more objectively.
  • The sun is always shining; we just just can’t see it through the continually passing clouds.
  • The mind is more prone to reaction when tired, hungry, or ignored.
  • Awareness is first step to changing our relationship with the mind.
  • As our mind strengthens, we move from reactivity to proactivity.
  • If you haven’t yet healed your relationship with your parents, you will continue to choose partners who reflect the unresolved issues.
  • Happiness is derived from learning, progressing, and achieving.
  • Talk lovingly to yourself.
  • Our personal narrative defines our self-view.
  • Attachment brings pain, so letting goes brings freedom from pain.
  • There is no destination, only practice.
  • Spiritual growth can be thought of as learning to do what is right rather than doing what we want.
  • The mind translates experience into joy or sorrow

Eight: Ego

  • There are two egos: the real one, or consciousness, and the false one, or the carefully crafted identity we hold to be true.
  • We present the false ego to others and defend it at all costs.
    If you want to know the real you, who are you when nobody is around to impress?
  • Filling yourself up with right knowledge begins with emptying yourself.
  • The ego is unreliable. One moment it is telling us how great we are, and the next how bad we are.
  • Practice humility by appreciating what others have done for us and forgetting what we have done for others.
  • “Humility comes from accepting where you are without seeing it as a reflection of who you are.”
  • The higher your self-esteem, the easier it is to let go of the ego and accept yourself as you are.
  • Small wins, over time, builds confidence.
  • There is no arrival.
  • Real greatness is teaching others.

Meditation: Visualize

  • Visualization helps us rewrite our narrative.
  • Creation starts with imagination.

Nine: Gratitude

  • Gratitude is a proven practice for greater well being.
  • Gratitude helps lessen the effects of PTSD.
  • The more specific your gratitude, the more effective it is.
  • Gratitude fosters kindness - for yourself and others.
  • People tend to enjoy an experience more when they engage a stranger in conversation than when they keep to themselves.
  • People keep to themselves for fear of being rejected.
  • Receiving love can be difficult because it requires vulnerability and a willingness to be hurt.

Ten: Relationships

  • The more mature your relationship with yourself, the more mature your relationship with others.
  • Whatever love you give to the world comes back in equal measure.
  • Gratitude helps us to feel loved.
  • When we see what people can and can’t offer us, we tend to expect less and are therefore less likely to be disappointed.
  • No one can offer us everything.
  • It’s okay to get your needs from people outside your family of origin.
  • The feeling of being connected with all of humanity is therapeutic.
  • We tend to behave in black and white - either trusting people too much or not trusting at all.
  • One of the biggest mistakes we make is believing that everyone should operate just like us.
  • Spend your energy building a relationship with yourself rather than hoping to be validated by others.
  • Be the person you would want to date.
  • The more intentional we are, the more we can attract the right person into our lives.
  • Show your love through presence and attention.
  • Listening is one of the greatest gifts.
  • Look for what the other person needs most.
  • When you know what you want, you will attract the right person.
  • Being grateful and settling for less than you deserve are different.
  • Suppressing emotions reduces the likelihood we will have close relationships.

Eleven: Service

  • No matter how much you give, you can always give more.
  • Selflessness leads to peaceful and meaningful life.
  • Being in service connects us, increases compassion, and builds self-esteem.
  • You don’t need grand gestures; love is in the small things.
  • True service is unconditional without expectation.
  • Service offers us the great joy of service.
  • Being in service brings meaning to our lives.


  • Reflection on death helps us appreciate what we have to live our lives fully.

40 Think Like a Monk Quotes

  • “A layperson who is consciously aiming to be continuously alive in the Now is a monk.” - Brother David Steindl-Rast
  • “I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” - Charles Horton Cooley
  • “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” - Albert Einstein
  • “Never before have so many people been so dissatisfied…”
  • “…this entire book is a meditation—a reflection on our beliefs and values and intentions, how we see ourselves, how we make decisions, how e train our minds, and our ways of choosing and interacting with people.”
  • “Achieving such deep self-awareness is the purpose and the reward of meditation.”
  • “..most of our efforts at self-improvement are really just us trying to meet that imagined ideal.”
  • “We live in a perception of a perception of ourselves, and we’ve lost our real selves as a result.”
  • “How can we recognize who we are and what makes us happy when we’re chasing the distorted reflection of someone else’s dreams?”
  • “Society’s definition of a happy life is everybody’s and nobody’s.”
  • “The only way to build a meaningful life is to filter out that noise and look within.”
  • “When we tune out the opinions, expectations, and obligations of the world around us, we begin to hear ourselves.”
  • “What we do with our spare time shows what we value.”
  • “When we criticize others, we can’t help but notice the bad in ourselves.”
  • “Negativity is a trait, not someone’s identity.”
  • “The desire to save others is ego-driven.”
  • “…when we find ourselves judging others, we should take note. It’s a signal that our minds ar tricking us into thinking we’re moving forward when in truth we’re stuck.”
  • “The more we define ourselves in relation to other people around us, the more lost we are.”
  • “When we limit our negative speech, we my find that we have a lot less to say.”
  • “We have so much to offer the world, but fear and anxiety disconnect us from our abilities.”
  • “What we should really fear is that we will miss the opportunities that fear offers.”
  • “Fear makes us fiction writers.”
  • “External goals cannot fill internal voids.”
  • “In getting where you want to be, meditation may show you what you don’t want to see.”
  • “You can’t be anything you want. But you can be everything you are.”
  • “If you allow yourself to daydream, you will always be distracted.”
  • “…doing the same tasks at the same time in the same place makes room for creativity.”
  • “The monkey mind is a child and the monk mind is an adult.”
  • “We are defined by the narrative that we write for ourselves every day.”
  • “When you trust the false ego to protect you, it’s like wearing armor that you thought was made of steel but is actually made of paper.”
  • “Humility comes from accepting where you are without seeing it as a reflection of who you are.”
  • “Until the whole world is healed and happy, I haven’t finished.”
  • “The moment you feel like you have arrived, you’re starting the journey again.”
  • “Appreciate everything, even the ordinary. Especially the ordinary.” - Pema Chödrön
  • “When you’re present in gratitude, you can’t be anywhere else.”
  • “We can be grateful for some, but not all, of a person’s behavior toward us.”
  • “We often expect too much of others when we don’t have a clear sense of their purpose in our lives.”
  • “We tend to expect every person to be a complete package…”
  • “Until you understand yourself, you won’t be ready for love.”
  • “Service is the direct path to a meaningful life.”

Related Resources

This is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts and concepts mentioned in Think Like a Monk, which might be useful for future learning.


Gauranga Das
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Charles Horton Cooley, sociologist
Dalai Lama
Radhanath Swami
Alex Honnold
Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Saint Francis of Assisi
Joan Chittister
Amy Wrzesniewski
Pema Chödrön
Linda Sapadin
Richard Rohr
David Steindl-Rast
Alex Korb
Joanna Macy
Joan Halifax
Dan Buettner
J. Patrick Sweeney
Dr. John Gottman
Dr. Bella DePaulo
Paul Tillich
Jetsunma Tanzim Palmo


The Journey Home
The Baghdad Gita
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich That Hanh
The Monastic Way by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild
The Gift of Fear by David de Becker
Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk
Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal
Aspects of Love by Laurence Freeman
How Emotions are Made by Lisa Feldman
Samyutta Nikaya
Hitopadeśa by Nārāyana,
Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
Judging a Book by Its Cover: Beauty and Expectations in the Trust Game
The Upadesamrta
How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Monastic Way
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani


Qi Gong