After graduating from Cass Business School, a university in London, Jay Shetty was fielding job offers from large corporations with big salaries attached. Instead, he left for a monastery outside of Mumbai, India, for a simpler life. For five years, he lived like a monk, meditating for hours, performing simple daily chores with intention and gratitude, and caring for the less fortunate by building sustainable farms. But something was off. Through work with his mentors, Shetty realized that his true purpose, his dharma, was to share what he’s learned with the world.
Now the former monk, storyteller, life coach and author of the upcoming book Think Like a Monk is on a mission to “make wisdom go viral.” For his full story, check out the May/June cover story. Here, the former monk offers some life lessons for those wanting 2020 to be the year of growth.
…on getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things.
“If I wanted to learn how to race a speed car, I’m not going to go and race with Formula 1 drivers. I’m going to go to a beginner’s class,” Shetty says.
Understand that you’re new. Give yourself “toddler status,” and take your learning slow. If you push yourself too far too fast, you’ll see only failure and overwhelm. Small, incremental steps win the race.
…on slowing down.
In a society that celebrates overwork, slowing down can feel rebellious and counterintuitive. But the reality is that our brains and bodies can only take so much. If we push them past capacity, we not only drown out new creativity, but also threaten our ability to do much of anything.
“Giving yourself space and time can actually lead to the birth of more creativity, better creativity and some of your best work,” Shetty says. “If we don’t choose to intentionally slow down and stop being in a rush, your body and mind will force you to do it anyway.”
…on identifying your source of procrastination.
“Ask yourself, do I find this thing boring, annoying, arduous, ambiguous, unstructured or lacking in purpose?” Shetty asks.
Identifying why we’re procrastinating allows us to remove some of its power. If you’re postponing a big project and realize it’s because you’re overwhelmed by a lack of structure, this allows you to reorganize and restructure before beginning.
…on prioritizing growth over goals.
Goals are great, but they can loom large and inspire paralysis and overthinking. Start by taking any one step toward your goal. It doesn’t matter how small. Do this every day and watch how far you will have come three months from now.
“If I am just focused on this goal, I am focused on an elusive, arbitrary result,” Shetty says. “We must focus on the growth elements that power the goal.”
…on identifying the motivations behind our decisions.
It’s hard not to scoop up a sale at the grocery store or your favorite shoe store, even when you had no intention of buying that item. You might say, “But it was such a good deal!” How often do we make that same comparison when deciding how to act, what to value, whom to associate with? Analyze your why and decide whether it matches your internal value system.
“We wouldn’t know the value of cars if they didn’t have names on them,” Shetty says. “Are we making decisions based on what we are looking for and what is important to us, or what is attractive when comparing?”
…on learning to release our expectations of others.
“We should learn to accept apologies that we have never received,” he says. “Sometimes we are expecting an apology from them because we haven’t gotten an apology from ourselves for getting caught up with them in the first place.”
This is a tough one. Resentment can bury a person in negative emotions. To help, apologize to yourself aloud. Do it every day, if necessary, until you feel the burden of resentment start to lift. You can’t control how other people behave, but you can control how you react to them and to yourself.
…on breaking our social media addictions.
“There’s always been a way in which consumerism and capitalism will constantly try to bombard you,” Shetty says. “We can sit here and complain about it or be upset about it. But guess what? Social media is not going away. So what are we going to do about it?”
Especially in times of widespread fear and panic, social media can either ease your worry or multiply it. Check in with yourself regularly. Set strict no-internet times and use that disconnected time to connect with yourself and with loved ones. Try a breathing exercise or quick guided meditation.
…on releasing ourselves from the fear of judgment.
“If you fit in and go with the flow, people will call you a pushover and a follower,” he says. “But if we stand out and we do our own thing, people will call us a rebel and an attention-seeker. The point is, anything we do will always be judged.”
Our lives are on display, but we can choose the flow of that information. If you feel like you’re too involved with others’ opinions, back away from sharing for a while. It’s a helpful reminder that most people aren’t thinking about you—they’re too busy thinking about themselves. Then, write down some things you believe to be true about yourself. Revel in the thought of reconnecting with your identity—the one not curated on Instagram.
…on embracing the experimentation level of personal growth.
The experimentation level doesn’t have an age group or an expiration date. Whether you’re 15 or 55, it’s never too late to try new things without the pressure of making it into a side hustle or being exceptionally gifted at it. Learn to paint and laugh at yourself when it looks nothing like a fruit basket. Take a coding class and let yourself be proud of the simple website landing it took you a month to make. Be brave enough to enjoy being bad at new things.
“When you’re in the experimentation level, there’s no judgment, no criticism and no guilt of getting it wrong. You’re simply allowing experimentation to show you what works for you and what doesn’t. Having an experimentation level takes the pressure off. You don’t have to worry about perfecting anything or what anyone’s opinions are during this level. The experiment stage is just about trying new things. Even if you make mistakes (and you will), it’s valuable because you can use those mistakes and try something different.”
Read next: Jay Shetty: A Monk for Modern Times
Photo by Bonnie Holland