- Jay Shetty is an award-winning storyteller, podcaster, and former monk. The following is an excerpt from his new book, “THINK LIKE A MONK: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day.“
- In it, he draws principles from his life as a monk and applies them to modern problems, revealing how positivity and mindset can drastically reduce stress, improve relationships, and match your passions with purpose.
- Backed by research and his personal experiences, Shetty suggests something as simple as reengineering “the intention with which we approach our work” will help you learn to love your strengths and rediscover meaning in your work.
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In order to unveil our dharma, we have to identify our passions â€” the activities we both love and are naturally inclined to do well. It’s clear to anyone who looks at the Quadrants of Potential that we should be spending as much time as possible at the upper right, in Quadrant Two: doing things that we’re both good at and love. But life doesn’t always work out that way.
In fact, many of us find ourselves spending our careers in Quadrant One: working on things that we’re good at, but don’t love. When we have time to spare, we hop over to Quadrant Four to indulge the hobbies and extracurriculars that we love, even though we never have enough time to become as good at them as we would like.
Everyone can agree that we want to spend as little time as possible in Quadrant Three. It’s super-depressing to hang out there, doing things we don’t love and aren’t good at.
So the question is: How can we move more of our time toward Quadrant Two: doing things we are good at and love?
(You’ll notice that I don’t discuss the quadrants in numerical order. This is because Quadrants One and Four both offer half of what we want, so it makes sense to discuss them first.) Quadrant One: Good at, but don’t love Getting from here to Quadrant Two is easier said than done.
Say you don’t love your job. Most of us can’t just leap into a job we love that miraculously comes with a generous salary. A more practical approach is to find innovative ways to move toward Quadrant Two within the jobs that we already have. What can you do to bring your dharma where you are?
When I first left the ashram, I took a consulting job at Accenture, a global management consulting firm.
We were constantly dealing with numbers, data, and financial statements, and it quickly became clear that a talent for Excel was essential in order to excel in my position. But Excel was not my thing. In spite of my efforts, I couldn’t force myself to get better at it. I just wasn’t interested. As far as I was concerned, it was worse than mucking out the cow stalls.
So, while I continued to do my best, I thought about how I could demonstrate what I was good at.
My passion was wisdom and tools for life like meditation and mindfulness, so I offered to teach a mindfulness class to my working group. The lead managing director loved the idea, and the class I gave was popular enough that she asked me to speak about mindfulness and meditation at a companywide summer event for analysts and consultants.
I would speak in front of a thousand people at Twickenham Stadium, the home stadium of England’s rugby team. When I got to the stadium, I found out that my turn at the podium was sandwiched between words from the CEO and Will Greenwood, a rugby legend.
I sat in the audience listening to the lineup, thinking Crap, everyone’s going to laugh at me. Why did I agree to this? All the other speakers were at the top of their fields and so articulate. I started to have second thoughts about what I had planned to say and how to deliver it. Then I went through my breathing exercises, calmed myself down, and two seconds before I went on stage, I thought, Just be yourself.
I would do my own dharma perfectly instead of trying to do anyone else’s.
I went up, did my thing, and afterward the response couldn’t have been better. The director who had organised it said, “I’ve never heard an audience of consultants and analysts stay so quiet you could hear a pin drop.” Later, she invited me to teach mindfulness all across the company in the UK.
This was a tipping point for me. I saw that I hadn’t just spent three years of my life learning some weird monk-only philosophy that was irrelevant outside the ashram. I could take all my skills and put them into practice. I could actually fulfil my dharma in the modern world. P.S. I still don’t know how to use Excel.
Instead of making a huge career change, you can try my approach: look for opportunities to do what you love in the life you already have.
You never know where it might lead. Leonardo DiCaprio hasn’t given up acting or producing, yet he also directs significant energy toward environmental advocacy because it’s part of his dharma. A corporate assistant might volunteer to do design work; a bartender can run a trivia contest.
I worked with a lawyer whose true passion was to be a baker on The Great British Bake Off. That goal felt unrealistic to her, so she got a group of her colleagues obsessed with the show, and they started “Baking Mondays,” where every Monday someone on her team brought in something they’d made. She still worked just as hard and performed well at a job that she found slightly tedious, but bringing her passion to the water cooler made her team stronger and made her feel more energised throughout the day.
If you have two kids and a mortgage and can’t quit your job, do as the lawyer did and find a way to bring the energy of your dharma into the workplace, or look for ways to bring it into other aspects of your life like your hobbies, home, and friendships. Also, consider why you don’t love your strengths. Can you find a reason to love them? I often encounter people working corporate jobs who have all the skills required to do good work, but they find the work meaningless.
The best way to add meaning to an experience is to look for how it might serve you in the future.
If you tell yourself: “I’m learning how to work in a global team,” or “I’m getting all the budgeting skills I’ll need if I open a skate shop one day,” then you can nurture a passion for something that may not be your first choice. Link the feeling of passion to the experience of learning and growth.
Psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski from the Yale School of Management and colleagues studied hospital cleaning crews to understand how they experienced their work. One crew described the work as not particularly satisfying and not requiring much skill. And when they explained the tasks they performed, it basically sounded like the job description from the personnel manual. But when the researchers talked to another cleaning crew, they were surprised by what they heard. The second group enjoyed their work, found it deeply meaningful, and described it as being highly skilled.
When they described their tasks, the reason for the distinction between the crews started to become clear. The second crew talked not just about typical custodial chores, but also about noticing which patients seemed especially sad or had fewer visitors and making a point to start a conversation or check in on them more often.
They related incidents where they escorted elderly visitors through the parking structure so they wouldn’t get lost (even though the custodians technically could have gotten fired for that). One woman said she periodically switched the pictures on the walls among different rooms. When asked if this was part of her job, she replied, “That’s not part of my job. But that’s part of me.”
From this study and subsequent research, Wrzesniewski and her colleagues created the phrase “job crafting” to describe “what employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.”
According to the researchers, we can reengineer our tasks, relationships, or even just how we perceive what we do (such as custodians thinking of themselves as “healers” and “ambassadors”). The intention 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 will serve you all your life.
Excerpted from Think Like a Monk: Train your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day by Jay Shetty. Copyright Â© 2020 by Jay Shetty. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jay Shetty is a storyteller, podcaster, and former monk. Shetty’s vision is to Make Wisdom Go Viral. He is on a mission to share the timeless wisdom of the world in an accessible, relevant, and practical way. Shetty has created over 400 viral videos with over 5 billion views, and hosts the #1 Health and Wellness podcast in the world, On Purpose. Learn more at JayShetty.me.
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