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What Jay Shetty’s “Think Like a Monk” Can Teach Us About Comparison

Find true inner peace and prosperity for good.

When my mother first bought me “Think Like a Monk” as a gift, I didn’t think much of this self-help book except as a filler for my overflowing shelves. The mantras and principles, I figured, wouldn’t really apply to my life—after all, I was neither religious nor interested in philosophical debates.

However, upon finally cracking it open, I found a mine full of gold-worthy knowledge and wisdom. Jay Shetty, a once-troubled teenager who converted to a monk after college, doesn’t chide us once for being worldly, materialistic, or self-centered. He understands; he empathizes. He presents snippets of ancient Hindu text as accessible tips that seem doable for anyone.

One piece of wisdom that resonated most with me was to cut out negative comparisons: to feel envy or self-loathing as the result of other people’s accomplishments or lifestyles. I’m sure all of us have experienced this feeling one way or another, even if we don’t like to admit it. It feels disgusting—yet so satisfying in the moment.

Envy is one of the most destructive tendencies of human beings.

According to Shetty, envy is one of the most destructive tendencies of human beings. Once we start, we can tumble into a vicious cycle of never having enough, never feeling enough, and never being enough. That’s why it is so pertinent that we consciously filter the media and content we consume on a daily basis, from social media to news to social circles. Shetty urges us to spend at least 75% of our time with people who inspire and uplift us, and less than 25% with “negative” people who consume our energy.

Of course, it’s not easy to label our friends as “negative” or “positive,” and we may easily fall into the trap of blaming others when we don’t address negative comparisons in ourselves. Self-introspection is just as important: try swapping out words you may say with more mindful and positive ones. For example, if you get into a heated misunderstanding with your friend, rather than ranting, see if you can channel that into a diary. After you have more control of your emotions, you may say to them: “Hey, I want to talk about what you said earlier. I felt a little excluded and misunderstood by that.” While we can’t manipulate other people into feeling the same way, we have the power to spin a situation into a more positive light, or at least a learning opportunity.

To reinforce his teaching, Shetty emphasizes the benefits of visualization. Try it yourself: write down a list of 5 people whom you frequently envy or compare yourself to. What do they do specifically? Why are they so admirable? Then, ask yourself what these accomplishments take away from you and your life. You may find that it is possible to celebrate others’ wins and also your own at the same time. After all, we aren’t meant to be carbon copies of each other. If your friend just won a piano competition, express your support by telling her how hard she’s worked. Reciprocate the love you receive, all day and every day. The world is wide enough for all of us to bloom.


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