Can you identify who you are, or are you chasing someone else’s dream? When success is measured by wealth, appearance, and the material things we possess, it is easy to become wrapped up in what the world sees as the ideal life. Losing yourself in the process of this pursuit is often the consequence.

In a recent episode of On Purpose, Jay Shetty walked us through the first part of his new book, Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day. He shared his wisdom on finding your true self, clearing away outside distractions and identifying and applying your guiding values to your life.


We must play many roles in life - the work role, the home role, the friend role and the spouse role. These different roles benefit us, allowing us to function in various situations that may be uncomfortable, maintain relationships with people we may not like to interact with, and earn money to pay our bills. The downside to these different personas is that there are so many layers that we often lose sight of ourselves.

“We try to live up to what we think others think of us, even at the expense of our values,” Jay Shetty explained. “Rarely, if ever, do we consciously, intentionally create our values. We make life choices using this twice-reflected image of who we might be without really thinking it through.”

Shetty questioned how we can recognize who we are and what makes us happy when we're chasing the distorted reflection of someone else's dreams.

After graduation from college, Shetty explained that the biggest hurdle was not the job offers coming his way, it was telling his parents that he wanted to become a monk. Like all parents, he shared that his parents had dreams for him, joking that he had three options: doctor, lawyer, or failure. Friends and family all had opinions they openly shared as well.

“My parent’s friends started saying, ‘You've invested so much in his education, and he's been brainwashed, he's going to waste his life,’” Shetty said. “My friends thought I was failing in life. I heard, ‘You're never going to get a job again. You’re throwing away any hope of earning a living.’”

When you strive to live your most authentic life, you risk putting relationships in jeopardy. Losing them is a risk you take. The real challenge worth taking is finding a way to keep them in your life.

Since the age of eighteen, Shetty has experimented with living in both worlds. The outside world left him void of fulfillment. When he left for the ashram, he felt fantastic and excited.

“Experimenting with these wildly diverse experiences, values and belief systems helped me understand my values and beliefs,” Jay Shetty explained.

Already living by these principles helped Shetty tune out the outside pressure from his family and friends when he decided to go on the journey of monkhood.

‘My experiences in the ashram had given me the tools I needed to filter out that noise,” Jay Shetty shared. “I was less vulnerable to the noises around me telling me what was normal, safe, practical and best. I didn't shut out the people who loved me. I cared about them and didn't want them to worry, but I didn’t let their definitions of success and happiness dictate my choices. It was, at the time, the hardest decision I'd ever made.”

Removing Obstacles

A foundation of virtually all monastic tradition is removing distractions that prevent you from focusing on what matters most. It helps you to find the meaning in life by mastering physical and mental desires.

Jay Shetty explained that in the ashram, they lived with just the necessities and nothing more. Through this experience, Shetty learned firsthand the enlightenment of letting go.

“When you become buried in non-essentials, you lose track of what is truly significant,” Shetty said.

When you can learn how to recognize and filter the outside noise, you can focus on the essential values in your life that deserve your attention.


Values are the internal, ethical GPS that guides you in making decisions in life. Values help you decide how you treat yourself and others.

“Values make it easier for you to surround yourself with the right people,” Jay Shetty said. “They help you make challenging career choices, use your time more wisely, and focus your attention where it matters. Without values, we get swept away by distractions.”

Values do not come to you in your sleep. We do not verbalize them or even think about them, but they exist. Everyone has values that are defined by their circumstances. How much we let those circumstances dictate who we become is up to us. He recommends taking careful stock of how your upbringing shaped you.

“How was your time with your parents spent - playing, enjoying conversation, or working on projects together?” he asked. “What did they tell you was most important? Did it match what mattered most to them? Who did they want you to be? What did they want you to accomplish? Did you absorb these ideas? Have they worked for you?”

Media is an example of an outside influence that affects your mind. The books you read, the music you listen to and the movies you watch are all things that feed your mind. The more you become absorbed in the violence, gossip and the negative portrayal of things the media creates, the more tainted your values become.

“For monks, the first step in filtering the noise of external influences is a material letting go,” Jay Shetty explained. “The key to thinking like a monk begins with space and stillness.”

There are three ways that Jay Shetty suggests that you create space for reflection.

  1. Daily sit down to reflect on how the day went and what emotions you're feeling.
  2. Monthly, approximate the change by going someplace you've never been before. It can be anything from visiting a park or a library you've never been to before, to taking a trip.
  3. Get involved in doing something meaningful to you, like a hobby, a charity or a political cause. Take stock of how you are filling the time you have. Do the things you fill your time with reflect your actual values?

Audit Your Life

“Doing a self- audit shows you the values that have crept into your life by default,” Jay Shetty continued. “The next step is to decide what your values are and whether your choices are in alignment with them. The goal is to let go of the false values that fill the space in your life.”

As we have often heard, actions speak louder than words. What you do with your free time shows what you value. If what you say you value and your actions do not align, it is time to spend some time in self-examination. Take stock of how you spend your time outside of work and sleep. The areas of what you spend the majority of your time on should match what you value the most. Take a look at the values behind the decisions you are making and set limits for yourself in areas that do not align with your core values.

“Choices come along every day,” Shetty said. “We can begin to weave values into them. Whenever we make a choice, whether it's as big as getting married or as small as an argument with a friend, we are driven by our values. If these choices work out well for us, then our values are in alignment with our actions.”

When you start to make value-driven decisions, you begin to make a conscious decision about what you value the most and how much energy you want to devote to it.

“Once you filter out the noise of worldly opinions, the next step is inviting the world back in,” Jay Shetty shared. “When I ask you to strip away outside influences, I don't want you to tune out the whole world indefinitely. Your monk mind can and must learn from other people. The challenge is to do so consciously by asking ourselves simple questions like, ‘What qualities do I look for, or admire in family, friends, or colleagues?’”

Those qualities are your values, the very landmarks you should use to guide yourself through life. The people you surround yourself with will help you adhere to your values.

“It feels good to be around people who are good for us. It doesn't feel good to be on people who don't support us,” Shetty shared.

Charles Horton Cooley wrote, “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.”1

Too often, your identity is wrapped up in what others think of you or what you think others think of you. When you can begin to apply the principles from Jay Shetty’s book to your life, you can clear the outside distractions, leading the way for you to discover and acknowledge your core values. Once you live a life based on your values and align your actions, you can let go of the world’s imagined ideals and start to live your life on your terms.

Jay Shetty expands on more principles he learned from monks in his new book, Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind For Peace and Purpose Every Day. Pick up your copy today at for more wisdom from Jay Shetty.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Letting Go of the World’s Imagined Ideals” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at

1 Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 152.

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