Meditation Retreats

How to Use ‘Monk Mode’ to Change Your Life in Just a Week

We tend to think of January as the month for new beginnings, but science disagrees. According to many experts September is actually the best month to kick off new habits or start re-imagining your life. Thanks to at least a decade of training as kids, most of us still have a good sense that the back-to-school month is a time for fresh starts. Plus, September lacks the winter gloom, holiday comedown, and credit card bills of January.

If you’re up for taking the experts’ advice and looking to get yourself on a new track this month, what’s the best way to approach making deep and lasting changes to your life? Changing your habits is never easy, but one blogger insists he’s stumbled on an effective shortcut.

If you want to really change the momentum in your life, set aside a week or two to limit distractions and dive deep into your new commitment by going into “Monk Mode.”

Monk Mode = a challenge + a detox

On his blog Raptitude recently, writer David Cain is clear that he didn’t invent the concept of Monk Mode.

“During the late 2000s, around when I started this blog, there was a trend among young male entrepreneurs called ‘Monk Mode.’ Everyone had a different idea of ​​what that term meant, but generally it referred to taking a definite period of time — a week to three months or more — to focus with unusual intensity on certain important and fruitful pursuits, while abstaining from certain distracting or self-defeating activities,” he explains.

So basically, Monk Mode is like a challenge plus a detox in which you commit to a burst of work and promise to lock yourself away from all the bad habits that might get in your way.

Like #Girlboss cheerleading and hustle culture, the idea of ​​Monk Mode has fallen out of favor in our post-pandemic, late capitalist moment when all the chatter — via trends like “the Great Resignation,” “Quiet Quitting,” and “Antiwork ” — seems to be about how to do less, not more. But Cain believes the idea of ​​Monk Mode deserves another look.

Why? Cain is blunt: “It really works.”

He saw this for himself on short meditation retreats where practice to progressed in leaps and bounds over just a few days. But he insists the benefits of Monk Mode go beyond those literally trying to live like monks. Whether you’re looking to go deeper into a new hobby, start a new healthy behavior, or finally finish a big work project, Monk Mode can help you get it done.

Cain offers the example of getting your flabby self back into shape after a whole lot of pandemic sloth. “The conventional way to go about this is the resolution approach. You slam your fist on the table, perhaps literally, and declare, ‘Enough is enough! Starting today I’m going to work out again and stop eating crap!’ Essentially, you’re making a lifelong commitment to live with greater discipline and sacrifice, with nothing behind it but the emotional surge you are feeling at this moment. You already know how this tends to go,” he writes.

It tends to go badly. Shorter, more specific commitments, however, go better. Committing to a week or two “in which you visit the gym three times a week, abstain from foods with added sugar, and stretch dutifully every morning and evening… is finite and doable, and will undoubtedly put you on a much better trajectory by the end of it,” Cain says. When this Monk Mode ends you can work out a long-term plan from a place of confidence, forward momentum, and greater self-knowledge.

The four rules of Monk Mode

Cain believes Monk Mode can work for many kinds of change, from completing an online course to writing a book proposal, to getting a business idea off the ground. The idea is extremely adaptable, but every successful Monk Mode project must follow four basic principles, he writes.

  • A commitment to do certain amounts of certain kinds of work

  • A commitment to abstain from certain distractions or vices

  • Definite rules for both of these things

  • A definite start and stop date

As long as you make the commitments and proscriptions challenging but doable, you’re good to go.

I can see why Cain is attracted to this particular approach to life change at the moment. It’s radical enough to appeal at a time when so many people are looking doing root level rethinks of how to live their lives. At the same time, the limited time commitment seems doable even if you’re still working with reduced, post-pandemic levels of drive and energy.

So maybe Cain is on to something and more of us should revive that late 2000s concept of Monk Mode for our very 2022 lives. What could you accomplish with just a week or two of Monk Mode?

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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