This is the sixth in our new series of emails called “How I Monk.” In this series we will be highlighting + celebrating members of the Monk Manual community as they’ve meaningfully applied our tools and resources to find peaceful being and purposeful doing in their everyday lives. If you’d like to be featured in a future “How I Monk,” share your information with us here… #HowIMonk
Where are you based: Columbus, Ohio, USA
A bit about who you are and and how you spend your days: My life goal is to live in a way that acknowledges the dignity and fragility of life by immersing myself in the breadth of life’s experiences - through exploration, deep reflection, and human connection - while investing my being & doing to the people and community that I love. This currently plays out through my full-time job as an emergency medicine physician, as well as some public health interests I have. In addition, I am fortunate to spend many of my days with my loved ones (spouse, parents, nieces/nephews, and our dog), and enjoy spending my time on the water kayaking or in the water SCUBA diving.
Monk Manual Tip: Keep finished Monk Manuals in a bookshelf for reflection and growth. Looking back on big-picture pages (weekly & monthly) is useful to identify areas of growth and discover hidden patterns, and by glancing through them all once per year, you can gain insight for your annual planning activities.
How has your life changed since using the Monk Manual?
The changes I’ve noticed from Monk Manual are small and incremental, but compounding over time. I notice these changes most when I have a period where I don’t use Monk Manual for a week or two and get out of my rhythm - I noticed that I feel overwhelmed by the noise and calmed by the clarity when I return to my Monk Manual practice. I have noticed growth in the areas that I, month after month, focus on - relationships, vulnerability with others, and work projects.
Overall I’d say that Monk Manual has made me so much more aware of what makes me happy (beyond material things & accomplishments), how much noise I am surrounded by, and the importance of protecting my whitespace for reflection.
What did you initially find difficult in using the MM?
As a type A perfectionist, I found it really difficult to deal with pages that I didn’t fill out in real time (i.e., going back a week later to write in what I did). While this could be a useful exercise for some, if the goal is to write down highlights & reflect, I was solely doing it because I couldn’t stand the discomfort of seeing that I prioritized something else besides Monk Manual that day. Some of my greatest insights & growth have come from periods of blank pages in Monk Manual. Just because you aren’t actively writing doesn’t mean you aren’t using the system. Be gentle in periods where you just can’t get to your Monk Manual right away & just pick up where you left off.
What are some of your personal Monk Manual practices?
I have a lot of photos stored on my phone, but missed the nostalgia & reflection that came with printing photos and placing them in an album. So, I purchased a 2x3” photo printer that fits the blank space at the bottom of each page. Similarly, I keep notes & cards from loved ones throughout the Manual, making it fun to flip through years later.
What originally drew you to the Monk Manual?
I came to Monk Manual via a targeted ad during the COVID pandemic - while I had contemplated the tenets of Monk Manual prior to this, the pandemic certainly motivated me to take the leap. Personally, I have always been interested in doing it all and struggled with saying no to anything. The clinical and humanitarian demands of COVID forced me to say no to things, and the Monk Manual gave me a method for discerning what to embrace and where to make space.
I was most drawn to the concept of “being” goals - I had been so trained on “doing” goals that I built my life around those, at the neglect of one of the most fundamental human experiences…being. In looking back on this decision, I think the pandemic restrictions forced me to slow down and unintentionally created the whitespace for the reflection that Monk Manual requires.
What are your favorite Monk Manual Sections?
The “I was at my best when” daily section has really helped me cultivate gentleness towards myself. It’s often easy to find a task that was a highlight, but this section really drives me to focus on my “being” goals, which I often struggle to acknowledge & give myself credit for. The weekly and monthly “meaningful moments” is my favorite section to go back and read months/years later - not only does this bring joy in reliving those memories, it helps highlight what’s most important (and it’s almost never work or accomplishment related; rather, it’s usually a small, funny or, touching moment with a loved one)
What suggestions would you give to new Monk Manual users?
Using the Monk Manual, as designed, required a large philosophical shift & required time to address those underlying fears of “what if I say no to a good opportunity”. One useful mantra I learned is “what would I have to experience to have [fill in the blank]” - this often turned into “what would I have to experience to have time and energy to put my family first”, which meant saying no to good professional opportunities. Using this prompt, you can learn to feel the discomfort, lean in, and do the difficult, but deeply meaningful, work.
If you’d like to be featured in a future “How I Monk,” share your information with us here.