We tend to think of January as the month of new beginnings, but science disagrees. According to many experts, September is actually the best month to start new habits or start reimagining your life. Thanks to at least a decade of training as kids, most of us still have an intuition that back-to-school month is a time to start fresh. Plus, September lacks the winter blues, holiday slump, and credit card bills of January.
If you’re willing to take the advice of experts and want to take a new path this month, what’s the best way to approach making deep and lasting changes in your life? Changing your habits is never easy, but one blogger insists he’s stumbled upon an effective shortcut.
If you really want to change the momentum of 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
Recently, on his Raptitude blog, writer David Cain makes it clear that he did not invent the concept of Monk Mode.
“In the late 2000s, when I started this blog, there was a trend among young entrepreneurs called ‘Monk Mode.’ Everyone had a different idea of what that term meant, but it generally referred to taking a definite period of time (from a week to three months or more) to focus with unusual intensity on certain important and fruitful activities, while refraining from certain distractions. or counterproductive activities,” he explains.
Basically, Monk Mode is like a challenge plus detox where you commit to a blast of work and promise to isolate yourself from all the bad habits that might get in your way.
Much like the #Girlboss cheerleaders and hustle culture, the idea of Monk Mode has fallen out of favor in our post-pandemic moment of late capitalism when all the chatter, via trends like “the Great Renunciation”, ” Silent Resignation” and “Anti-Work” — seem to be about how to do less, not more. But Cain thinks the Monk Mode idea deserves another look.
Why? Cain is blunt: “It really works.”
He himself saw this in short meditation retreats where the practice progressed by leaps and bounds in just a few days. But he insists that the benefits of Monk Mode go beyond those who literally try to live as monks. Whether you’re looking to delve into a new hobby, start a new healthy behavior, or finally wrap up a big work project, Monk Mode can help you do it.
Cain offers the example of how to get back in shape after a lot of pandemic laziness. “The conventional way of doing this is the resolution approach. You slam your fist down on the table, perhaps literally, and declare, ‘Enough is enough! Starting today I’m going to exercise again and stop eating junk!’ Essentially, you’re making a lifelong commitment to living with greater discipline and sacrifice, with nothing behind it but the emotional surge you’re feeling right now. You know how this tends to be,” he writes.
It usually goes wrong. However, shorter, more specific commitments work best. Committing to a week or two “in which you visit the gym three times a week, abstain from foods with added sugar, and diligently stretch every morning and night… is finite and doable, and will undoubtedly set you on a trajectory.” much better in the end,” says Cain. When you finish this Monk Mode, you can come up with a long-term plan from a place of trust, forward momentum, and greater self-awareness.
The four rules of Monk Mode
Cain believes that Monk Mode can work for many kinds of change, from completing an online course to writing a book proposal to launching a business idea. 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 types of work
A commitment to refrain from certain distractions or vices.
Definite rules for both.
A definite start and end date
As long as you make commitments and bans challenging yet doable, you’re good to go.
I can see why Cain is drawn to this particular approach to life change at this point. It’s radical enough to appeal at a time when so many people are looking to rethink at the root level how to live their lives. At the same time, the limited-time commitment seems feasible even if you’re still working with reduced levels of post-pandemic momentum and energy.
So maybe Cain is right and more of us should relive that late 2000s Monk Mode concept for our lives in 2022. What could you accomplish with just a week or two of Monk Mode?