It’s true. In the last 20 years or so I’ve seen Sister Hazel play more than 100 times. If you know me well, you’ve seen me post about these guys on FB:
Music has the ability to immediately change my emotional state. I can feel apathetic, angry or depressed and the right song pulls me up out of the fog and points me back in the right direction. I have a theme song (and you should too!). One study shows that music activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as sex does. If that isn’t a reason to listen to music everyday then I don’t know what is.
In middle school I called radio stations with fingers poised over the “record” button on my boom box hoping the DJ wouldn’t talk over the intro to my favorite song. I’ve practiced my guitar until blisters prevented me from holding onto the strings. I’ve traveled huge distances and willingly gave up large amounts of sleep to spend a few precious hours with my favorite bands. I’ve used music to get through countless late-night college assignments. I’ve sung to my newborn daughters in the middle of the night every song I knew just to get them to sleep. I’ve sped down country roads on late summer nights with the windows down and the radio up. I’ve cried over breakups not only because my heart was broken but because I also lost a man who could make a kick-ass mix tape.
Most of us have stories when music saved our lives. Musicians put into words what our hearts yearn to express whether it is love, despair, or anything in between. Music can make friends of enemies by providing a launching point of common ground. It can take people who’ve never met before and turn them into life-long companions. Music doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, how you dress, or about the color of your skin. Music doesn’t tell you whom to love or what religion to practice. Music is unconditional. It touches your soul and expects nothing in return.
So today I celebrate my love for music. As journalist Eric Olson once wrote, “Music is what life sounds like.”
I took a road trip this weekend by myself. It didn’t start out as a solo road trip but that’s how it turned out. Some people were surprised I didn’t cancel the trip all together and although I was disappointed my friend couldn’t join me, it actually worked out for the best. Here’s why: the trip incorporated several elements which I know specifically inspire me and connect me to the best version of myself. How could I say no to that?
I have a busy life, just like you. Currently I have a lot of demands on my time that are non-negotiable and very little time to spend pursuing things that are personally important to me. That isn’t a complaint by any means, just a description of my current day-to-day life. Inside all of those mandatory activities, it can be difficult for me to check in with my goals, my inspirations, my passions. However, one thing I’ve learned is there are very specific situations where I instantly connect with my core self– the place where I truly know what I want, what goals are important to me and exactly how I want to do to change the world. The funny thing is, none of these situations are specifically geared toward inspiration. It just happens whenever I find myself there.
Just as a point of reference, here’s my list:
- Driving for extended periods of time
- Singing with abandon to great music
- Seeing live music
- Connecting with other people in meaningful ways
- Finding some true silence both externally and internally
The great thing about my weekend is I had the opportunity to experience all of these things at different points and it allowed me to be in contact with my true, authentic self. When that happens, inspiration can’t help but bubble up and out like a spring. Luckily, I am aware of this phenomenon in my life so I made sure to have a notebook and pen on the front seat of the car so I could jot down all the thoughts I wanted to capture as they came up. Now that I am home, I have the harder task of deciphering what I wrote while I was driving. It’s hard to write legibly with your non-dominant hand while watching the road and scribbling frantically before a fleeting idea leaves your head.
People connect to their true selves in lots of different ways. Do you know those specific places where it happens for you? Here are a few more examples of situations that work for other people I know:
- Physical acitivites- running, rock climbing, surfing, hiking etc.
- Practicing Yoga
- Sitting in Meditation a few minutes every day
- Going to events and meeting new people who do something different than you
- Reading non-fiction books on topics that interest you
- Vision Boarding
Can you name the activities that foster inspiration within you? Take a few moments and see what you come up with. If nothing springs to mind, try to remember a time where you were truly yourself- when you knew exactly who you were and where you were heading. Then think about the very specific situation where you felt this way- are there events or activities there you can replicate to feel that way again?
Once you’ve got yourself a list of these events, can you make some space in your life to experience them at least occasionally? When you do, bring paper and a pen. You’re going to need them to remember all the great ideas and inspiration that bubble up out of you.
Peter MacNicol played a lawyer, John Cage, on the television show Ally McBeal. In a show filled with odd and interesting characters, John stuck out. He wasn’t particularly handsome, he wasn’t tall, he wasn’t even that well-spoken. Truthfully he was socially awkward and tremendously quirky. But when he needed to succeed, whether it was in the courtroom or in life, he had an incredibly powerful and energy-shifting tool:
He had a theme song.
Not just any song by any singer by the way. He had Barry White. And when John listened to that song he became powerful and brave and lived with gusto instead of shrinking at the challenges life threw at him. Barry White connected John Cage to his true self.
A theme song resonates with your soul. When you hear it, your body cries out YES! You feel powerful, optimistic, ready to tackle new challenges. Theme songs push you further than you think you can go. Remember Rocky? His theme song had him jumping in victory on the top steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Theme songs focus your energy on the task at hand. I guarantee every time we see Michael Phelps plugged into his iPod just before he steps on the starting block, he is listening to his theme song.
A theme song draws out an immediate visceral reaction. At the very least it should make you smile. Maybe it makes you Cha Cha, or pump your fists in the air or play air guitar. One client of mine conducted an imaginary orchestra as he listened to the 1812 Overture, complete with real cannon explosions, every time he sat down to look for a new job. That’s what I am talking about.
Use your theme song liberally. Play it whenever you need a lift or a little motivation to create some momentum. Listen to it before you go and ask for that raise, before you run your morning three miles in the rain, before you begin painting that massive canvas. I use my theme song as often as possible. You’d be surprised how many times I get caught dancing around the kitchen rocking out as I clean up dinner dishes.
Everybody needs a theme song. What’s yours?