The power of music is undeniable. Listen to it under the right conditions and you get a productivity boost or other success-enhancing benefits. Listen to music that suits your mood and it will further affect that mood and your emotions (that is both common sense and a scientifically established fact).

But what isn't as known, until now, is the impact that music can have on the nature of your specific thoughts, particularly when your mind is wandering. This matters because Harvard research shows that our mind wanders half the time when we're engaged in a task. So during that mind-wandering, wouldn't you want to steer that mind towards empowering thoughts? 

Recent research published in Scientific Report on July 16, 2019, shows just how you can do that. A team of Norwegian researchers played 2-minute excerpts of heroic- or sad-sounding music (contrasted in tempo, loudness, and orchestration) for study participants, then asked them to answer questions that assessed the nature of their thoughts right after listening to the music. Heroic music was defined as "energetic and strong", upbeat, with energy. Think Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall", The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" or the Braveheart soundtrack. Sad music was slower tempo, and well, you know, sad sounding. What did they find?

Heroic music makes you think empowering thoughts.

Sad music, while it makes you relax, also triggers more depressive thoughts. You probably suspected this was true, but this research also pinpoints the relationship between music types and actual thought patterns.

Those listening to heroic music reported feeling more positive, alert, motivated, active, inspired, less helpless, less afraid, and more courageous. The researchers pointed out the practical implications; that heroic-sounding music can be used in everyday life to help stimulate a powerful range of success enhancing specific thoughts and even squash success-draining thoughts of helplessness and fear. In other words, your mind will wander, you can't stop it, but listening to heroic music helps steer that mind-wandering to a good place. 

That's a heroic amount of power packed into one type of music. It got me thinking, imagine a cocktail of listening to your favorite heroic music while zoning out and interspersing the five empowering thoughts that follow in your mind. You'll be ready to tackle anything.

1. You are bigger than your mistake.

So many times people have come to me for coaching convinced that some mistake they made was a harbinger for future bad things to come. They were convinced that their failure defined them. No. You're bigger than your mistake. Failure is never a person, only an event, a point in time.

2. Strive for authenticity, not approval.

Striving for the approval of others is an empty victory at best and an insatiable, soul-crushing pursuit at worst. What matters is staying true to yourself and who you're trying to become.

3. The only comparison that matters is to who you were yesterday.

It's tempting to use others as a measuring stick of your own progress. Don't. It's irrelevant. Only compare to who you were yesterday and whether or not you're becoming a better version of yourself.

4. Remember that sometimes the enemy is the internal me.

Stop beating yourself up with negative self-talk. Get better at catching yourself in the act and in those moments, talk to yourself like you'd talk to a friend in need. And stop berating yourself for your differences. Our differences make us stronger than, not lesser than.

5. The only way you can actually fail is when you quit, don't improve, or never try.

Don't let a fear of failure change your entire worldview. In fact, I can't think of anyone successful that I know who hasn't had some failures as a key part of their overall portfolio of experiences.

So be the hero of your own story, enabled by music and these mantras.

Published on: Sep 29, 2019
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