Music has proved to be a great source of inspiration and comfort to many people over the years. I defy anyone to claim music means nothing to them – everyone has at least a few pieces that provoke instant and powerful associations, some good and some bad. In one of my workshops last year, about confidence, I demonstrated this kind of effect by playing contrasting songs and finding out how we all interpreted them differently and how they made us feel. This got participants thinking about how they could deliberately use music to achieve a productive mood or state of mind to suit any occasion.
Thinking about confidence for a start, if you want to big yourself up how about that all-time classic Eye of the Tiger by Survivor? Or if you want to generate a feeling of strength, why not try the Rocky theme (which I have just this second learned is actually called Gonna Fly Now and composed by Bill Conti). With the help of friends and family, I compiled a whole playlist of Happy Tunes which was pretty mixed. Footloose is on there, as well as S Club 7’s Reach, but I should point out it’s not just pop: Ry Cooder’s Get Rhythm features, along with Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. But actually, it is mostly pop…what? It’s a cheerful genre!
Clearly, the emotion of “happiness” isn’t universally triggered by S Club. You may have contrasting associations (repulsion, anger, nausea…?), but the idea is that you tailor your choices to whatever works for you. When you need to find that calm and relaxed space, maybe you’ll choose part of the soundtrack to your holiday. If you want to indulge in a spot of nostalgia, the sounds of your schooldays might do the trick. When you’re having a bad day and need to let off steam, choose something really loud and stompy and get it all out! And in times of heartbreak, go with the slushy stuff a la Bridget Jones (but maybe steer clear of the wine). My top tip: nominate just one song or album for this purpose, or else you end up bursting into tears at everything that comes on the radio. And make sure it’s not one you really love – Moby’s Play is totally out of bounds for me now, but I don’t miss it.
Playlists for special occasions like weddings have become popular, but they are not just useful for the fun stuff in life. Fill your ipod with songs that make you feel strong, happy, proud, excited and alive and play them when you’re on the way to a job interview. It’s a great way to take at least some measure of control of your feelings. You might not be able to shift from ‘terrified’ to ‘elated’ with one song, but perhaps you can upgrade your mood to ‘calm’ at least. Sometimes it’s the lyrics that speak to you, sometimes you ignore those and go with the vibes of the melody, or it could even just be a riff or a bassline that works. It can be anything, as long as you pick what’s meaningful to you.
But the actual inspiration for this post – and the reason serendipity gets a mention – is what you can get from a shuffle (randomly created list from a library of tunes, for non ipod users). Having your memory jogged or gaining a new perspective from a long-forgotten tune or maybe a neglected artist can be great. What did I hear last night? Speed of Sound by Coldplay. In this case, it was a particular lyric that stood out for me. Ponder on this, careerists: “where to, where do I go? If you never try then you’ll never know.” Perfect motivational stuff!