Why You Are What You Listen To

Feb 1, 2019

3 minutes

What was the last song that you listened to?

Maybe it was upbeat and energetic, or maybe it was moody with a slow beat.

Perhaps the instruments were so powerful that you could barely hear the lyrics.

“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.” ― Keith Richards

There are only two reasons to listen to music:

  1. The music expresses what you’re feeling at that moment
  2. The music expresses what you wish you could feel in that moment

“Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

With numerous soul-grabbing quotes about music, it’s no surprise that many of us have thousands of songs saved on our smartphones and listening to one particular song can bring back a flood of memories.

Depending on the situation, you probably have a favorite song that puts you in a good mood or helps you get your anger out. There are songs that motivate you to exercise or buckle down and get work done.

Music may motivate and inspire, but it also influences who we become.

“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ― Leonard Bernstein

The bulk of modern society is focused on one thing: progress. More. Better. Faster.

On the surface, that sounds spectacular, but for us flawed, squishy, emotionally-driven humans, it’s an equation for disaster.

You’ll probably agree that our school system’s curriculum could use an overhaul. We study complicated subjects that are meant to make us use our mind in new ways and problem solve, but that comes at the sacrifice of logistical, everyday skills that we “assume” we’ll pick up as we get older.

Creating a budget. Filing taxes. Understanding how mortgages and car loans work. How to do laundry (without ruining your clothes). How to invest. How to choose a health care plan. … and most importantly, how to express your emotions in a healthy way.

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” ― Leo Tolstoy

I was your model student. Straight As all through high school (except a few Bs in math).

I never got into trouble and always did what I was told. And I was never told to feel things.

I implicitly trusted adults because I equated age with wisdom, so if I wasn’t taught to feel or express sadness or anger or fear, then I didn’t.

But music caused my body to rush with emotions and sensations that couldn’t be explained with textbooks.

Fast-forward to today, at age 34, and I’m happy to say that I feel and (sometimes) express emotions. I had to learn the hard way to feel, understand, and communicate emotions effectively – and I’m still working on it!

That’s not to say that I’m stoic. If you ever meet me, you’ll notice that I’m a rather extroverted introvert when in a small group. I’m comfortable with the entire range of emotions, as long as they’re coming from other people.

My own emotions often take a backseat because I attempt to apply logic to them, instead of simply experiencing them before I try to understand them.

“Without music, life would be a mistake” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

But everything is different with music. When I listen to music, and especially when I sing (in English, Japanese, French, and sometimes Spanish), no emotion is off limits. (You should see me at karaoke!)

Suddenly, it feels like the entire world is throbbing with vivid color. I feel less like an observer and more of an important member of the team.

Music helps express what mere words can’t.

Music helps you release emotions you have no other outlet for.

Music builds you up or tears you down.

WHAT you listen to is just as important as WHY to listen to it.

And it’s not just music.

The most important influence you’ll ever have is the voice in your own head.

What you consume – books, TV, movies, music, ads, conversations, and especially your own thoughts – shape who you are. It shapes your belief of what you’re capable of, how far you can go, and what has value to you.

The good news is that you have control over most of those things.

If you’re depressed or overweight or in a dead-end job, look at what you choose to open your eyes and ears to. THAT is the first step to change.

If you listen to something upbeat, you feel better.

If you listen to something dark and emotional, it will pull you in that direction.

If you tell yourself daily that you’re worthless, then you’ll believe it.

If all you read is negative news, you’ll never have hope for the future.

Your life will only amount to what you believe it will.

Choose what you consume wisely – and rock out as often as possible.

Change your rhythm, change your life. It all starts with your inner beat.

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

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