Hearing Shark Music

Shark music. It is a term we use in our work with traumatized children and families. Picture yourself walking down a meandering wooded path . . . the birds are singing, wildflowers blooming, and you imagine lovely upbeat music in the background. So peaceful. Now consider the exact same scene, except music you hear is the soundtrack from Jaws. Instead of skipping happily through the woods, you are peering around every tree, wondering what is about to jump out at you. Feel yourself tense up? What felt carefree in the first scenario now feels ominous, requiring hyper-vigilance on your part. Shark music.

The soundtracks in our heads have a major influence on our actions. Jon Acuff highlighted that point recently when speaking at the Global Leadership Summit, as well as in his book Soundtracks, The Surprising Solution to Overthinking. Acuff noted that thoughts playing in the background of our mind have a significant impact on our actions. How much time do you waste thinking about something that happened in the past, making assumptions about why someone acted in a certain way or what you should have said? Or conversely, how often have you delayed taking an action because the soundtrack on repeat in your head is . . . “this is probably a dumb idea” . . . “I have to get this perfect” . . . “what will (insert name of person whose opinion is important to you) think if I do this?” How much time and energy have you wasted on self-imposed shark music?

Just like in movies, we often don’t even notice the music in the background, even though it is impacting our reactions. The good news? Once you intentionally start to hear the the tune in your head, you can make a decision to change it. Rather than the paralyzing “I have to get this perfect”, you can choose the soundtrack of, “This is a good place to start, and we can adjust as we go.” Instead of perseverating about what someone meant by their comment, you can switch to “I need to ask them to clarify their comment.” Replacing even a single negative soundtrack can save time, renew your energy, and propel you to action.

Take a moment to consider . . . what tune about yourself, your leadership abilities, has been playing on repeat in your head? Acuff notes, “if you listen to any thought long enough, it becomes a part of your personal playlist.” Is your playlist serving you well, or is it littered with shark music about yourself or others?

You get to choose your playlist. Is it time for some new tunes?

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