If Life Was a Spotify Playlist, What Would Be Your Soundtrack?

If Life Was a Spotify Playlist, What Would Be Your Soundtrack?

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In a previous article, When Giving Makes You Exhausted… I confessed to being a thief.

A thief of ideas.

I wrote that everything I share, I’ve heard, read, and learned from someone else.

And whether you realize it or not, this also applies to you.

It took me a long time to realize that every bit of knowledge, every belief, and every insight human beings gain is ALWAYS the downstream effect of what we consume.

But we have become such unconscious consumers that we are often totally unaware of what we allow to enter our minds, hearts, and spirits.

Annie Dillard puts it beautifully by saying, “He is careful of what he reads for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, for that is what he will know.”


My son just returned from Israel, where he was expanding his religious and spiritual studies. He shared the story of a man he often encountered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This man has voluntarily chosen to live a profoundly constrained life.

He attempts to keep his eyes closed as often as possible and is also known to shield his ears from much of the outside world's noise.

At first, this seems extreme and, frankly, not behavior I aspire to. But as I’ve thought more deeply about this concept of erecting barriers against unconscious inputs, I can relate to its wisdom.

When I think about an average day in my life, it seems that if I let the world around me decide, the whole day is engineered to feed me words, pictures, and messages that don’t serve me but ultimately harm me.


Here’s an example of a day without the practices of constraint and the guardrails I’ve painstakingly developed through years of coaching and commitment.

I open my eyes and immediately pick up my phone.

I flood my system—which is still in that delicate and porous space between asleep and awake—with a ton of cortisol.

I respond to texts and emails reactively without taking the time to assess the most useful response.

I jump in the shower and rush to start my day while listening to a barrage of news someone else has chosen for me on the radio or TV.

I eat something I’ve been told is easy and quick to make and will get me all the protein and nutrients I need for the day.

I drive to work or run errands, consuming messages on billboards, bus stops, and every nook and cranny someone paid for.

I listen to whatever is convenient, not thinking about its impact on my mind.

I check social media at every single red light.

The rest of the day is a melange of sights and scenes that create the pictures I’ll carry in my mind, which subconsciously decide my thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Pictures of people behaving badly while driving and dressing in ways that draw out my inner Met Gala critic.

I will have lunch with a few ladies who will gossip, and of course, I’ll get drawn into it as well. After all, I don’t want to be the one buzzkill of the group.

My day is punctuated by one notification after another. Text messages are constant, and I respond to them promptly. Email notifications come through when I’m trying to do any work on my computer.  

I pick up the phone anytime it rings because it could be urgent. And although experience proves that it can wait 99% of the time, I still can’t help myself because I’m not slowing down to get present or grounded.

As the day closes, I promise myself to do something that puts me on a nurturing and positive path. Still, I’m so exhausted by all the demanding and draining inputs I’ve received that I just want to watch something thoughtless on Netflix—something that feels effortless but will, in truth, fill my mind with even more useless input.

So I binge-watch Emily in Paris.

I don’t find nightly socializing remotely enticing, but many friends do. I can speak for most of them when I share that the evening continues with drinking, gossip, and often some kind of chemically enhanced buffering.

Finally, we go to bed with a mind, body, and spirit full of the wrong stuff, like a belly full of junk food.


But before you abandon this article due to what even to me feels like extreme pessimism, stay a minute and read about the good news.

I decided over a decade ago to fundamentally change how I was living and who I was becoming.

The governing principle of my life is that I live what I teach. This is why setting constraints on my behavior continues to be the daily work of my life. This means cultivating the discipline and habits that make me the owner of the input, information, and, ultimately, the influence I allow into my personal space.

More than a decade has passed since I realized I no longer wanted to live the life I described earlier in this article. I won’t lie and say that it’s been easy. But it is the most rewarding change I continue to make. 

A life of conscious and deliberate choices—a life that involves a great many pre-decided actions—may, on its face, seem arduous, boring, and lacking spontaneity. But the opposite is true. I enjoy more real freedom today than ever in the past. Real freedom is having the time, resources, and ability to do what actually and truly matters to us.

When we know what we are a Clear No to, we open ourselves to embracing our Hell Yes’s.  

Editing my daily inputs has changed the soundtrack of my life from a heavy metal headbanger ball to my favorite Spotify playlist.

Tell me, what would you like the soundtrack of your life to be?

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