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Soundtracks Review: A Self-Help Book That Actually…Helps?

There are a LOT of self-help books out there. This does beg the question: if the books are

any good, why do we need so many? It seems every time you turn around, there is another gimmick that tries to convince you that living a better life is just around the corner, if only you’ll use these few tips and tricks. And maybe it works for a while. But eventually, you’re back at the library or bookstore, looking for the secret somewhere else.

I picked up Soundtracks, by Jon Acuff, thinking it was a book about music. When I started reading and discovered overthinking was the central premise, I was inclined to put it down: after all, it seems that I have a PhD in overthinking…I don’t need help perfecting the art. But as I went further into Acuff’s concept, I found that the simplicity of what he had to say and the ease with which he said it made this one of the most accessible and worthwhile books on personal development I’ve read in a long time.

Acuff’s premise is simple: we need to pay close attention to the messages (he uses the term soundtracks) that we allow to play on repeat. We don’t always have control over what we think, but we do have some control over how we let those thoughts alter our behavior, drive our actions, and help us make sense of ourselves in the context of our lives.

One of the examples he uses is the soundtrack, “I didn’t get everything done today.” It is a fact for most of us; a zeroed out inbox or to-do-list is a thing of legend. But rather than thinking “I’m a failure,” Acuff restructures the thought to be “I have more cool things to do tomorrow.” The reality doesn’t change, but the way we confront the facts change dramatically. Soundtracks isn’t a book about changing the outcome, but changing the experience for yourself along the way. Which might just wind up changing the outcome after all.

This was one of those books that I finished reading, but couldn’t stop thinking about. I kept returning to the question: how does my internal dialogue impact the way I experience the realities around me? Am I making it easier or harder for myself to get through the day with a good attitude, high energy, and a willingness to continue on? Rather than feeling like a Pollyanna, Acuff is able to speak from a place of experience and allow a conversation about overthinking and self-imposed harshness be recontextualized and harnessed.

There will, undoubtably, be a half-dozen more “how to reframe your world” books that hit the shelves by the end of this sentence, and most of them will be forgotten before any real change or benefit can be had. But for some reason, Soundtracks struck a chord. The writer points out that, like a song that can elicit a particular feeling or reaction or memory, so too can our internal dialogues go a long way toward helping to restructure the ways we feel about ourselves and our daily lives.


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