Inspiration from the Classics

Post date: 24-Feb-2014 21:47:43

It’s funny when moments of clarity strike - usually when I least expect them. I found myself in the midst of one such epiphany last night as I tried to settle my wakeful 22 month old and was digging deep into my long lost repertoire of possible songs to lull him to sleep. I found myself unexpectedly working through a variety of songs from classic musicals which I didn’t even realise were still stored somewhere in my memory banks.

On reflection, I shouldn’t be surprised. I was practically raised on musical theatre (or film). We watched all the reruns every Sunday afternoon and when I was home sick from school I liked nothing better than to stack them on the record player (My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Camelot, South Pacific, West Side Story, The King and I, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music) to run endlessly through them as I dozed on the sofa.

What I had never realised is that this repetitious diet of musical soundtracks may indeed have layered down more than I realised in my impressionable sub conscious. In fact it seems, in hindsight, that they determined the entire direction of my professional career!

For I can now share, as was revealed to me in this moment of bedside clarity, that the wisdom of musical theatre does in fact contain a synopsis of the psychology that eminent psychologists like Shawn Achor, Amy Cuddy and Elaine Fox have made so accessible over the last number of years And which provides the cornerstone of my living come to that!

So here’s the positive psychology summary as revealed in song:

    • "Whistle a Happy Tune" (the King and I) aka the importance of non verbal communication and faking it til you make it.

    • "Happy Talk" (South Pacific) aka the importance of goal setting and a positive focus

    • "My favourite things" (the Sound of Music) aka count your blessings, focus on the positives

    • "A Spoonful of Sugar" (Mary Poppins) ... Doesn't map directly onto any one principle but felt like it fit the mix!

And so I'm coming to the conclusion that my career was pre-programmed at an earlier point than I realised and owed more to my mother’s love of musicals than her Masters in child development as I previously thought! If I had known all that was required was some cheesy lyrics, I could have saved myself a bundle on education! Then again, I actually enjoy the validation of understanding the research and science behind positive psychology and while it works for luilling a toddler, I don't really have the voice to make a career in musicals!

While it may be a stretch to assert that my favourite psychologists were actually inspired by the classic musicals, for me this does serve as a reminder that there is a universal body of human knowledge which has existed through the ages and is transmitted through a myriad of messages in our lives if only we choose to hear them.