Remixing Your Soundtrack Playlist

Jessica DeWitThe CACE Roundtable, The Teachers' LoungeLeave a Comment

Young student wearing headphones and listening to music.

As soon as I hear the opening notes of Avril Lavigne’s hit song “Complicated,” I’m immediately transported to another place and time. It’s 2002, and I can feel the sun’s rays on my face and smell the chlorine of Island Park Pool in Fargo, ND. The air is thick with humidity and laughter. I’m sitting next to my best friends, kids I have known since kindergarten, and we don’t have any cares in the world (except for getting a nice tan, obviously). It’s safe to say that “Complicated” is part of the soundtrack of my high school experience.

I’m sure anyone reading this post has similar associations with specific songs, places, people, and memories. Similar to our personal memories, soundtracks play a pivotal role in the movies and shows we watch and the games we play. (Don’t believe me? Check out this clip!) Soundtracks set the mood, evoke emotions, and even create iconic villains (think Jaws).

As a music and soundtrack enthusiast, it is no surprise that the mere title of Jon Acuff’s book Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking caught my attention and made its way into my Amazon cart. This book was for me, not only because of the musical reference but also because I’m a classic overthinker.

While not specifically targeting Christian educators and leaders, Acuff’s book offers valuable insights into the power of our thoughts. Acuff’s points are similar to those in Proverbs: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (23:7), and “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (4:23). Ultimately, guarding our hearts is paramount, for “everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

Image of on Acuff’s book "Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking"

Broken Soundtracks

According to Acuff, the place to start is by “recognizing your thoughts for what they really are–a personal soundtrack for your life” (p. 17). Brain research has shown that on average, humans can have up to 60,000 thoughts per day. Amazing, right?

However, perhaps as evidence of the fall, research also shows that on average up to 75% of those thoughts are negative. Acuff calls these negative, repetitive thoughts “broken soundtracks.” Left unchecked, they play on repeat in our minds. As Acuff demonstrates, “Have you ever had to work hard to remind yourself of something dumb you said a long time ago? . . . Fear does not take work. Doubt does not take work. Insecurity does not take work” (p.22).

In our work at school, we have a potential cacophony of broken soundtracks available to play on any given day: “I totally messed up that conversation with my colleague. . . . I’m not sure they will ever trust me again.” “This idea is so dumb. . . . I’m not even going to write it down.” “This parent meeting today is going to be awful.” “There’s no way I can make it through this week.” 

How do we identify our broken soundtracks? Acuff suggests asking ourselves three questions (p.41):

  1. Is it true? Do I know for a fact this thought is verified and true, or am I making some assumptions about any part of this situation? Am I believing any lies in my head that are not from the Lord? 
  2. Is it helpful? Is this thought helping me move forward, make good decisions, and carry on the good work God has for me to do? Or is it causing me to remain stuck and stagnant?
  3. Is it kind? Is this soundtrack something I’d want to say to encourage a friend? Is it helping me see and feel God’s love for me as his child? Is it full of grace or mercy? James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

Renewing Our Minds

Once we identify broken records, we can take action. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Once we’ve identified a broken soundtrack or two, Acuff gives three steps to changing our thoughts (p.35):

  1. Retire your broken soundtracks. Our brains are made to be remarkably adaptable and malleable, possessing a quality called neuroplasticity. This capacity allows us to create new thought neuropathways. As Acuff reminds us, “If you can worry, you can wonder. If you can doubt, you can dominate.  If you can spin, you can soar” (p. 28). Bottom line: we are created with the ability to discard negative thoughts.
  2. Replace broken soundtracks with new ones. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Instead of repeating a broken soundtrack in your mind, what is something better, more truthful, helpful, and kind you could repeat to yourself? Scripture can serve as a powerful replacement. 
  3. Repeat more positive soundtracks until they’re as automatic as the old ones. Just as negative thoughts become ingrained, so too can positive affirmations. Assign yourself a new anthem! Find something that you can repeat to yourself each day to set your intentions and mindset away from broken soundtracks and on to positivity and truth. Repeat until it’s automatic.

Moving Forward

Spoiler alert: I haven’t conquered my habit of overthinking. But I have gotten better at recognizing my broken thought soundtracks and giving myself some new anthems to repeat that are true, helpful, and kind.

The challenges we face as Christian educators can be daunting. We know that the enemy would love to see our schools fail and our leaders and teachers stuck and paralyzed. It’s important we recognize our thought lives are a ripe battlefield for him to “seek, kill, and destroy” the good work we are called to do each day. However, by actively choosing truthful, helpful, and kind self-talk, we equip ourselves to navigate challenges with greater peace and purpose. This positive self-control empowers us to be the best educators we can be, playing our important roles in God’s kingdom work.


  • Jessica DeWit

    Jessica De Wit serves as the Director of Instruction and Learning at Sioux Falls Christian School in Sioux Falls, SD. She holds a B.A. in Music Education and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration, and has been teaching in Christian schools for 15 years. She is a Teaching for Transformation school designer. Jessica's deep hope is to inspire creativity, curiosity, and a joyful community of learners that celebrates our potential as Christian educators. In addition to education, Jessica’s interests include making the world more beautiful one tulip at a time, drinking a great cup of coffee, and spending time with her husband and son.

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