Written by Alexandra Arena
You know what has always struck a chord with me? The presence of headphones wherever people are gearing up for success. Whether exercising at the gym, competing at a sporting event, or coming up with new and innovative ideas at the office, music seems to play an important role in helping people hit a high note. So naturally, the next question we have to ask is: does music help influence the will to win?
Photo courtesy of lululemon athletica.
Research shows that music can be utilized for brain stimulation, increased concentration, mood enhancement, and team cohesion. In turn, music can pump up an athlete or get an entrepreneur’s creative juices flowing. In both cases, music fosters teamwork.
“I think music helps athletes win in a number of ways,” says Francisco Nieves, a Division I swimmer who recently graduated from St. Bonaventure University. “Swimmers listen to music while they are actively stretching and warming up before they get on the blocks to help get their heart rate up. They listen to it to block out any distractions, maintain their ‘zone’ and also to keep calm before a race. You’ll see a lot of swimmers jump or bob their head to their jams right behind the blocks to get them ready to compete.”
Nieves’s theory is backed by sports psychologist, Dr. Costas Karageorghis, who specializes in the link between music and sporting performance at Brunel University. Karageorghis created the Brunel Music Rating Inventory, or BMRI, which rates the motivational ability of songs through use of a questionnaire. Dr. Karageorghis found that the tempo of a song is the most important motivating factor; the beats-per-minute, B.P.M., of a song regulates physical activity in whoever is listening.
Karageorghis is also the leading consultant for the Run to the Beat London half-marathon, which involves coordinating live music with mass participation running events.
“Music lowers your perception of effort,” said Karageorghis in an interview with BBC. “It can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout and also encourage positive thoughts… Music can also act as a sedative or a stimulant. Music with a fast tempo can be used to pump you up prior to competition, or slower music can be used to calm your nerves and help you focus. It is considered by some athletes to be a legal drug with no unwanted side effects.”
On other end of the spectrum, the world of music can also affect monetary success. The late-genius and co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs touched on The Beatles’ unity as a personal example for team cohesion.
“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts,” Jobs said in an interview with 60 Minutes.
“I get my blood pumping by listening to my favorite music. This puts my brain in a ‘happy place’ and coming up with creative ideas is easier.”
While research on the subject has mostly revolved around pursuing the phenomenon known as the “Mozart effect” over the past decade, (aka the belief that listening to classical music somehow makes one ‘smarter’) more recent studies have shown in specific cases that music, if used effectively, is beneficial to employee productivity. For example — according to a 2005 report, an experiment conducted by the University of Windsor, Canada found in a test group of mostly male computer information systems developers that their productivity was substantively worse during a week-long absence of musical stimuli in their workplace.
At the end of the day, this interesting and informative exploration has proven one thing: if anything else, music is a huge inspiration in people’s lives and is often times a big contributing factor to their successes. It motivates us, encourages us and brings us together. I’m not so sure that music produces winners, but it certainly influences our will to achieve.