Your New Playlist

Outlook Book Review Editor Amy Pagliarella and her teenage son Rowan discuss Jon Acuff's book Your News Playlist.

Jon Acuff’s book Soundtracks focused on overthinking — the ways we allow negative and repetitive thoughts to dominate our brains in counter-productive ways. Your New Playlist is his take for teens, co-written with his high school- and college-age daughters. It’s an easy read and filled with practical suggestions to retire “broken” soundtracks, replace them with new ones, and repeat our new affirmations until they become automatic.

Rowan: Most of us have bad thoughts that go through our head — “this person doesn’t like me” or “I’m not very good at this.” We need to retire the bad thoughts. Let’s stop replaying them in our heads and replace them with more positive thoughts. This is what Jon Acuff calls “your new playlist.”

Amy: I think we can all be really hard on ourselves. Sometimes I lose my patience and raise my voice with you and your brother. So my playlist starts with “I shouldn’t have said that” and before I know it, it’s escalated to “my kids are going to remember this day and my terrible parenting for the rest of their lives!”

Rowan: We’re not! We probably did something to deserve it! (laughs)

I think I can be hard on myself too. I just get mad at myself because I’m thinking I should’ve/could’ve done better. Sometimes, when I play basketball, and I make a mistake, I get in my own head and say, “you should have made that shot!” Talking to myself like this doesn’t make me play better — and it might make me play worse.

Amy: Sounds like we could both use a healthier playlist. What do you think about saying to yourself, “I’ll get the next one!”

Rowan: Yeah! Also, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Your playlist could include, “I made a mistake and we all make mistakes … I’ll do better next time.”

Amy: Nice. I liked the practical techniques in this book. One of my favorites was the idea that we have a dial, rather than a switch. If we think that we should be capable of just flipping a switch to make the negative thoughts go away, we put way too much pressure on ourselves.

Rowan: You can’t just automatically turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts, but you can dial down the negativity and turn up the positivity.

Amy: I liked the way Jon Acuff offered practical ways to help us dial down. This won’t surprise you, but I really liked that one of those ideas involved Jesus. When I’m anxious, I often repeat inside my head, “be still and know that I am God” and sometimes I even sing it aloud (if I’m alone, that is) like we used to do in Sunday School. What do you think?

Rowan: I’m not big into singing! When I’m stressed, I sit in my room and listen to music or maybe read a book … watch sports on TV. I wouldn’t pray, but I might say to Jesus, “hi Jesus, I’m just feeling stressed right now … or anxious” and I’d tell him my problems.

Amy: I also appreciated the Acuffs’ statement that “Enough is a myth.” Some of our most common soundtracks stem from the idea that there’s a literal way to measure our worth and therefore we will never measure up. We will never be enough or have enough (friends, money, talent), whatever it is. This also reminds me of something we used to say in Sunday School — “I am enough.”

Rowan: “I am enough” is something that we can add to our playlist that’s super positive.

Amy: For sure. We all need to remember that we are enough, just the way we are.

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