The Symphony

Bill Abbate

Did you know life and vinyl records have some things in common? They do!

Let’s look at the similarities between the two and what they can teach us about life!

The grooves of life

It is hard to believe, but in 2021, vinyl record sales topped CD sales for the first time in 30 years! Interestingly, vinyl record sales continue to rise with no slowdown in sight!

If you are familiar with vinyl records, you know they produce sound from the grooves etched in them. These grooves parallel the etching of the grooves in our lives over time.

I have always loved the picture Gilberth painted for us with his words many years ago:

“We’re worn into grooves by time — by our habits. In the end, these grooves are going to show whether we’ve been second-rate or champions, each in his way… these are grooves that enrich our lives and make for ease of mind, peace, happiness — achievement.” Frank Bunker Gilberth (1868–1924)

Gilbert’s words have always reminded me of the making of a vinyl record. Its long three-dimensional grooves are etched into the vinyl surface. Similarly, time wears grooves into the record of our life.

Grooves worn by habits

These grooves, slowly worn over time, eventually “show,” as Gilberth puts it, the music created in our life. Hopefully, this music will bring us ease of mind, peace, happiness, and achievement.

In the end, the grooves created in the record of our life show who we were and what we did. Were we champions, or were we second-rate?

What kind of music are we creating with our lives? Is it a symphony of joy and happiness or despair and regret?

“Look for the music on all things, and life will be a symphony of joy.” Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)

As Gilberth noted, our habits wear the grooves in the history of our lives. Therefore, habits are responsible for creating the music (result) of our lives. This begs the question, what will we find in the grooves as our habits and time wears them into our lives? What indeed…

There is no question that habits are a necessary part of life. But the real question is, what type of life are our habits creating? To answer this question, we must know what our habits are! To find out, let’s look at the connection between habits and choices.

The choices everyone makes

Think about the more extensive, life-encompassing choices made of individual habits for a moment. Some of these major life choices include:

  • Maintaining a healthy or unhealthy diet
  • Enriching our relationships or detracting from them
  • Learning and growing our mind or allowing it to become stagnant, and atrophy
  • Taking care of our body or neglecting it
  • Being diligent in our work or lazy
  • Maturing spiritually or remaining immature

Small habits create big changes

“Big things are accomplished when we master the little things.” John Wooden (1910–2010)

What habits in your life support each of the choices listed above?

  • Do you choose to eat healthy, nutritious foods or eat a lot of fast food and junk food? Break what you are doing into smaller parts, such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and look at the supporting habits. If you are on the unhealthy side of this equation, change one habit, such as snacking on junk food. Instead, snack on vegetables and fruits and watch how much it will change your life over a year.
  • What about your relationships? Are your habits allowing you to nurture or destroy them? Why not take one meaningful relationship and make it a habit to nurture it by showing how you appreciate them daily? Perhaps it is with your spouse, a parent, a child, a good friend, or a colleague at work. Imagine the change that could happen in your life by creating a new habit of improving just one relationship over a year!
  • Are you continuing to learn and grow, or would you rather do nothing and watch TV most of the time? Without learning and growing, your mind and life will atrophy. Create one small daily habit of learning something, reading a few pages of a book, taking up a new hobby, or anything to engage your mind. What could you accomplish by creating a habit of learning a few minutes daily over a year? A new language, perhaps? The possibilities are limitless.
  • Without a healthy body, everything else suffers. Why not begin the habit of taking a walk for a few minutes daily? I make it a habit to walk at least 40 minutes daily, although I started much smaller. Creating this little habit in my life has resulted in enormous health benefits. Why not start small, say 10 minutes of walking daily, and watch what happens over a year? You will be astonished!
  • One small work habit can change your career and life. I made it a habit to constantly learn about my industry, business, management, and leadership and worked at the highest executive levels before retiring. Every day I made it a point not to allow myself to do nothing when the urge struck and learn something, anything! We all have those times when we just don’t want to work. It is good to have a habit of rest and relaxation in our life, but when we feel lazy, which almost everyone sometimes does, don’t give in. A small habit can make a world of difference in your life over a year. Imagine what it will do over a career of decades!
  • The final choice on the above list is maturing spiritually. This is far and away the most important part of life. When your spiritual life functions well, everything else comes together, and your entire life improves. What one small habit can you make that will help you mature spiritually? Perhaps it is reading the Bible daily, attending Sunday services, doing a daily Bible study, or joining a small Church group. Can you imagine the incredible peace and happiness resulting from creating just one of these small habits and sticking to it for a year? What about over a lifetime?
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Breault (1963-present)

Final thoughts

You can go through each significant area of life, changing or adding just one small habit that, over a year, will change the groove you are wearing in your life. Time and time again, we see the remarkable results people achieve by simply creating a few small habits.

May you take this message to heart, and may the grooves of the record of your life produce a truly beautiful symphony!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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