Music for Motivation and Resilience

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Employee Engagement, I-O Psychology, Organizational Development, Workplace, Workplace Culture | 0 comments

Some tunes might help push through tough times

Let me start by stating that I LOVE music. I love music so much that I married music; my wife serves as a talented and award-winning music teacher in a middle school in Chicago’s suburbs. We met in high school band and courted while we both worked at a music store. All of our kids play music, and everyone has their own unique playlists. Music plays a part in just about every day of our lives.

I quit smoking in 2011. That year, I started walking and then jogging. In 2015, I started the first major breakthrough in my journey toward better health, DDP Yoga. Then, in 2018, I found the Body of a Warrior program, which revolutionized how I thought about eating, exercising, and maintaining my health. While I cannot ever claim to be a fitness expert, and I have a long way to go in my personal health goals, I have these programs to thank for my progress so far… plus an additional ingredient…

Through the years, I have changed my workout routines, incorporating bodyweight training, trail running, and (my latest craze) kettlebell exercises. One element, however, has remained consistent throughout my journey toward improved health. I listen to driving, motivating music.

As a musician, I discovered from personal experience that making music with a group — whether a small rock or jazz ensemble or a large band or orchestra — brings people together in a way that inspires them to do their best, particularly when preparing for a performance or a competition. Indeed, studies have found that group music performance, especially when under the guidance of a leader, can help individuals navigate uncertainty and distractions within a system of resilience (Glowinski et al, 2016). I have found that my experience as a music maker places me in a performance role in my mind with certain songs I hear. For instance, I might play “air guitar” to a Queen song, everything around me becomes a drum when listening to The Police, or I catch myself moving my fingers to a single by Elton John, mimicking what I hear on the piano.

Side Note: In a subsequent article, I may write about my observations, training, and experience as a drum circle facilitator many years ago. This experience showed me how co-creating music can lead to positive outcomes for workgroups and individuals, including the reduction of anxiety and depression and the increase in resilience and physical health (Fancourt et al, 2016). Drumming circles can do wonders for motivating people to express themselves among a community to create something with purpose and meaning. However, this article will concentrate on listening to music for motivation and performance. If you would like me to write about drumming circles (or not), though, please let me know in the comments!

Performance and Resilience Through Music

Outside of high-school band, where we competed in marching and concert competitions, and a brief stint in little league baseball as a child (Marquette Park T-Ball and Gage Park Little League), I have not participated much in group sports. Perhaps the closest things I had growing up included ad hoc rough-and-tumble football games on the lawn and street hockey in Chicago’s alleys. None of us back then had boomboxes or other music players, so we simply had the sound of birds, squirrels, traffic, and kids.

The inner game changed for me when I received a Sony Walkman tape player, and I started running stairs at home to lose weight in college. To this day, when I exercise — a solo sport where I compete solely against myself and my own historical performance — I either wear earbuds or hook my phone or iPad into a speaker to pump metal, rock, electronica, or other driving music into my ears and brain. Something about certain songs takes me to another place where I feel I can push myself beyond the perceived limits I would otherwise feel.

Studies demonstrate other people share this phenomenon. Music played during physical exercise can influence short-term and long-term outcomes, with motivating music leading to increased exercise intensity and endurance (Priest & Karageorghis, 2008). Moreover, triathletes respond well to motivational music to improve time-to-exhaustion and oxygen consumption in elite triathletes (Terry et al, 2012).

I have also found that certain types of music have kept me focused on work. Some of the same music to which I listen for workout routines can help with laborious tasks such as loading or unloading trucks (as I have done with other band parent volunteers during marching season), hauling roofing materials (as I did working my way through college), or working with a team to set up a trade show exhibit (as I’ve done as a marketing executive). Other times, more serene music (like easy listening or jazz) or ethereal sounds can help me stay focused on tasks requiring data manipulation (such as CRM data cleansing) or creative work (such as building websites or doing graphic design). Studies support that listening to music in the background does not harm productivity, and it could improve the experience of workers at their jobs in specific contexts, especially those who use music for emotional regulation (Sanseverino et al, 2023).

My Personal Motivational Playlists

Through the Fire and Flames by DragonForce has influenced my running to allow me to set new personal bests on the Strava app. Invincible by Skillet helps me grind through a grueling kettlebell workout. However, the overture for the movie Rocky with the classic Gonna Fly Now motif remains the piece of music that tops my list and reigns supreme.

While I cannot scientifically validate the effectiveness of these resources, I offer for your enjoyment and motivation my favorite playlists:

I hope you find my personal motivational playlists at least somewhat handy for different activities and moods. I wrote this blog as a testament to the power of music to drive personal change and resilience, and I invite anyone to explore the transformative potential of tunes in their own lives. Please let me know what motivates you, and share your music if you believe it can help others!


Fancourt, D., Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Carvalho, L., Steptoe, A., & Williamon, A. (2016). Effects of Group Drumming Interventions on Anxiety, Depression, Social Resilience and Inflammatory Immune Response among Mental Health Service Users. PLoS ONE, 11

Glowinski, D., Bracco, F., Chiorri, C., & Grandjean, D. (2016). Music Ensemble as a Resilient System. Managing the Unexpected through Group Interaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 7

Priest, D., & Karageorghis, C. (2008). A qualitative investigation into the characteristics and effects of music accompanying exercise. European Physical Education Review, 14, 347–366.

Sanseverino, D., Caputo, A., Cortese, C. G., & Ghislieri, C. (2023). “Don’t stop the music,” please: The relationship between music use at work, satisfaction, and performance. Behavioral Sciences, 13(1), 15. doi:

Terry, P., Karageorghis, C., Saha, A., & D’Auria, S. (2012). Effects of synchronous music on treadmill running among elite triathletes. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 15 1, 52–7.

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