Category Archives: possibility

7 Ways to Build a Positive Culture in 2019 (Starting with You!)

pexels-photo-573238These are anxious times.  Tethered to our electronic devices, we are bombarded in every direction by negative images, stories, and conversations.  All that negativity puts us in a mental “threat” state and shuts down the learning centers of our brains.  Focusing on the negative contributes to feelings of stuckness, helplessness, and stress.

Conversely, focusing on the positive opens us up to insight, growth, and happiness. Positivity breeds possibility and broadens the scope of our world.  “Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good but also dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.” ¹

Creating a chorus culture of positivity begins with a commitment by each individual. Read the 7 strategies below to help you keep on the positive track in 2019.

Strategy #1  Develop perspective

It’s easy to get absorbed in one’s own problems and life challenges. Take your perspective outside yourself and think about the relative place your problems sit in the world. I am not suggesting that you invalidate how you feel or the struggles that you are having, only suggesting that you think broadly and see where your problems fall in the global picture.  Perspective can greatly lessen your personal feeling of hardship. Author Marianne Williamson said “Acknowledge…but don’t dwell.  There is a difference between denial and transcendence.

Strategy  #2  Narrow the scope of adversity

When #)$% hits the fan, think of the adversity as being temporary and isolated rather than turning that bad event into a sweeping condemnation of the entire world. Put some walls around it and examine it for what it is. See the bad times as phases or events instead of lifetimes.    As world events happen that disturb you step outside the event. Put that event in its rightful place – look at it instead of being in it.

Strategy #3  Flip Your Focus

Intentionally start paying attention to the “good” because where you put your focus determines what you see. What we think about expands.  It’s that simple. Where are you putting your focus? If on the negative, the lack, what is not working – FLIP your focus…and instead, focus on what is positive, what you want, that for which you are grateful.

 Strategy #4  Develop a Gratitude-attitude

Gratitude is good for your health. Gratitude boosts production of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin that help your neurons travel more easily to the feel-good centers of the brain.  The more you practice gratitude, the more established the feel-good neural pathway will become. Ask yourself “What am I grateful for today?” Challenge yourself to write down 5 things every day.

Strategy #5  Become the CPO (Chief Positivity Officer) of Your Life

It is important to proactively nurture a positive mental state.  Incorporate regular mental techniques into your life like setting daily intentions, power thoughts, developing a gratitude attitude, and using strategies to support mindful self-care.

Strategy #6  Decrease Negative influences

Make a conscious choice to manage your intake of the negative. Remove yourself from negative conversations. Turn off the TV news and read something positive before you go to bed. You get to choose whether you spend time in negative activities or ones that feed you.

Strategy #7 Empower yourself and make a choice

Manage your negativity by taking control of your thoughts. Check in to see what negative messaging you are giving yourself.  Awareness of what you are thinking is the first step, so learn to listen to your words, whether spoken or unspoken.  If your thoughts are negative, return to strategies #3 or 4 above.  As you focus on positive possibilities, you’ll find that positive energy follows.

¹Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage


The Benefits of Adopting a Growth Mindset in your Chorus

I have been talking a lot lately about the benefits of nurturing a “growth mindset” – both individually and in a group.  I have found this shift in mindset can have a profound impact on our highly-technical, highly competitive barbershop life.

In a fixed mindset, you believe that basic qualities, such as intelligence and talent, are fixed traits and you spend your life proving those traits. In this kind of mindset you believe that talent is what creates success, you set a bar of excellence that you are focused on achieving. You then measure yourself against that bar and are constantly judging how you have fared. You may be prone to holding others to your ‘bar’ as well and being judgmental of others when they (or you) don’t measure up.  A fixed mindset is about “PROVING”.

In a growth mindset, you believe that your basic ability can be improved through dedication and hard work, and that talent and brains are merely the starting point. A growth mindset is focused on getting better, on improvement and developing skills so that you perform better than you did before. A setback or failure is seen as an opportunity to grow.  A growth mindset is about “IMPROVING”.

The benefits of adopting a growth mindset are expanded creativity, innovation, resiliency, development, and performance as well as aiding in personal well-being, stress-reduction, inner peace, and contentment. In an organization, a growth mindset will help us tap into, capitalize on, and maximize the talents of our members to create a more positive and engaged organization. A growth mindset has a consistent generative focus on developing the skills to make things better.

How could you nurture a growth mindset in your chorus?  Send me an email at and I will send you a pdf checklist from my book, THE OVERTONE EFFECT, that shows you how you can foster a growth mindset in your chorus.


Top 3 Ways You Can Supercharge Your Rehearsal Experience in 2018


Being intentional when you perform or rehearse has a powerful focusing effect on the experience and its outcome.  Considering, and then adding intention or purpose at rehearsal creates a different level of consciousness and energy. Adding intention fires off neurons in the brain that sets energy in motion to achieve/or give you the result.   Intention gives us a sense of control. We are “creating “our conditions vs. simply “reacting” to them.  Instead of rehearsal “happening to us”, we are shaping it. Wow!

How: Before you begin each rehearsal, think about what your intention will be for that rehearsal.   Is it spreading joy? Is it having fun? Is it being confident? By simply focusing back to that intention throughout the night, there will be an energetic shift (without you having to actually do anything different).  You can also consciously add intention and purpose to a single action – to a musical passage, a song, or even a Choreography move.  Experiment with this, and feel the difference intention makes!


Being present at rehearsal means more than just physically showing up.  It means eliminating all mental interference so you can be fully and mindfully present in each moment of your rehearsal.  Why do we care?  Well – being present in each moment allows the space for the most inspiration and grounded energy, creative flow and performance connection.

How:  This will take some practice, as there are an infinite amount of external and internal interferences to take us out of the present moment.  First step is to let go of any mental interference getting in the way of your being able to be 100% present.  Stuff in your head before rehearsal?  Leave it at the door!  Interference happening during rehearsal?  Say “How Fascinating” and allow yourself to defer the thoughts for later.  Re-focus to your director.  Re-focus to your breath. The point of power is in the present moment! RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!


This is why we rehearse. To learn.  To improve.  To grow.  Even our Queens of Harmony agree that chorus rehearsal is about improving their craft.  Yet how quickly we revert to our “judging” mindset when perhaps we sing a wrong note, run out of air, miss a choreo move etc.   At rehearsal, we want to adopt a growth mindset and show up as a learner to open up creative possibilities.  Our journey to personal mastery is a lifelong process.  If we have finished learning, we are dead.

How: Accept that your skill level right now is merely your starting point – and that you are at rehearsal to improve.  Mark your starting point so that you can measure each small increment of improvement. When we show up as a learner, we are in effect saying we do not know everything; that we are open and willing to grow.  The pressure lifts and the space opens up when you relieve yourself of the burden of having to know everything. Think of mistakes as opportunities to improve instead of self-judging failures that shut down your mind

Adopt the mantra “I am a Learner” and feel how your rehearsal experience positively shifts.


How does the need to be perfect get in your way?

I love the following quote by George Benson. It’s a wonderful reminder that no one cares if you make a mistake. However, it’s our fear of making a mistake that robs us from experiencing our true potential and making the deepest musical connections with our audiences. 

“The greatest thing I think that happened to me was, one day I heard a record by the number one guitarist of all time, Andre Segovia, and some place in this classical concerto…he made a little bobble. And I said, ‘Andre Segovia made a mistake! If he can make a mistake, who the heck am I? Who cares whether I make a mistake?’ So I played with reckless abandonment, didn’t worry about mistakes any more. Best thing that could ever happen to me ’cause if you worry about the music, you can’t do it with conviction. So I stopped worrying about it and now I have a career that I never imagined.”
–George Benson, in an interview with Aamer Haleem (CTV Morning Live, May 2012)

In our barbershop art form  it is easy to get trapped into solely focusing on technical mastery which can hugely limit our vocal freedom , emotional expression and possibilities for true connections with our audiences. Do you ever hold back, or limit yourself out of fear of making a mistake? I welcome your comments here.

Prepping for competition? Reasons to keep a positive mindset

This is a critical period for those who are preparing to compete at the International competition in Houston, TX  Oct. 17 – 22 . Beside your rehearsal work toward technical mastery, your mental mindset is a huge contributing factor to your performance potential. 

It is critical for all chorus members to begin now to develop and nurture a positive mindset.  How you mentally approach the next 6 weeks and the competition week  will have a dramatic effect on your ability to achieve your peak performance onstage.

A positive mindset can directly affect your performance and the performance of those around you by literally helping to grow your energy field.   Positivity breeds possibility and if you are stuck in a negative mindset, you are stuck in the land of scarcity thereby severely diminishing your capacity to grow,  learn and improve. And, as a pretty cool by-product, you and your chorus will have a lot more fun creating and working in an atmosphere of positivity!  

 I encourage you to incorporate the techniques in my document Ten Strategies for Nurturing a Positive Mental State Pre-Competition over the next several weeks.

Positively yours,

Jan Carley, Inner Coach of Barbershop and author of Harmony from the Inside Out – Creating and Maximizing your Performance Potential   on sale at

Harmony from the Inside Out at Men’s International

Heading to Kansas City? Be sure to pop by Harmony Marketplace and pick up a copy of the book barbershoppers are raving about – Harmony from the Inside Out. Directors and chorus members world-wide are embracing the principles in this popular book.  

Harmony from the Inside Out comprehensively outlines how to add the Inner Coaching piece to your barbershop toolbox not only to leverage successful competition results, but also to shift your chorus culture to one of possibility and positivity.  

Clay Hine (AVP, A Mighty Wind): “The more I see what incredible results Jan’s program produces, the more convinced I am of how important her book is to any ensemble’s success.”

Tom Metzger (REALTIME, Groupanizer) “Jan’s book cuts through the usual superficial acceptable wisdom and gets right to the fundamental causes of success and failure. Stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic – read this book.”

Sandy Marron (Master 700 director of the SAI 2010 International Silver Medalists, Lions Gate Chorus): “These inner coaching principles will positively change you and your chorus culture (or any team you might work with) forever”

Lisbet P. Kline (Director, Song of the Valley Chorus) Your book made the difference for my chorus this year for contest. In spite of using the Art of Possibility approach by Ben Zander for years, they for the first time were able to take what they are capable of onto the stage, and we improved 40 points to become the second most improved chorus.”

On Sale at HARMONY MARKETPLACE, or On Line at 

Bulk Sales for choruses – please email

Best of luck to all competitors!


Jan Carley, The Inner Coach of Barbershop

Author, Harmony from the Inside Out