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Tag emotional contagion

So you want to change the world…

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So you want to change the world…

Okay, so everyone’s probably heard of six degrees of separation. The theory that every person in the world can connect with any other person in six steps or less. It can be a bit of fun working out just who you’re connected to. I’m two degrees of separation from Lisa Curry Kenny for example having spoken on the same stage.

And then we’re all probably familiar with the idea that emotions spread like viruses. If you’re happy you infect those around you with happy feelings. Unfortunately it’s the same for the chronically cranky. They call that emotional contagion.

Taking these two concepts together you’ve got something pretty incredible.

I heard retired Admiral William McRaven put it like this recently. In a commencement speech at the University of Texas, he talked of creating positive change in the world. How the 8000 graduating students could go out there and make a difference. But not in some general sort of way. Instead he gave solid figures that make great things possible across generations, across the entire globe.

Bascially he said this. That in our lifetime we will on average meet 10,000 people. That’s a lot of people. But if we change the lives of just 10 of those people and those people each change the lives of 10 people and those people another 10 each and so on, then within a hundred and twenty-five years, we would have indirectly contributed to the betterment of 800 million lives. Go one more generation than that and you can change the entire population of the world.

That’s pretty incredible isn’t it.

Touching another person’s life for the better is an incredible gift to both the giver and the receiver.

So where can you make a difference?

Why stop at just 10.

Catching the bug!

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These days I’m very careful who I choose to be around. Because I’ve come to realise that who I hang out with has a major impact on what I think and how I feel. Some people are beneficial and some obviously aren’t. And I guess it’s a sign of how much we care for ourselves when we limit the negative and seek out the positive wherever and whenever possible. And that means some tough choices sometimes, doesn’t it. Not always popular ones.

And there’s nothing selfish in this. In fact, quite the opposite. Because they’ve shown that emotions spread like diseases.  Pretty incredible, huh. That we can ‘catch’ being happy. And ‘catch’ being sad. Harvard University we’re talking. Not some pseudo-science piece but hard arse research. The scary thing is it’s twice as easy to catch the ‘sad’ bug than it is the ‘happy’ one. But when you catch happy it lasts longer. Emotional contagion. It even has a name. And it spreads like wildfire between people in frequent close contact. Like families. Like workmates. Anyone we hang out with really on a consistent basis.

Take a friend who lives a mile away from me. If that friend becomes happier, I have a 25% chance of becoming happier too. If my neighbour becomes happier then it’s a 34% chance. Huge! And the thing is the happier I am, the happier people are around me. Because I pass it on. So when I am happier, because someone around me is happier, then I spread that on to all the people in my life too. And that’s the sort of contagious I’m in favour of.

Happiness gone viral. And because I want to spread happiness to those I love, I am really conscious of who I spend my time with.

Happiness. It’s so important, isn’t it. For health. For leaving the world a better place. So it pays to be careful who’s in your inner circle. Who should you avoid? And who should you hang out with more?