In May 2016, Tibor and I went to Eurovision. Before we went, neither of us were Eurovision fans, but our good friend Alice was turning 30, and it was her dream to go over with a group of friends for a truly memorable experience.
Alice and I have known each other for about ten years, and both of us have some common friends, Firlie and Pete (also known as Pearly and Feet, for obvious reasons). At Firlie’s 30th birthday party last year, a group of us sat on the couch in the big house that we’d hired for the weekend and we decided that, as a group, we would make adventures a priority. All of us are really different people, with different interests, hobbies and ideas, but our common love of adventures binds us together. As a group, come what may, we collectively and consciously decided that we would all say yes to more adventures.
The upward spiral of positivity
The social phenomenon that we unknowingly created that day is known as the upward spiral of positivity. We created a group with positive social pressure where we all encouraged each other to have more fun and to actively put the fun things in first. Our new micro-community didn’t allow for negativity; it created the space to say yes to fun. That positive effect, where one positive change sparks another, is a wonderful thing that we can all actively cultivate if we make the active choice to do so and seek out other like‑minded individuals.*
It was really interesting what happened in our business when we actively put fun first. When I had things to look forward to, a great group of friends to look forward to them with, and I was constantly experiencing things that made me feel good, I was overall more energised, productive and excited. Balancing life out (rather than waiting until the end to reward ourselves only when we’d ‘earned’ it) made our business more about the journey than the destination, which actually triggered many great things.
However, the impact of positivity on business isn’t the focus of this article. Today’s focus is connection. Take note of this one: connection is the currency of wellness
What is Eurovision?
For those of you who don’t yet know, Eurovision is a song contest where many of the countries in Europe (and this year, Australia, clearly not geographically European but participating by special invite) enter one act into the contest, which is performed on live television to a crowd of enthusiastic viewers. Voting online is actively encouraged, and because you aren’t allowed to vote for your own country, the home-town bias is largely removed. The contest dates back to 1956, when it began as a way to unite the European countries which were coming out of a long period of war. Both professional juries and audiences have a vote, and the winner is decided on live TV. The winner’s country then hosts the competition the following year.
Our friend Alice absolutely loves Eurovision. Every year, she has a Eurovision party and gets up at 5am Australian time to watch the Grand Final live. In 2015, it was particularly exciting because the winning entry would decide where we all went on our adventure. And it was Måns Zelmerlöw with his interactive song ‘Heroes’ that sealed our fate. Off to Sweden we went.
Alice booked us a house in Sweden (see here to see the garden plots out the back). Eight of us went, and Alice was the only one who knew all of us. How would a group of strangers fare dealing with jet-lag, an unfamiliar country and five tickets each to the Eurovision shows? Would the theme of ‘come
together’ be enough for us to connect?
Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is an enchanting place. Steeped in history and full of modern style, passive design and smart-yet-practical clothing, it bore, without effort, the tens of thousands of Eurovision fans who descended from far and wide. The vast majority of the Swedes were on board with hosting the festival and despite the chaos, the full metro stations and the colour and costumes that are integral to Eurovision, we were welcomed with open arms.
You see, Eurovision is designed to connect people. Eurovision does, on a huge scale, what our
little ‘yes‑to‑adventures’ group does; it creates an upswing and a momentum of people experiencing positive emotions. When people are in a positive frame of mind, we tend to make better choices. When we make it socially acceptable to talk to strangers on a train, to dance to the weird and wonderful songs together without judgement, and to let people fully express themselves in a safe space, magic really happens.
The psychology of survival
Humans, in the spectrum of all things on earth, are really quite slow, soft and squishy. To survive, we’ve had to be on alert for danger. We tend to see all things as a negative and as a threat so that we can keep ourselves alive. The thing is, and this is important, we don’t live in such a threatening world anymore. Most of the ‘dangers’ that we face won’t kill us. So whilst our instincts have kept us alive for this long, in this new, safer world, to be creative and to grow, that biological negative mindset isn’t helping us to evolve. Because we’re not naturally wired for positivity, we need to work actively to create it.
When you’re at Eurovision, especially when you’re dressed from head to toe in the #damiarmy tee-shirts and matching hats that the Australian SBS crew gave you in return for giving them a ‘yay Eurovision’ promo video, you find yourself mixing with people you’d never usually meet.
One couple had travelled from Britain, having not only learned the words, by heart, to all of the 46 songs, but also a complete choreographed dance routine as well. You’ve never seen two people in such flow having such a good time.
Another couple (on their 10th consecutive Eurovision pilgrimage) had a spreadsheet of all of the entries with their precise predictions and calculation on who would win. We’ve got photos with strangers who quickly became friends because at Eurovision, everyone talks to everyone. Groups of people from all over the world dressed up in costumes supporting their favourite entrant, but there was not even a hint of malice between then. There really was only love, acceptance and the desire to have a really good time bonding over the universal language of music.
Eurovision is perhaps the world’s biggest example of ‘coming together’. Not only did the group of eight Australians who made the trip to Sweden bond for life (stay tuned for an article about our Legoland adventures!), we came away with a new appreciation for both how big, yet how small, the world really is.
Connection is the currency of wellness. Underneath it all, we’re all humans, and if we focus on putting the positive in first, we can elevate not only our baseline level of happiness, but we can inspire others around us to do the same.
What can you do this week to put more fun into your life? Who can you recruit as an accountability buddy to make sure that you make time for adventures? Please feel free to share in the comments below. Let’s create a community of awesome!
Building a better way of life
*Barbara Frederickson, a social psychologist and Professor of Psychology, discusses the concept of the ‘Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions’ in depth in many of her books and articles.