12 Short TED Talks That Will Change Your Life Forever

Sometimes it’s easier to learn via the printed word; other times a visual and personal delivery of a topic is much more effective. In the case of TED talks, these mostly short, succinct presentations are not only easily grasped, but incredibly powerful motivators for change.

Now there are talks on almost every theme you can imagine, and as harsh as it may sound, some are definitely better than others. To save you time and energy trying to uncover these very best inspirational videos, we’ve done the hard work for you.

Below we link to 12 such TED talks that are the cream of the crop when it comes to dynamic, engaging, and most of all, life-changing presentations. You can watch (or even just listen) to these at any time and we actually recommend that you don’t try to consume them all at once. Instead, bookmark them (or better yet, bookmark this page) and tackle them one at a time. After each one, spend a short while thinking about its content and how it applies to you and your life.

Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science Of Happiness

Topic: Happiness
Length: 21 minutes

What happens when we don’t get what we want? Do we fall into despair and discontentment? Well… no, not really. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert shows us – with the help of intriguing experimental results – that our minds have a “psychological immune system” working to maintain our happy(ish) disposition regardless of what we might assume are positive or negative outcomes.

Alain de Botton: A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy Of Success

Topic: Success/Failure
Length: 17 minutes

How do you define success and failure? Are these definitions your own? How much are societal and cultural forces shaping the expectations we have of our lives and causing us to exist in a state of almost constant anxiety? Author and modern philosopher Alain de Botton investigates.

Scott Geller: The Psychology Of Self-Motivation

Topic: Motivation
Length: 16 minutes

How do we motivate ourselves to strive and work towards our goals? How might we help motivate others to do the same? Professor Scott Geller of Virginia Tech breaks motivation down into ‘4 Cs’ which, when combined, can’t fail to drive us forward towards our dreams and aspirations.

Matthieu Ricard: The Habits Of Happiness

Topic: Happiness
Length: 21 minutes

Can happiness, compassion, loving kindness, and other positive mental states be cultivated through practice and habit? Buddhist monk and author Matthieu Ricard argues that dedication to time spent looking inwards is enough to change the way our brains work and shift our experiences to something more peaceful and content.

Carol Dweck: The Power Of Believing That You Can Improve

Topic: Personal Growth
Length: 10 minutes

Are our abilities to think, solve problems and overcome obstacles fixed or can they be developed through the right messages and attitude? Motivational researcher Carol Dweck puts forward a case for the “not yet” approach to self-belief that provides room to grow and adapt. She makes the case specifically for children and their life choices, but the same can be applied to everyone, no matter what their age.

Guy Winch: Why We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid

Topic: Mental Health & Resilience
Length: 17 minutes

We are all well aware that we ought to be looking after our bodies, practicing good personal hygiene, and administering first aid when we are injured. Yet most of us fail to take the same careful approach to our minds. Psychologist and author Guy Winch urges us to pay more attention to our emotions and mental health so that we may become more resilient and live happier, more fulfilled, and less anxious lives.

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Caroline McHugh: The Art Of Being Yourself

Topic: Being Yourself/Authentic
Length: 26 minutes

Are you living as your true self or are you constantly hiding your authentic thoughts and feelings to try to gain the approval of others? If your feet are stuck firmly in the latter camp, how can you shift your life to one where you feel free and able to express your truth? Author Caroline McHugh wants to show you that your life is your message to the world, so it might as well be one you believe in.

Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

Topic: Fallibility
Length: 18 minutes

How does it feel when you get something wrong? How does your mind try to protect you from this feeling? Should we all become better acquainted with being wrong and admit that our beliefs are not always good reflections of the external world? How might this improve our relationships with each other and our society in general? Author Kathryn Schulz tackles these questions and more in this thought-provoking TED talk.

Gen Kelsang Nyema: Happiness Is All In Your Mind

Topic: Happiness
Length: 16 minutes

It seems that our inner state is inextricably linked to the external world, but is this true? Buddhist nun Gen Kelsang Nyema explains that this causal link simply does not exist unless we allow it to exist. If we choose to, we can cultivate inner peace and happiness regardless of external events or stimuli. Her soothing voice and the warmth she exudes make this an extremely relaxing, yet powerful presentation.

Nigel Marsh: How To Make Work-Life Balance Work

Topic: Balance
Length: 10 minutes

What does it really mean to have a healthy work-life balance? Well, it’s not about the flexi-time or office childcare that some employers think it is. There is a lot more to it, but conversely a lot less also – as you’ll come to see in this highly engaging TED talk that’s full of humor and essential lessons.

Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance

Topic: Success/Failure
Length: 6 minutes

What do all successful people have in common? What is it about them and their approach to the challenges of life that allows them to achieve where others fall short? The answer is quite simple and it provides a very valuable life lesson that we could all use a refresher course on. Psychologist and former teacher explains why grit is an essential ingredient in succeeding at whatever you set your heart on.  

Daniel Kahneman: The Riddle Of Experience Vs. Memory

Topic: Happiness
Length: 20 minutes

Our perception of our lives is not a straightforward thing at all. In fact, when you try to figure out how happy someone is, you have to consider two very distinct, and often very different, components: their experiencing selves and their remembering selves. These two parts of the same person can sometimes offer up opposing answers to the question: how happy are you? Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman explains more.

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