TED talks can inspire you to do your best work, reach for the stars, or even try a new way of tying your shoes. With the 2016 TED Conference wrapped up last month, the folks at TED have gone to work putting some of the best talks they’ve hosted recently online. Delivered by a TV mogul, the leader of a study on happiness that’s been running more than 75 years, even the creator of “yarn bombing,” their talks are filled with ideas for upping your game for the rest of 2016. They’ll improve everything you do, from your relationships to your job performance to your creativity to your ability to converse, especially about politics. They can even add years to your life.
Here are five guaranteed to make you feel motivated, energized, and ready to take on the world:
1. Taking Time to Play Makes You More Inspired at Work
The legendary Shonda Rhimes created the TV hits Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and is involved with three or four network series every season. That’s a lot of work, and when it’s going well—when she feels engaged and enthusiastic and at her creative peak—she calls that “the hum.” But one day the hum stopped, and try as she might, she couldn’t get it to start again, she explains in this deeply honest talk.
Rhimes was bereft. But she was also a single mother who’d promised herself to say yes to everything asked of her that year. So when her toddler asked her to play as she was on her way out the door, instead of leaving she said “yes” and stopped to play for a while. And she promised herself that from then on, if humanly possible, she would stop and play whenever her children asked her. (As she points out, any child will get bored in 15 minutes or less, so it wasn’t a schedule-crusher.)
It was a great thing for her family, and to her surprise, by taking the time to play for a few minutes with her children, Rhimes brought the hum back to her work, as well. It’s a great lesson for our overworked, overcommitted, always-in-the-zone times.
2. Good Relationships Make You Happier—and Healthier—Than Wealth or Fame
What makes people happiest? To find out, Harvard University began tracking a group of its male students—and a comparable group of young men from Boston’s poorest neighborhood—and it continued studying them for 75 years, taking medical tests to determine their health and asking detailed questions about their lives. In this thought-provoking talk, Robert Waldinger, the study’s current head, says the evidence is in and it’s incontrovertible. Although most of us (including the study’s subjects) believe achieving wealth and fame will make us happiest, it’s actually the quality of our relationships that determine both our well-being and our longevity.
3. Frustration Inspires Creativity
What should you do when your creativity flags and you’re feeling really stuck? Try tying your dominant hand behind your back. This logic (although not this specific advice) comes from a fascinating talk by economist Tim Harford, who notes that the best-selling solo piano album of all time came about when a brilliant pianist was obliged to play on a really terrible piano.
The legendary musician and producer Brian Eno uses this knowledge to his advantage too, forcing musicians to do things like play each others’ instruments when they get creatively stuck. Apparently, the tougher things are, the more we rise to the occasion.
4. Doing What You Love Can Become a Career When You Least Expect It
Magda Sayeg is a textile artist, but she didn’t set out to be one, she explains in this brief and colorful talk. In fact, she was a math major, but one day, out of a desire to relieve the endless gray and hardness of a modern urban environment with something colorful, soft, and fuzzy, she wrapped a steel door handle in knitted fabric. Then came a stop sign post that proved to be highly popular.
Before she knew it, the “yarn bombing” movement was born, and she had started it. And given her life a whole new direction in the process.
5. You May Have Less Time Than You Think to Do What You Care About Most
Master procrastinator and “Wait But Why” blogger Tim Urban knows a lot about leaving things until the last minute. But when it comes to the most important things in our lives, which often come with no deadlines, this habit can really harm us, as Tim explains in this funny and thoughtful talk. Starting a business, making your relationship better, getting out of a relationship that isn’t working, and spending time with the people we care about most are just a few examples of things we might never get around to because they have no deadlines.
That would be a real shame.
So spend a little time watching these powerful talks, and use them as inspiration to make 2016 the year that you create the life you really want.
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