Top 10 TED talks that’ll change your life

Sharon Timms

You know those days when coffee, sex or Netflix just isn’t quite enough? Needing to feel motivated, inspired or just have a good ol’ cry? Luckily, we have the cure for you! Never underestimate the power of a soul-raising, poignant speech to reaffirm your faith in humanity, and you can trust TED talks to bring it in spades. Bookmark these babies next time you need a little extra oomph to your day.

Check out these ten inspirational TED talks that’ll change your life… or at the very least give you some solace for the next time things aren’t going your way.

1) Elizabeth Gilbert – Your Elusive Creative Genius

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American writer, best known for her 2006 best-selling memoir, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. People associate creative works with mental health issues and a fear that their work won’t be good enough, or not as good as their past work. Indeed, a lot of writers in the 20th century have committed suicide or suffered depression. After the massive success of her book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Elizabeth believed that her greatest work was now behind her, a very scary thought. She looked at how to construct barriers between her work and this anxiety about how it will be received.

2) Amy Cuddy: Body Language

There has been a lot of research into how others perceive our body language, and the importance of sending the right message. However, Amy Cuddy delves into how we are influenced by our own body language — and how a few strategic power poses can make a world of difference in our self-confidence and stress levels.

3) Tom Thum: The Orchestra In My Mouth

Tom Thum can do strange things with his mouth. It’s been said many times that this wildly charismatic beat boxer appears to have ‘not only a symphony orchestra but also a jazz band, techno DJ, 80’s synth pop group and collection of exotic world instruments all residing somewhere in his throat’. Tom’s 15 minute showcase quickly became the highest viewed TEDx video of all time with over 44+ million views and counting. Now recognised worldwide for his obscure talent to warp and manipulate his vocal chords, Tom Thum demonstrates his innate ability for inhuman noisemaking

4) Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness

When people talk about happiness, it’s often referred to as a search—a quest to find something so elusive and out of reach, that there are now a bottomless pit of ideas on how to acquire it. But shockingly, it could be our power to choose from thousands of great experiences in life that actually keeps us from being happy. In this TED Talk, psychologist Dan Gilbert breaks down happiness into its two most basic components—the happiness we stumble upon and the happiness we create—to reveal a shocking truth.

5) Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown is a shoot-from-the-hip Texan, who also happens to be a shame and vulnerability expert. Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathise, belong, love. In this poignant, funny talk that has been viewed over 6 million times, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

6) Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness & Spaghetti Sauce

It just wouldn’t be an inspiring talks list without author Malcolm Gladwell on it. In this TED Talk, Gladwell explores the story of the man who refused to believe in a ‘perfect’ spaghetti sauce, and how his research impacts our broader understanding of choice and happiness. While the talk centres on the food industry, the larger discoveries about human behaviour are poignantly relevant for leaders who want to build workplaces where people are happy and fulfilled.

7) Sam Berns: Philosophy For  A Happy Life

Here’s one of the most inspiring TED Talks you will ever have the pleasure to watch. It is the fascinating legacy of a boy who was one for the ages. Seventeen-year-old Sam became the spokesman for a genetic condition called Progeria, also known as the aptly named ‘aging disease’. Sam refused to allow his disease to define him and worked to overcome limitations others said he never would. He lived the life he chose to and didn’t focus on his illness and what made him different, but rather his dreams and what made him happy.

In memoriam: Sam Berns passed away on January 10, 2014. We thank him for the inspiration he provided

8) Alain de Botton – A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

Psychologist and author Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure — and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work.

9) Lucinda Beaman: What Does It Take to Change A Mind

“A man convinced against his will is of his opinion still”. Ever tried to change a person’s mind when they weren’t really that convinced? Impossible, right? As fact check editor at The Conversation, Lucinda Beaman sees first-hand the conflict between facts and beliefs. She offers a framework for understanding how we process information and how we can connect with those who disagree with us.

10) Isaac Lidsky: What Reality Are You

Reality isn’t something you perceive; it’s something you create in your mind. Isaac Lidsky learned this profound lesson firsthand, when unexpected life circumstances yielded valuable insights. In this introspective, personal talk, he challenges the concept of cognitive dissonance, and encourages us to let go of excuses, assumptions and fears, and accept the awesome responsibility of being the creators of our own reality.

Could this year’s much anticipated TEDxSydney event hold the key to more life changing talks? There’s only one way to find out.

Photo credit: Hashan Rantunga

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