Are you struggling creatively, stuck in a negative cycle, stressed out or feeling unfulfilled? Don’t worry, it can happen to all of us, and (perhaps a little counterintuitively) especially after a vacation.

If you need a dose of inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve curated 10 motivating and thought-provoking TED Talks that can help you see a new perspective and set you back on track.

So, grab a cuppa, sit back and get ready to be inspired!

  1. 10 ways to have a better conversation

Radio show host Celeste Headlee says we’ve stopped listening to each other. We’ve lost the art of conversation, preferring to simply state our views to the world on social media or to converse with friends via short text messages.

When you don’t listen properly you cannot reply properly – it’s why interviewers sometimes seem to ignore interesting information revealed by an interviewee and ask an unrelated question. Their mind was solely focused on what they wanted to ask next.

I’ve noticed this a lot in conversation – and experienced it myself; the other person is so hell bent on saying what they want to say, it’s obvious they’re not really listening. As Celeste says: “We don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”

In a business situation, failing to listen means you could miss out on the important things your colleagues are trying to tell you. Try out Celeste’s 10 tips for better conversation and see both your personal and professional relationships thrive.

  1. A simple way to break a bad habit

We all have bad habits we’d love to break, such as smoking, junk food snacking or compulsive Facebook checking. The answer, according to psychiatrist and addiction expert Judson Brewer is ‘mindfulness’.

Instead of trying to make our cravings go away as quickly as possible, we should turn towards them and stare them in the face, eye to eye. We should analyse exactly how we’re feeling in order to realise that cravings are simply made up of body sensations such as tension and restlessness.

In fact, when a client comes to Judson for treatment to quit smoking, he doesn’t tell them not to smoke; he wants them to smoke, but to smoke mindfully.

Paying very close attention to the experience helps the smoker to see it for what it really is. This technique is twice as effective as traditional therapy, he says. Could it work for you?

  1. What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

What does a good life mean to you? Is it about personal achievement? Becoming rich or famous? Being deemed a success?

A study of millennials in the US found that the ambition of over 80% is to get rich, while another 50% believe getting famous will bring them the fulfilment they crave.

According to Robert Waldinger, we’re given the impression that these are the things we need to go after in order to have a good life, but it is not so.

Robert is the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has tracked the lives of 724 men for 75 years. It has followed them from their teens into their 90s, measuring their satisfaction with life every two years.

The study involved two groups of men; one a group of Harvard students, and the other, a group of poor boys from the Boston tenements. Their lives varied dramatically, with some climbing the social ladder from bottom to top, some in the opposite direction (one even became President of the United States).

What did they learn? Is it fame, money and power that makes us happy? No. It’s our relationships with our family, friends and community. Listen to this fascinating talk to discover how good social connections can even help us live longer.

  1. How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says when our brains are under stress our bodies react by shutting down number of internal systems.

Those things we don’t need when staring a predator in the face and deciding whether to take flight or stay and fight, such as the digestive system, libido and immune system get temporarily switched off. But another function that is impaired by stress in this way is rational, logical thinking and this causes us to make bad decisions, he says.

A way to combat this is by developing the ability of ‘prospective hindsight,’ thinking ahead to potentially stress causing situations and figuring out how you can prevent them or minimise them. One example he gives is misplacing your passport before a trip and how this can be solved by designating a place in the home for things that are easily lost.

By conducting a ‘pre-mortum’ of events and working out what could go wrong, you can put systems in place to minimise stress and help you stay calm. Although he does admit that this kind of forethought is a skill that must be worked at!

  1. How to make stress your friend

Is stress bad for you or could it be the belief that stress is bad? According to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, changing how you feel about stress can make you healthier – even if you’re suffering from a lot of stress.

When we’re under pressure, our heart rate increases, we break out in a sweat and we automatically think this must be bad, she posits. But what if we viewed our body’s response to stress as a good thing? A sign that we’re energised and prepared to meet the challenge?

Studies show that if we can learn to view the stress response as helpful it can actually change what happens in our bodies. A more relaxed attitude can prevent the blood vessels from restricting (one of the negative effects of stress) and prevent stress-induced heart attacks.

  1. The surprising habits of original thinkers

After failing to invest in Warby Parker, an online glasses retailer now valued at $2bn, because he thought they weren’t making quick enough progress, Adam Grant set out to study people he calls ‘originals’. ‘Originals’ are those who drive creativity and change in the world.

A self-confessed ‘precrastinator,’ who wants everything done in advance, he was curious to know the relationship between procrastination and creativity.

The organisational psychologist found that getting things done immediately was actually not the best tactic. Although good for productivity, it’s bad for creativity.

Time to incubate and think in non-linear ways enables ‘originals’ to make those unexpected leaps that change the world. In fact, Adam found ‘moderate procrastinators’ to be 16% more creative than their faster-acting counterparts.

So, if you have some work to do, here’s a fantastic excuse to take a break and watch this video first!

  1. How frustration can make us more creative

When jazz pianist Keith Jarrett was asked to give a concert on an out of tune, too small, worn out piano, he was unsurprisingly reluctant.

However, the young girl organising the concert talked him into it and the result was the best selling piano album in history. He’d had to adjust his musical score, play harder, be more creative.

Economist and journalist Tim Harford says we all need to gain more appreciation of the unexpected advantages of having to cope with a ‘little mess.’ While no one wants to work with bad tools or to have to overcome unnecessary hurdles, it can be just the boost our creativity needs.

Tim gives another example of students asked to read study papers printed in difficult fonts and who consequently did better in their exams. It had slowed them down and forced them to think a bit more about what they were reading so they learnt more.

Tim’s suggestion is that we should “make crazy moves and try stupid things that shouldn’t work.” This he reasons will make our problem solving more robust and improve our overall performance.

  1. Success, failure and the drive to keep creating

Elizabeth Gilbert, Author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ faced six years of continual rejections before she finally got published. She pushed through the crushing disappointment by focusing on writing.

“I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing – I loved it more than my own ego,” she reveals. However, once she had found success, she was surprised to still feel like a failure.

“I kept identifying with that unpublished, young diner waitress and feeling like I was her again, which made no rational sense,” she says.

What she discovered was the strange psychological connection between how we experience great failure and how we experience great success. In this talk, Elizabeth reveals how you can find the drive to keep going when you’re ‘catapulted out of the norm’ by either experience.

  1. How better tech could protect us from distraction

Technology designers are driving us to distraction, says design thinker Tristan Harris. They create tools that leave us with an ‘all or nothing’ relationship with technology.

Either we’re ‘on’ and getting distracted or ‘off’ and suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out). We need to restore choice, he says.

Designers need to understand that our phones and computers are like slot machines; every time we check email, click on an update or scroll a newsfeed we’re playing them to see what we’re going to get.

We have so many external interruptions that it’s training us to interrupt ourselves – we self-interrupt on average every three minutes!

Is it now the responsibility of designers to create tech that goes beyond facilitating easy interactions to actually create positive contributions to human life? Tristan explores how this might be possible.

  1. This is your brain on communication

Neuroscientist Uri Hasson explains the fascinating concept of ‘neural coupling’ – what happens when the brains of listeners and speaker connect to one another.

Experiments show brain activity becomes aligned when a group of people hear the same story or watch the same film. This brain activity can even be recreated in others when we relate the story to them.

Uri says the research shows the importance of common understanding in effective communication and considers how we can use this knowledge to better share our ideas with others.

Conclusion

So many of the issues we face can be tackled simply by adjusting our mindset. The way we think and respond is something that can be consciously worked at, so don’t get bogged down by life’s challenges; simply approach them from another direction!

Which of these talks was your favourite? Can you recommend any other inspiring videos?
Let us know in the comments!

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