There’s no time like the present to grow or refine ourselves a little bit more, and few resources are as helpful as TED talks. In that vein, here are the top 10 TED talks we’ve featured on Lifehacker or that have been popular on TED.
The summaries for all of the videos below are just quick introductions to the subject. They can’t really do these speakers’ talks justice, so hopefully you’ll have about 20 minutes to spare for each video (or come back to watch the rest later).
10. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Change your posture, change your life. Amy Cuddy explains how even faking powerful body language can reduce stress and make you more confident. Adopting a power pose is such a small thing but could make all the difference when you’re in a high-stress situation like a job interview or negotiating a raise.
9. The Power of Vulnerability
We all feel vulnerable and fearful of uncertainty at times, but these situations can be powerful paths to growth. Dr. Brene Brown’s research on human connection finds that happier people tend to accept the unknown and also that being vulnerable made them feel better and beautiful.
8. The Mathematics of Love
7. Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid
Psychologist Guy Winch argues in his TED talk that too many of us don’t care for our emotional and mental health with the same diligence that we take care of our bodies (and things like brushing our teeth). Loneliness, guilt, and other psychological “injuries” could be even more dangerous than physical traumas. Try to think of emotional wounds as you would physical ones.
6. I Am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace.
“It takes a lot of energy to hold hate inside you.” That’s the message from Zak Ebrahim’s moving TED talk, his story of choosing a different path than the violence and bigotry he was raised in. Though his story is about a very specific subject of terrorism and bullying, Ebrahim shares a few important lessons: You can use your experience to develop better empathy, actually getting to know people of different walks of life will expand your own life, and whatever your environment or family’s ideology, you are not them.
5. How to Speak So That People Want to Listen
Everybody wants to be heard when they speak — not just heard, but listened to. Part of it is we could all use to become better listeners, but another part of it is changing how we communicate with others. Sound consultant Julian Treasure offers the HAIL method of talking to others so they will trust what you say and pay attention: Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity and Love.
4. How to Make Hard Choices
You can’t go through life without making difficult decisions. Philosopher Ruth Change helps us make life-changing decisions by looking within yourself — it’s an opportunity to decide who you want to be.
3. Why We Do What We Do
What motivates you and makes you do the things that you do? What drives you today? Tony Robbins says that “emotions are the invisible force of internal drive.” We all have great minds and think intellectually, but it’s our emotions that makes the difference in the quality of our lives. Fulfillment, Robbins says, is an art and it’s all about appreciation and contribution. (Watch it at least 5:30-5:40 for the Al Gore high-five.)
2. You Can Grow New Brain Cells. Here’s How
Who doesn’t want more active brain cells? Neurocscientist Sanrine Thuret points out three things you can do to grow new brain cells through neurogenesis: Learning, sex and running. Sounds good to us.
1. My Stroke of Insight
Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor’s description of how the brain works and her experience after having a massive stroke is one of the most emotional TED talks you could watch. It’s about self-awareness, a near-death experience, and, most importantly, that we are all energy beings connected to the energy all around us — including each other. Whether or not you appreciate the spiritual undertones, Dr. Taylor’s note that “we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world” is powerful advice.