If you’re dedicated to success — in your career, relationships, or life in general — you’ve probably devoted much of your time to self-improvement. You’ve read books on leadership, listened to mental health podcasts, and studied theories like The Golden Circle to find meaning and vision in your work.
All those efforts are great, but you might be missing out on another key resource.
TED Talks are short lectures from subject matter experts in every industry, from business to education to design. The best TED talks about life have several million views. No wonder, since they offer wisdom, convincing research, and advice you can use to make positive changes in your health, career, relationships — even your mindset. Check out the videos below — they just might change your life.
The 10 best TED talks about life
The TED organization aims to spread ideas through short yet powerful lectures. And thanks to TED posting their videos online, their talks have reached millions worldwide.
1. Do schools kill creativity?, by Sir Ken Robinson
These days, everyone from Google to the US Chamber of Commerce is discussing how important creativity is in the workplace. Creativity is the number one soft skill employees look for, but nearly 75% of adults believe they aren’t living up to their creative potential.
If you asked the late Sir Ken Robinson what’s driving this creativity desert, he’d tell you one word: education. Ken, who’s the former Professor of Arts Education (and later Professor Emeritus) at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, expressed this belief in his famous TED talk, “Do schools kill creativity?”
In this talk, Ken discusses the “hierarchy of subjects” in the modern school system, which emphasizes math, reading, and science while dismissing creativity and the arts. He suggests that this system fails to “teach the whole child” and, in doing so, squanders many creative and intelligent thinkers.
This is an interesting watch if you want to understand the value of creativity better, and it might inspire you to bring your Whole Self to work.
2. What makes a good life?, by Robert Waldinger
Some say money and career success make life happy and meaningful, while others feel it’s about joyful experiences. But if you ask Robert Waldinger, he’d tell you the key to a good life is healthy relationships.
Robert teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and is the Harvard Study of Adult Development director. In this talk, he discusses “the longest study on human happiness” where researchers followed over 2,000 people since 1938, learning everything they could about what makes a person’s life “great.” Robert presents the study’s findings, and the results indicate that the Beatles were right: “Love is all you need.”
If you want to find more happiness, this talk will help you gain some valuable insight.
3. The magic of not giving a f***, by Sarah Knight
Bestselling author Sarah Knight spent 15 years as a top book editor in New York. But in 2015, she left the corporate world behind. In this humorous TED talk, Sarah explains it: she didn’t give a f*** anymore. She defines “giving a f***” as giving your time, energy, and money to something, and she encourages the audience (including you) to budget their “f*** bucks” wisely.
Sarah’s talk is funny and profane yet incredibly profound. If you often attend events or engage in activities you’d rather not, this video might inspire you to say “f*** it” and reclaim your energy, cash, and mental health.
4. What adults can learn from kids, by Adora Svitak
TED talks are all about giving unique and innovative thinkers a platform to share their expertise, and Adora Svitak certainly fits the bill. She gave her 2010 talk at just 12 years old, discussing the “childish” behavior adults should re-incorporate into their lives.
Adora talks about optimism, boldness, and wild creativity — all traits common among children, less so in adults. She advocates for reciprocal learning between adults and kids and encourages adults to have higher expectations for the children in their lives. Adora’s advice extends to your personal development, too: raising your expectations and being boldly optimistic can help you achieve your dreams.
5. How do you define yourself?, by Lizzie Velasquez
Your self-esteem impacts your life, from your personal relationships to your job performance and productivity. But what happens when you decide to change the way you define yourself? That’s what happened to Lizzie Velasquez.
Lizzie lives with marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, which affects her ability to accumulate body fat along with other symptoms. Her condition made her the focus of bullying throughout her childhood, including a cruel online joke calling her “the world’s ugliest woman.” But after years of lamenting her condition, Lizzie realized that she didn’t have to define herself by society’s standards.
In this talk, Lizzie uses humor and positivity to share the bright sides of her life. She also reminds you that you’re in control of your life, so you get to define beauty, success, and everything else.
6. How to make stress your friend, by Kelly McGonigal
Research shows that around 62% of American workers experience high stress levels. This is a problem, as science also tells us that stress affects the body in harmful ways, like depleting your immune system, promoting premature aging, and increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. Many people seek effective stress relief methods, but Kelly McGonigal’s might be one of the most unique.
In Kelly’s TED talk, “How to make stress your friend,” the health psychologist and Stanford University lecturer argues that stress isn’t always bad. It can help your body prepare to meet a challenge — and it’s sometimes your beliefs about stress that actually wreak havoc on your health. If you’ve struggled with stress lately, this talk might literally save your life.
7. The simple cure for loneliness, by Baya Voce
It’s no secret that people in the US are suffering from a loneliness epidemic. Some credit this to our lack of social interactions, which have diminished over the years thanks to increased social media use, single-person households, and, more recently, pandemic-related lockdowns and remote work mandates.
Relationship coach Baya Voce has studied the importance of human connection for years, so she knows how loneliness can harm your physical and mental health. She also has a simple cure: maintaining a ritual, or what she calls an “anchor of connection.” In this TED talk, Baya shares how these “anchors” have impacted her life, demonstrating how you can use similar rituals to stave off loneliness.
8. I was almost a school shooter, by Aaron Stark
While many TED talks come from industry experts, academics, and innovators, one of the most inspiring sessions is mental health advocate Aaron Stark’s story about the power of friendship.
Aaron suffered a painful, abusive childhood that led him down a dark path toward violence in his teen years. As he recounts in his talk, he planned to commit a mass shooting at his high school in 1996 until a friend acknowledged his pain and showed him there was light in the darkness. This emotional talk illustrates why friendship is so important, and watching it will inspire you to be a better friend to everyone you meet.
9. Your body language may shape who you are, by Amy Cuddy
You probably already know that body language affects how people perceive you. Straight posture, eye contact, and a firm handshake go a long way toward making a good impression. And according to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, it can even change your self-perception.
In her talk, Amy discusses the results of a study on “power poses.” This research indicates that just two minutes of confident, dominant body language can change your hormones, “tricking” your brain into feeling more powerful. This talk is a must-watch if you’re struggling with imposter syndrome or low self-esteem.
10. Grit: the power of passion and perseverance, by Angela Lee Duckworth
Career success is all about pursuing your long-term goals, whether that’s getting promoted, starting a business, or becoming an industry leader. But achieving these goals is challenging, which is why you need to develop grit.
Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth discusses how she saw grit lead middle school students, West Point cadets, and people from many other walks of life to success. Her research suggests that grit is more important than IQ or talent when achieving long-term goals. She closes her talk by encouraging listeners to develop a growth mindset, which can help people at any age and in any profession succeed.
Watch, learn, and live your best life
Whether you’re looking for more work-life balance, trying to boost your confidence, or searching for the key to a happy life, the inspiring talks listed here can help you make real progress in your personal development.
These talks challenge how you see the world, giving you a broader perspective on your life and your dreams. And if you implement advice from these speakers, you’re sure to see positive change — after all, there’s a reason these are the best TED talks about life.