How do you reach your goals in life? If you’re anything like us, you need a plan. And that plan includes specific steps to achieve your goals, not just a big aspiration with no back-up. Does your plan also include backward steps? Because those happen, and they might be the reason you’re here in the first place. How to reach your goals is something many of us have pondered, failed at, and then pondered again. That doesn’t mean, however, that achieving your dreams is impossible. Or a perfect process.
Ideally, you reach your goals every time, but sometimes life gets in the way of our productivity. And to be honest, sometimes we get in our own way. So now what? We’re looking to some insightful TED Talks to find the answers.
12 Inspiring TED Talks to Up Your Productivity and Reach Your Goals
Setting, and then getting, our goals comes with challenges. Maybe you know what you want to accomplish but aren’t sure how to get there. Or your goal is massive and soul-expanding, but that also makes it totally terrifying. That’s normal. Struggling with goals is part of the growth process, so there’s no reason to let the potential challenges hold us back.
It’s important we know what the goal is, figure out how to hit it, and also have backup plans for what to do when the original plan goes sideways. Because it will. This list of 12 TED Talks will inspire you to work toward your target while giving you new ways to approach productivity and the goal-setting process. What are you waiting for?
1. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Lee Duckworth
What’s it about?: Resilience
How long is it?: 6:08
Why should you watch it?: Want to know the one characteristic that research says is a significant predictor of success? It’s grit. Angela Duckworth has spent her career exploring and researching the topic of grit and how it helps you reach your goals. Not sure what grit is or how to get it? Angela’s talk can help.
2. “3 Ways to Plan for the (Very) Long Term” by Ari Wallach
What’s it about?: Redefining long-term goals
How long is it?: 13:42
Why should you watch it?: Long-term goals help create your vision for the future, even if that future feels far-off. Ari Wallach gives us three unique strategies for how to look at the big picture including reframing long-term goals to a practice he calls the “long path.” Wallach’s unique approach helps us reexamine what we want to accomplish and how we can make it happen.
3. “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by Shawn Achor
What’s it about?: The importance of happiness
How long is it?: 12:13
Why should you watch it?: A surprising key to helping you reach your goals? According to Shawn Achor, it’s happiness. When the brain experiences positivity and happiness, it creates what Achor calls the happiness advantage, which allows you to work smarter, harder, and faster. And that’s no happy accident.
4. “Flow, the Secret to Happiness” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
What’s it about?: Getting into the zone
How long is it?: 18:51
Why should you watch it?: If you’re not reaching your goals, perhaps you’re not experiencing “flow.” (If you’re not even sure what flow is, perhaps you’re in the right place.) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist, researcher, and expert on the concept of flow, presents the eight conditions that are typically present when you’re in the zone. Why is flow important? It ups happiness, which can then increase your efficiency, productivity, and progress toward your goals. Flow on.
5. “How to Get Better at the Things You Care About” by Eduardo Briceño
What’s it about?: Learning and performance
How long is it?: 11:22
Why should you watch it?: Relentlessly putting in the work and not seeing any progress = the worst. Eduardo Briceño discusses the difference between the learning zone and the performance zone and which one you should get into as you work to reach your goals. Hint: The learning zone is where growth happens. Check it out.
6. “Keep Your Goals to Yourself” by Derek Sivers
What’s it about?: The effects of talking about goals
How long is it?: 3:08
Why should you watch it?: If you don’t share your goals with entire internet, are they even real? We’re not sure, but you might be less likely to hit them, according to Derek Sivers’ controversial TED Talk. The drawback, says Sivers, is that you get some satisfaction from announcing the goal, and therefore you’re less likely to actually achieve it. Wild. Sivers shares how you can talk about your goals without shutting them down in the process. It’s worth a watch.
7. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” by Simon Sinek
What’s it about?: The meaning behind your goals
How long is it?: 17:57
Why should you watch it?: Real talk: Sometimes we lose sight of why we started working on a goal in the first place. Was it for a raise? A promotion? A pant size? According to Simon Sinek, the answer to this question is what keeps you working when times get tough. To make moves on your goals, you need your why to align with your beliefs.
8. “5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams” by Bel Pesce
What’s it about?: How to fail at hitting your goals
How long is it?: 6:11
Why should you watch it?: Plot twist: This TED Talk isn’t about what to do to hit your goals; it’s about what not to do. Bel Pesce, MIT grad, Silicon Valley survivor, and author, presents five simple ways to sabotage ourselves on our way to reaching our dreams. In doing so, she reminds us that our goals are less important than the ride we take to reach them. Take a look and remember—the only way to avoid the pitfalls is to know what they are.
9. “Living Beyond Limits” by Amy Purdy
What’s it about?: Visualization
How long is it?: 9:44
Why should you watch it?: Amy Purdy lost both legs at the age of 19—and now she’s a professional snowboarder who’s appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Intrigued yet? Amy used visualization to write her own story, mentally envisioning who she would be and what would happen. Goals and vision go hand in hand, as Amy shares in this talk. Make sure yours line up.
10. “Smash Fear, Learn Anything” by Tim Ferriss
What’s it about?: Keeping fear from preventing your goals
How long is it?: 16:14
Why should you watch it?: Tim Ferriss knows that sometimes we want to accomplish goals that scare the shit out of us. So does he. He shares stories of overcoming his fear of swimming, becoming fluent in Japanese despite some pretty hilarious setbacks, and setting a world record in ballroom dance after a less-than-encouraging first attempt. His point? Fear is an indicator of where we should go, not where we should hide.
11. “Never, Ever Give Up” by Diana Nyad
What’s it about?: Getting over obstacles
How long is it?: 15:31
Why should you watch it?: Long-distance swimmer and total badass, Diana Nyad, shares how she and her team worked together to achieve a goal that no one had ever achieved: swimming over 100 miles straight from Cuba to Florida in open water. On her fifth attempt. At the age of 64. Her mantra? Find a way. Want to reach your goal? Find a way.
12. “Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals” by Tim Ferriss
What’s it about?: Fear and goals
How long is it?: 13:21
Why should you watch it?: We’re giving Ferriss a double nod because his TED Talks are just that good. In round two, Ferriss talks about why getting specific with what scares you matters more than getting specific with your goals. Using Stoicism as philosophical back-up, he urges people to tap into their deepest fears when making hard, and usually necessary, decisions. His point? Most of our fears never happen, but we let the weight of them keep us from doing the things we know we should. If you want a different approach for making change, Ferriss’s talk on “fear-setting” is the talk for you.
If you’re not feeling fired up now, we’re not sure you’re human. We hope these 12 TED Talks gave you some new insight, inspiration, and ideas for how to reach your goals. Now go out there and get it done.
Your turn: What’s your go-to strategy when you’re prepping to reach your goals? Share in the comments below and stop by for more ways to power-up your productivity.
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Author: Sara Robinson
Sara Robinson has a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology, though her passion is for the psychology of performance rather than an actual interest in sport. She’s a writer, content manager, project manager, and mom of 2 young boys, which means she’s constantly managing something or someone. If you’re a busy working mom, find out how to create more balance over on her blog, Get Mom Balanced.