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10 Awesome TED Talks On Happiness

December 21, 2012
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One of the great things about TED Talks is that they encourage people to look at a common and conventional concept in a rather unconventional way. This is the approach taken by many TED Talks speakers when discussing happiness. From overcoming adversity to taking things slow to perfecting a craft, happiness comes in a number of fascinating forms that are intensely personal and easily shareable. From the great minds of TED Talks keynote speakers, there are ten specific ways to reconsider what happiness means, how it is achieved, and how it should be shared with others after it has been enjoyed by ourselves.

10. Aimee Mullins – The Opportunity of Adversity

Aimee Mullins has a fascinating TED Talk about the opportunities presented by things like being disabled or physically handicapped. From disabilities of the mind to those of the body, Mullins explains how adversity can actually prime the mind to achieve happiness in ways that have never been considered by others.

Mullins’ TED Talk is an inspiring new way to look at life’s biggest challenges, and it primes the viewer to take control of their own disabilities or adverse situations when creating happiness for themselves. When adversity becomes fulfillment, a truly new type of happiness has been created.

9. Barry Schwartz – Using Our Practical Wisdom

There are generally two ways of approaching life’s critical decision points. We can either do the right thing as set forth in the rules, or we can do the right thing as set forth in our own, personal moral code. Barry Schwartz argues in his TED Talk that blindly following the rules, and nothing else, can result in decisions that aren’t fulfilling and do not lead to happiness in the long run. That’s a pretty big departure from a highly rule-based society, but it’s one that makes sense.

Schwartz argues that the best form of happiness is one that comes from true personal fulfillment and validation. To achieve those two things, people must make decisions that fit into their own moral compass, sometimes at the expense of society’s own rules and guidelines.

8. Dan Gilbert – Why We Make Bad Decisions

Speaking of ignoring society’s moral code and following a more personal approach to decision making, Dan Gilbert offers a fascinating look at why people make poor decisions when it’s time to choose between one thing or the other. This is a great counter-point to the thought process presented by Barry Schwartz; Gilbert argues that we often don’t know what will make us happy, and that leads us to choose things that aren’t good for our lives or our own sense of fulfillment.

7. Graham Hill – Less Store, More Happiness

Graham Hill is the founder of TreeHugger.com, and so one might expect his TED Talk to convince people that less stuff equals more happiness. That’s what his speech does propose, in fact. But the logic makes sense: If we’re less concerned about what we have and more focused on who we are, we can focus on being truly happy and fulfilled each day. When that happens, the “stuff” will come as a reward for our efforts. Then, it will be more of a benefit and less of a burden to own what we own.

6. Martin Seligman – The New Era of Positive Psychology

Psychology has been around for quite some time, and positive psychology has been a dominant force in the world for at least the past few decades. Martin Seligman argues that we’re heading into a new era of positive psychology that is more focused on a balanced, centered approach to daily living and less focused on things like compliments and rewards. This approach is necessary to create people who feel good about themselves and are ready to achieve the things that a new era demands of them, he argues. It’s an interesting way to look at what remains a controversial approach within the psychological profession.

5. Matthieu Ricard – The Habits of Happiness

Imagine how easy happiness would be if it were merely a habit. While happiness itself cannot ever be a habit, the things that lead to happiness certainly can be. Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, and he’s often called the “happiest person in the world.” Why? He argues that the path to happiness runs through habit-forming.

When people turn the things that make them happy into daily habits, they can replenish their supply of personal fulfillment and happiness on a daily basis. This will allow them to more fully enjoy their lives in ways that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

4. Matt Killingsworth – Want to Be Happier? Stay in the Moment

When we’re engaged in a moment of happiness, we often consider nothing else. Instead, we’re busy enjoying ourselves and having a great time either alone or with loved ones. Conversely, when we remove ourselves from the moment and allow our minds to wander, our happiness wanes quickly. Those are the findings that Matt Killingsworth presents in his TED Talk, a result of massive data collection about happiness through a mobile application that he developed and distributed on his own.

3. Neil Pasricha – The Three A’s of Awesome

Neil Pasricha writes a blog known as “1,000 Awesome Things.” That probably qualifies him to speak on exactly what qualifies as awesome, and he presents three tricks that TED attendees can use to be more awesome, enjoy more of their own happiness, and pursue greater fulfillment over time.

2. Philip Zimbardo – The Psychology of Time

It’s no secret that Philip Zimbardo is a giant among psychology professionals, and it’s no wonder why. His experiments remain the basis for teachings in the psychology of management, leadership, happiness, and fulfillment. In this TED Talk, Zimbardo discusses how happiness can be determined simply by the way people evaluate their past, present, and future.

1. Rick Warren – A Life of Purpose

Pastor Rick Warren is one of the most well known names among Evangelical Christians, and his approach to happiness is rather easy. He argues that people should focus on living a life of purpose that seeks to help others, enrich themselves, and generate true happiness. It’s a simple approach, but arguably the most effective way to bring about lasting happiness.