It’s a new year and time to get motivated!

Is your career dragging a bit? Fallen into a bit of a professional slump? Good news! Here’s a list of five of my favorite TED Talks that will help you break through and get you motivated to take your career to the next level. These are must-see motivational talks!

TED Talks began in 1984 with the mission of “spreading ideas.” Since then, a single conference has blossomed into a flurry of ideas that inspire and motivate people from all over the world to achieve more and dare to do great things. These inspirational talks, known as TED Talks, will motivate you to take that next step in your career and help you break out of your professional slump.

1. Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action.

This is actually the first TED Talk that I ever viewed. Before this one, I had now idea what TED Talks even were. It was in a college class. I can’t recall which particular class, but the inspirational talk really made an impact on me as a student and inspired me to keep this advice in mind as I progressed through my career.

Sinek talks about the importance of defining the “why” of what you do before talking about the “how” or the “what.” This applies to both companies and individuals. Before you determine what it is you want to do, you need to determine what motivates you to do it and what inspires you. Think of this sort of like a mission or vision statement. Once you do that, your career and your life will have purpose and you’ll be able to inspire others more effectively.

View Simon Sinek’s TED Talk here.

2. Shawn Achor – The psychology of positivity.

Focusing on the negative aspects of your career, or whatever situation you might be in, is something that plagues many of us. We’re all guilty of doing this at one point or another. In this motivational talk, Achor warns that this can lead to dissatisfaction with your job (or anything else really) because your attitude toward a situation tends to determine the outcome of that situation.

Achor talks about a study that showed 75 percent of professional successes included in the study could be attributed to positivity. People who focused on the positive aspects of their situation tended to achieve their professional goals more easily. Positivity is contagious, so if you’re the type to always look on the dark side of life, start to brighten up your outlook and you’ll not only inspire yourself, but you’ll also inspire those around you.

View Shawn Achor’s TED Talk here.

3. Elizabeth Gilbert – Your elusive creative genius.

This one is great. And it’s so simple. If you’re having trouble with the creative process, Gilbert has some great advice for you. Allow yourself to think unconventionally. We talk about creativity as a trait, but what if you look at it as a thing. Your genius, for example, can be looked at like a fairy that shows up now and then in your life and inspires you to write a poem or create a work of art. You can’t explain where that inspiration came from, so why not explain it in a creative way? This can lead to expanded creativity.

Gilbert, author of the popular book Eat, Pray, Love, uses an example of a poet she met who likened the creative process to a rumbling that would sweep across the ground and she had to chase it and catch it before it got away. If she caught it in time, the rumbling would turn into a great poem. If she missed it, however, that poem was lost forever to the wind. Thinking creatively like this can really get your creative juices flowing. Stop trying to explain creativity with concrete terms and be creative with your explanation instead.

View Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk here.

4. Tom Wujec – Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast.

In this talk, Tom Wujec teaches viewers how to make toast. Ok, the lesson goes well beyond that, but the video seriously kicks off with Wujec asking viewers to think about how to make toast. Actually, he asks them to draw the toast-making process. Hang in here with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

In this inspirational talk, Wujec uses the toast example as a way to explain how you can break down complex problems by visualizing each of the steps. It’s really an interesting approach, and it’ll inspire you to look at difficult problems differently. By breaking them down, you’ll improve your decision making and problem solving capabilities.  

View Tom Wujec’s TED Talk here.

5. Neil Pasricha: The 3 A's of awesome.

One of the major keys to success, no matter what you’re trying to be successful at, is happiness. Finding a way to fight through the bad times, stay positive and generally be happy can impact how successful you are in all areas of your life. Pasricha opens up candidly about things that happened to him that would have completely broken many people.

Instead of breaking down and giving up, however, Pasricha started to document 1,000 things that he considered to fall into the category of awesome. He created a blog and wrote about the small victories in life like when another lane opens up at the grocery store or when you get called first to the buffet table at a wedding. Watch this video to learn about how attitude, awareness and authenticity can change your life and make it more awesome.

Watch Neil Pasricha’s TED Talk here.

Inspire yourself.

I encourage you to watch these motivational talks to ignite the spark of inspiration, but I also encourage you to find ways to inspire yourself. Think about what each of the speakers in these TED Talks has accomplished and the ideas they’ve presented. These types of ideas are inside of each of us, and if we set them free we can accomplish great things.

Inspiration, as shown in these talks, can come from anywhere. Whether it’s a fairy secretly whispering in your ear with great ideas for poems, or a blog you start that talks about really simple yet awesome things, your inspiration is out there.

TED Talks are a great way to get inspired and get motivated to improve both personally and professionally. There are many more inspirational talks available, so don’t stop at just these. These five can give you a basis for finding your inspiration. Then work through other videos and develop your own inspirational techniques. And when you find some that work, please share them with others. This world will be a better place if we simply share with one another the positive things we’ve found that help us be inspired and be better.

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