As Christopher Peterson so eloquently explained, “If positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all, and no one lacks it all.” While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.
Deep down, most people want to enjoy lives that are purposeful and gratifying. We all want to discover what is uniquely wonderful about each of us, and develop it. If this sounds like you, then you will likely appreciate these 10 TED talks on positive psychology topics from leading researchers in the field.
1. Martin Seligman: The New Era of Positive Psychology
American psychologist, author, and founder of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman has dedicated years of research and practice on exploring positive emotion, depression, resilience, optimism, and developing interventions that promote character strengths and well-being, while preventing depression. His ultimate goal is to bring happiness to the world. In his talk, Dr. Seligman discusses the current state of psychology, optimism, and how we can all find out what makes life worth living.
2. Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness
Author of the bestselling book, Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert is the Harvard Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology. A self-proclaimed, and research-backed, happiness expert, Dr. Gilbert is suggesting you change your conceptualization of what will make you happy. In his awakening, yet humorous TED talk, he explains that our brains are hardwired to lead us astray when it comes to happiness. Very frequently, what we think will make us happy, actually will not.
3. Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation
Bestselling author of Drive, Daniel Pink emphasize the importance of the right-brain, or creativity, in the workplace. A career analyst who once wrote speeches for Al Gore, Pink has transformed the way companies view their employees. In his talk, Pink discusses the concept of rewards and how businesses use them to motivate employees.
4. Helen Fisher: The Brain in Love
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher fills many meaningful roles ranging from Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University to Chief Scientific Advisor for Match.com. Dr. Fisher knows a thing or two about love, she’s studied it so. She postulates that love is among the strongest of the universal human drives, perhaps more so than sex, hunger, or the sheer will to live. In her talk, Dr. Fisher explains the craving of love by examining MRIs of people in love and those who’d just been dumped.
5. Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work
CEO of Good Think Inc., Shawn Achor can teach you how to be happy at work. In fact, The Happiness Advantage training program, formulated from one of his bestselling books, has been cited as one of the largest and most successful corporate training programs on positive psychology. He lectures to Fortune 100 companies, the NFL, the NBA, and the White House. Shawn tells us, in his engaging talk, how rather than work making us happy, happiness can make us more effective and productive at work.
6. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, The Secret to Happiness
If you have ever wondered “what makes life worth living?”, then positive psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi wants to help you answer this evasive question. Professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University, Dr. Czikszentmihalyi directs his teachings and research on topics such as optimism, motivation and responsibility. In his TED talk, he explains “flow” and how it helps humans live more fully.
7. Jonathan Haidt: Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-Transcendence
An active researcher of positive psychology and human flourishing, social psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt explores the topic of self-transcendence and how it relates to morality. Prepare to get a better understanding of your own spiritual experience after watching this talk.
8. Matthieu Ricard: The Habits of Happiness
Known as the “happiest man in the world”, Matthieu Ricard is a biochemist turned Buddhist monk. He left the modern world behind to reside in the Himalayas, a place he thought would allow him to pursue happiness and inquire on the concept all at once. Ricard explains that the pursuit of happiness requires the same steadfastness and training as any other pursuit.
9. Nancy Etcoff: Happiness and its Surprises
Evolutionary psychologist Nancy Etcoff shares the same fascination with happiness as other renowned researchers on this list. Instructor of “The Science of Happiness” at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Etcoff teaches us the basics of being happy, what it does to our bodies and why we are so attracted to beautiful things.
10. Angela Duckworth: The Key to Success? Grit
Worried that you won’t find success without an off-the-charts IQ score? No need. Psychologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Angela Duckworth describes “grit” as being a far better signpost of success than other variables like intelligence or socioeconomic status. If you are motivated to improve your abilities, committed to hard work, and willing to persevere, success can be yours, says Duckworth.