Does your day-to-day life reflect who you truly are and aspire to be? Have you simply drifted into careers and relationships, going where events led you, or have you intentionally chosen the life you have? Could your life be happier and more fulfilling? What would you have to do to make that happen?
You can find some inspiring--and very motivating--answers to these questions in TED talks about life hacks. This group of talks, most of which last about 10 minutes, will help you rethink how you make choices about nearly everything. And they may set you on your way to a more fulfilling, more satisfying life.
1. Stop waiting for your job to get easier so you can have work-life balance.
If you leave it up to your employer to provide work-life balance, you'll wind up spending nearly all your time at work, argues Nigel Marsh, author of Fat, Forty and Fired, and other books, in a talk that pulls very few punches. (Though he doesn't address entrepreneurs, from what we've seen, people who are their own bosses tend to spend even more time working than those who are employees.)
Either way, he says, "it's up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead." For instance, take the trend toward putting child-care facilities in workplaces. That's certainly a great advancement, much appreciated by parents of young children. On the other hand, it encourages people to spend even more time at the office.
Ultimately, he says, we all need to set our own boundaries about how we divide our personal lives and our work lives, and as he discovered, even something as simple as taking one afternoon off with a small child can make a surprisingly big difference. "With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life," he says. And, he adds, if enough people do it, "we can change society's definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like."
2. Be grateful for tough choices--they let us define who we are.
If you're struggling over whether to keep your job, move to a new job, or start a business, that's a good thing, according to philosopher Ruth Chang. In an engaging talk, she breaks down how we look at difficult decisions and explains why they should be welcomed, even if they make us uncomfortable. The reason is that when we make a hard decision and choose the path that resonates for us most strongly, "we can put our very selves behind an option," she says. "Here's where I stand. Here's who I am." Making those choices that we believe in helps us become who we want to be.
Chang herself would know. Born into an immigrant family of modest means, becoming a philosopher seemed frivolous, so she started her career as a lawyer instead, something she says she drifted into rather than actively wanting. She found it didn't quite fit and made a change. "It wasn't who I was," she says.
3. You can get better at anything.
Stanford professor and motivation expert Carol Dweck shares a particularly powerful word at the beginning of her thought-provoking talk. That word is "yet." In one school, for example, students who don't pass a course do not get an F, but instead get a grade of "not yet." It's a powerful word, she explains, because it shows them a path to the future. It gives them the power of yet instead of the tyranny of now.
Use that same mindset for your own attempts and failures and suddenly everything takes on a different look. It's not that you've failed; you just haven't succeeded--yet. But come to it with what Dweck calls a "growth mindset"--then you know you can always improve, learn more, and do better next time.
4. Making connections is the most powerful thing you can do.
Creativity and innovation are all about making connections between two seemingly unconnected things, people, groups, or ideas. Do you doubt the power of making connections? Consider this: In her talk about creating opportunities, writer Kare Anderson recounts how introducing an actress to an ex-con led to legislation in Los Angeles supporting public arts.
5. Choose to be passionate.
In a moving talk, The House of the Spirits author Isabel Allende speaks of choosing to be passionate every day, even though she is 71. How does she do it? It isn't necessarily easy. "I cannot will myself to be passionate at 71," she explains. "I have been training for some time." How do you train yourself to be passionate? "I train by saying yes to whatever comes may way: drama, comedy, tragedy, love, death, losses. Yes to life. And I train by trying to stay in love." It doesn't always work, she admits, but don't blame her for trying.
Now what about you, she asks? "Unless you are ill or very poor, you have choices. I have chosen to stay passionate, engaged with an open heart. I am working on it every day. Want to join me?"