2016 was (to use a technical term) a doozy. But, hey: new year, new possibilities. Make the most of your new beginnings in 2017 with these 10 empowering—and often delightful—TED Talks.
1) How to gain control of your free time
First things first: If you want to embrace the year to come, you need time to do so. But we can totally relate if your schedule’s packed to the gills and you’ve got a to-do list longer than a city block. That’s where Laura Vanderkam’s wisdom kicks in. She espouses the notion that what we do with our week isn’t just a matter of free time, but free will—and that we actually have more free time (and a vision for how to use it) than we may realize. Intrigued? Set aside 12 minutes and take a gander.
2) What I learned from 100 days of rejection
As pumped as we are for a fresh start, going boldly into the new year (or anywhere, really) can be a little, well, daunting. Fortunately, Jia Jiang’s funny and touching TED Talk details his own experiment—from asking for free “burger refills” to teaching a university class—of speaking up, taking chances, and staring embarrassment in the face. By getting all up in rejection’s grill, he gained confidence and discovered unanticipated rewards. And by not rejecting his speech (aka watching it), you may just absorb some mojo yourself.
3) How to speak up for yourself
Ready to embrace change…but you just can’t articulate what you want? Communication is just as important as confidence, and, luckily, social psychologist Adam Galinsky has you covered with insights and approaches to advocate for yourself and become more informed, connected, and influential. New year, new you, right?
4) The playful wonderland behind great inventions
Self-empowerment doesn’t have to be strategic to be fulfilling. Just ask Steven Johnson, whose TED Talk examines the history and value of play, and how it leads to innovation, progress, and good old-fashioned fun. Bonus points for the whimsical animation, which complements the engaging subject perfectly.
5) How frustration can make us more creative
Sure, play is fun, but sometimes when we experiment (or just try to do a task at hand), we hit dead ends. And when you’re focused and driven (and—as we established with the first suggested TED Talk—strapped for time), a setback can be agonizing. Tim Harford’s TED Talk gets to the heart of this dilemma, and helps us see the unexpected light at the end of the road-blocked tunnel.
6) The beauty of being a misfit
Novelist and memoirist Lidia Yuknavitch’s TED Talk is a deeply moving and vulnerable account of how people like her—“misfits”—can feel undeserving of success, and can wind up self-sabotaging their own opportunities. Yuknavitch endured a childhood of abuse, two marriages, one visit to rehab, two stints in jail, and homelessness—all of which she overcame to spark her reinvention and find self-worth. This particular TED Talk is so raw, honest, and accepting that that calling it “inspirational” seems trite. But inspirational it is, indeed.
7) Technology hasn't changed love. Here's why
Feeling cynical about the state of dating in a swipe-happy world? Questioning the ability to create bonds in the age of ghosting? Fear not. Anthropologist and love expert Helen Fisher delivers a fascinating TED Talk on the cultural history and biological markers for compatibility (and coupling) and how context and details can’t sway those fundamentals.
8) How an old loop of railroads is changing the face of a city
Empowering transformation isn’t just limited to us, personally—it’s a goal for our communities, too. That’s why urban planner Ryan Gravel aspired to transform abandoned railway tracks in Atlanta into a public pathway of urban revitalization. Gravel views cities as not just physical places, but foundations for our economy, social lives, and culture. His inspiring talk elucidates the significance (and, more importantly, the potential) for us to have a say in how our cities are revitalized so that they can function and flourish in new ways—for all of us.
9) How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them
Although this TED Talk is from 2014, it’s as relevant as ever. Diversity coach Vernā Myers states that to combat biases, we have to be real with ourselves about what those biases are—not deny them. (And yes, we do all have biases.) While Myers offers big-picture ideals about social harmony, she also offers concrete, doable steps that any individual can take towards bridging community divides. The best of both worlds, basically, in hopes that we’ll all have the best world, too.
10) How AI can bring on a second Industrial Revolution
As technology progresses—whether it’s diagnosing X-rays, competing against humans in video games, or recommending Netflix shows—it’s also getting smarter. (Westworld much?) In digital visionary Kevin Kelly’s eye-opening TED Talk, he explains the multiple types of intelligences that beings possess; how they can be artificially harnessed; and how we won’t be bested by, but instead will be our best by collaborating with, robots. So if you’ve got big ideas for the next tech renaissance, you’re not being futuristic—you’re right on time.