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2 Powerful TED Talks to Make You Rethink Success & Happiness

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

So many of us spend our lives, or at least a good proportion of our lives, working hard and making sacrifices to achieve success. But what does success really mean? At what point do we feel successful, feel like we’ve made it? And once we do (if we do,) then what?

I have had numerous conversations with people who struggle with this very issue. Sometimes, the joy and satisfaction is found in the journey and once people achieve their goal, they feel there is nothing left and nowhere to go. For others, it is all about destination but once there, they realize it wasn’t what they thought or hoped it would be.

The two TED talks below explore success and happiness from different, but relatable, points of view. Have a look at see if it doesn’t change your perspective, just a bit, about how you think of success and what it takes to make you happy.

My Year of Saying Yes to Everything

Shonda Rhimes, the well-known writer/producer of hit TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, is a self-described titan. She loves her work and admits she enjoys it more than playing with her 3 children – something that I think many working moms relate to. In her TED Talk, Shonda shares her personal story of success and what happens when the spark – or the hum, as she calls it – no longer ignites. “What do you do,” she asks, “when the thing you love starts to taste like dust?” Shonda shares how she was able to get her hum back when she said yes to playing with her daughter.

The Happy Secret To Better Work

Shawn Achor, a researcher and teacher of positive psychology, explores the link between success and happiness from a scientific point of view. The problem, he suggests, is that we believe that when we achieve success, we will be happy, but we are always moving the goal post. We look forward to a future success and are never happy with where we are.

Achor provides data to show that if instead, we are positive in the present, with where we are, rather than always looking toward a happiness in the future, not only will we be happier, but we will be more productive. Toward the end of this short talk, Achor offers practical things we can do to help reshape our thinking and be more positive in the present.

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