When we’re facing daunting challenges, fear can stop us right in our tracks.
Whether it’s taking the first step in a challenging project or a leap of faith on a personal or professional transformation, we’ve all experienced the fight, flight, or freeze moments that hold us back from reaching our ultimate potential.
But what are we so scared of?
These seven TED Talks walk you through the journey of overcoming your next big hurdle. Sharing a cross-section of science and personal experiences, these speakers will give you the confidence you need to fight through flight-mode and face your fears head-on.
1. It’s hard getting started.
Tim Urban, author of the blog Wait But Why, knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense. But, like so many of us, he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done.
In his TED Talk, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator,” Urban encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.
“There’s only one way to truly beat procrastination,” he says. “A deeply-ingrained habit like procrastination doesn’t change all at once, it changes one modest improvement at a time.” Start taking small steps to understand the root of your delay, he adds, and change your habits to show yourself you can do it.
2. You must find your motivation.
Career analyst Dan Pink offers a paradigm-shattering look at what truly drives us. In many cases, we are asked to look at the rewards of the task in front of us. Instead, we should be finding our purpose, he says.
In “The Puzzle of Motivation,” one of the 10 most-watched TED Talks of all time, Pink explains the “fundamental mismatch” that exists between science and business when it comes to motivation.
Science, he says, knows that incentives don’t work. Business, however, has yet to catch up. “Motivation is something that people do for themselves. It is not something one person does to another,” Pink emphasizes. “It’s the drive to do things for your own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.”
3. It’s all about your attitude.
Neil Pasricha, a leading authority on happiness and positivity who spent a decade developing talent at Walmart, knows what it takes to grow through hardship and come out stronger on the other side.
In his heartfelt TED Talk, “The 3 A’s of Awesome,” he talks about facing tough times in his personal life and how his attitude choices impacted his personal and professional growth.
“None of us can predict the future, but we do know one thing about it and that’s that it ain’t gonna go according to plan,” Pasricha says, in the talk. “Having a great attitude is about … choosing to move forward and move on and take baby steps into the future.”
4. And bringing your boldest self forward.
A captivating voice in the field of social psychology, Amy Cuddy shows us what body language can do to influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – so that we can feel confident and powerful as we embark on a big challenge.
In her TED Talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” – the second most-watched of all-time – she explores the debilitating effects of anxiety and high-stress situations, and how expansive postures can improve our confidence and performance.
“In pressure-filled situations, when we are distracted by thinking about possible outcomes of our performance, our skills are measurably diminished,” Cuddy says. By tweaking our body language and mindset, we can learn to bring our boldest self to any situation, she maintains.
5. Sometimes you need intense focus.
No one knows better how to tackle the seemingly impossible than the world-renowned magician and endurance artist David Blaine. Through his work, he leaves people stunned by his ability to push himself to the limit.
In his TED Talk, “How I Held My Breath for 17 Minutes,” he recaps how he broke boundaries to accomplish an unthinkable (don’t-try-this-at home) task – by using intense focus.
“We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe,” Blaine says. “In truth, the only restrictions on our capacity to astonish ourselves and each other are imposed by our own minds.”
6. Sometimes you just need rest.
Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, is on a mission to change the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.
In her TED Talk, “How to Succeed? Get More Sleep,” she talks about the importance of shutting down our engines and getting rest, in order to experience maximum joy, gratitude, effectiveness, and improved decision-making.
“My big idea is a very, very small idea that can unlock billions of big ideas that are at the moment dormant inside us,” Huffington says, in the talk. “And my little idea that will do that is sleep.”
7. Keep optimistic.
Tali Sharot, one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today, demonstrates that optimism may be crucial to our human existence.
In her TED Talk, “The Optimism Bias,” she draws on cutting-edge science to provide us with new insights into the role that optimism plays in determining how we live our lives.
When facing big challenges, Sharot says optimism can lead to success. “To make any kind of progress, we need to imagine a different reality and believe it’s possible,” she says. If we expect the future to be bright, we reduce our anxiety about the outcome.
Anna Jasinski was a content marketing strategist at WSB. Prior to her time here, she was a content consultant for Fortune 500 brands, and a magazine journalist. When she's not busy writing and creating, you can find her hanging out with her two new puppies.